With Seattle’s top two goal-scorers out because of injury, the Sounders needed someone to step up.
As it turned out, most of the team stepped up, producing a 3-0 romp over Toronto FC before a Qwest Field crowd of 36,287 on Saturday.
The performance that stood out most came from midfielder Brad Evans, who assisted on Seattle’s first goal before scoring the final two – the first multi-goal game in his five-season MLS career.
“I think everybody had a good attitude from that standpoint and obviously, with Steve (Zakuani) and O.B. (O’Brian White) missing, you know, we talked about before the game kind of doing it for them,” Evans said. “So, I think that was in the back of everybody’s mind.”
It certainly was on the mind of coach Sigi Schmid, who spoke emotionally about the 11th minute of the game, when the crowd raised posters bearing the number 11 in honor of Zakuani, who remains hospitalized after suffering a fractured right fibula and tibia in the previous game at Colorado.
Schmid opened his usual postgame press conference by speaking directly to his missing players.
“First off I want to say to Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White that we miss you, we want you guys back with us as soon as possible, and the effort the guys put out tonight was a tribute to you as much as it was our team,” Schmid said. “So, we really miss you guys.”
Seattle actually opened with three key regulars unavailable: Zakuani, White (blood clot), and also midfielder Mauro Rosales (hamstring). Schmid replaced them with Alvaro Fernandez, Nate Jaqua and Erik Friberg and shifted Evans from center midfield to the right side.
Despite the changes in personnel and formation, Seattle began with cohesion and dominated from the start.
The first goal came in the ninth minute, when Fernandez headed in a long cross from Evans.
The lead grew to 2-0 in the 52nd minute, when defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado stole the ball at midfield and passed it to Fredy Montero, who sent it on to Evans, who beat Toronto keeper Stefan Frei to the far side.
Evans concluded the scoring with a penalty kick in the 75th minute, after Toronto’s Mikael Yourassowsky was whistled for a handball in the box.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller made the shutout stand up with an acrobatic save of a Yourassowsky shot in the final minutes.
Seattle outshot Toronto, 19-6, and put 10 shots on goal to Toronto’s two.
“It was just a great night to be able to go and win 3-nil under the circumstances,” Keller said. “But we also have a group of guys that realize that their opportunity has come. It’s always disappointing when it comes because of an injury to someone else, but as a pro then it’s your obligation to step up and show everybody what you’re made of.”
It was the Sounders’ second straight shutout and ran their unbeaten streak to six games. For the first time this season, Seattle (3-2-3) is on the 1.5-points-per-game pace that Schmid considers the safe zone for playoff qualification.
The Sounders now face a busy week where they will fly to the East Coast on Monday, play at D.C. United on Wednesday and then go to Columbus where they will meet the Crew on Saturday.
“I think the team showed its depth today,” Schmid said. “It worked out well for us in terms of keeping Mauro out, so Mauro should be able to go on Wednesday; and if not on Wednesday for sure he’ll be able to go on Saturday. ...
“Obviously we’ve got to rely on our depth as we go into this week, but we know we’ve got people – Jeff Parke, Leo Gonzalez, Mike Fucito, Roger (Levesque) who came on, Lamar Neagle, Zach Scott – we’ve got a lot of different options and those guys will come through for us.”