Sounders FC

Sounders feeling winds of change in the Big Apple

Expect anything today in what shapes up as one of the more confounding and crucial games in Sounders FC history.

The Sounders are in a slump. They’re 0-2-2 over their past four games, have given up nine goals over that stretch, and have fallen to last place in the MLS Western Conference.

Enough finally became enough last weekend, when the Los Angeles Galaxy routed Seattle, 4-0, before the largest regular-season crowd in the Sounders’ two seasons at Qwest Field.

The next day, Sounders management said it was so embarrassed by the performance that it would credit the price of one game off of next year’s season tickets for current season-ticket holders who renew.

But carrying more immediate impact were the post-game comments of coach Sigi Schmid, who implied heavily that one or more regulars might have played their way out of his starting lineup for today’s game at New York.

“There are some guys that we’ve asked repeatedly to do some things,” Schmid said. “It hasn’t been coming, so there are some changes that are going to be made as a result. ... Guys have to be willing to sacrifice their body in the box. I don’t need six playmakers. I need somebody who can frickin’ get in the box and wants to score goals.”

It was lost on no one that the speech came shortly after Schmid had brought Fredy Montero to the bench early in the second half – and replaced him with an 18-year-old rookie.

“That’s the first time that’s happened, that I’ve been a starting player then taken out eight minutes into the half,” Montero said this week through an interpreter. “It was painful, and it hurt. But I keep being a player who thinks of the team and improving myself. It was tough, but there is only room for improvement.”

Schmid’s public tone calmed by the start of the week. However, his practice sessions stressed offensive aggressiveness in front of the opponent’s goal.

“I don’t think the Galaxy outworked us all over the field,” Schmid said. “... But inside the 18-yard boxes, I thought they were more aggressive than we were – offensively and defensively – and that’s the part of the game that we have got to get back.”

That isn’t the kind of game that Montero has been providing.

After leading the club with 12 goals last season, he has two goals and three assists this season – with one of the goals coming on a 40-yard free kick at Dallas.

However, Schmid’s replacement options are limited, as four Sounders forwards are either out or questionable for today.

Nate Jaqua remains at least a week away from being cleared from the lower abdominal problem that has kept him out all season. Also out is Michael Fucito (knee), who scored the decisive goal in the Sounders’ last win, April 17 against Kansas City. The questionable players are veteran Pat Noonan (hamstring), who moved into the starting lineup after making his Sounders debut earlier against New York; and 18-year-old Miguel Montaño (groin), whose speed, enthusiasm and fearlessness was a bright spot in the Galaxy disaster.

The Red Bulls lead the Eastern Conference. They’re unbeaten in their new stadium. They have confidence from the 1-0 win they took April 3 in Seattle. And they have the motivation of bouncing back from a 4-0 embarrassment of their own, suffered last week while playing a man down most of the way at San Jose.

Schmid figures he won’t have to devote much time to a pregame pep talk

With all of that on his mind, Schmid figures one thing he won’t have to devote much time to is a pregame pep talk.

Given the Sounders’ recent play, he said, “if I have to stand there and fire them up they probably need to get in a different line of work.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (2-3-3; 9 pts.) AT NEW YORK RED BULLS (5-2-0; 15 pts.)

KICKOFF: 4:30 p.m., Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

TV: KONG 6/16. Radio: 97.3-FM (1210-AM in Spanish).

HEAD-TO-HEAD: The series is even: 1-1-1. Red Bulls won April 3 in Seattle, 1-0. Last season, the Sounders got their first win against the Red Bulls, then played to a 1-1 draw in the road match.

LEADERS: For Seattle – G 3, Steve Zakuani; A 3 Fredy Montero; S 24 Montero; SOG 8, Montero. For NY – G 4, Juan Pablo Angel; A 2, Joel Lindpere; S 23, Angel; SOG 11, Angel.

SiIGI SCHMID’S REPORT: “We need to win this game to even the season series,” the Seattle coach said. “We’ve always said if you win the majority of season series you will be in the playoffs at the end of the day”

NOTES: Both teams are coming off 4-0 losses: Seattle to Los Angeles and New York at San Jose. Since then, New York has won a U.S. Open Cup play-in match, 3-0, over New England. ... New York is 4-0 at Red Bull Arena. The Sounders are 0-1-2 on the road. ... Angel has scored 39 goals over his 79 career matches with New York, and he is tied for third in the league this season. ... Three Red Bulls are out with injury – M Giorgi Chirgadze (hip), D Kevin Goldthwaite (adductor) and F Macoumba Kandji (foot), and M Luke Sassano is out after picking up a red card last week. The Sounders will be without F Nate Jaqua and M Michael Fucito. ... The referee will be Silviu Petrescu.

NEXT: Noon May 22, San Jose Earthquakes, Qwest Field.

Don Ruiz, Staff writer