On the eve of an important league match today, Sounders FC unleashed a flurry of off-the-pitch news Friday.
Within a matter of hours, the club:
• Signed former U.S. youth national team forward Sammy Ochoa.
• Won the right to host the U.S. Open Cup final, if it gets that far.
• Lost the services of No. 2 goalkeeper Terry Boss next week, due to his call-in by the Puerto Rican national team.
The Sounders got Ochoa’s Major League Soccer allocation rights by sending the Chicago Fire a third-round draft pick in the 2012 SuperDraft.
He is expected to join his new club Sunday.
That won’t be of any help today, when the Sounders return to MLS play with a home match against the Eastern Conference-leading Columbus Crew.
However, there should be no shortage of other opportunities as Seattle meets FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match Tuesday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, and returns to CONCACAF Champions League group play Sept. 14 at Herediano of Costa Rica.
Ochoa is a 24-year-old U.S. citizen who was born in Mexico. He played under Sounders coach Sigi Schmid with the U.S. under-20 team, scored two goals in 27 appearances with Estudiantes Tecos of the Mexican first division, and trained with the Sounders in June.
“We’re happy to have Sammy join our team. It gives us a little more depth at forward,” Schmid said. “I think he did well when he was here on his trial, so it’s just a matter of him just getting fit, getting his game legs, and he can possibly help us here. … He’s a good back-to-goal player. He’s a good finisher around the box.”
Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer said they don’t know how quickly Ochoa will be able to contribute, due in part to his lack of a consistent role in Mexico.
“When Sammy came in and trialed with us, we liked him,” Hanauer said. “Sigi knows him from his past, and he was a player that we thought could help us out – whether still this year, we don’t know. … He’s a strong, smart forward (with) good technical ability, hits the ball hard with both feet, has a quick release, good in the air.”
Also Friday, U.S. Soccer announced that Seattle had outbid the Chicago Fire and the USL-Pro Richmond Kickers for the right to host the Open Cup final on Oct. 4 – assuming the club gets past Dallas next week.
The Sounders will go into that game without Boss, who will join the Puerto Rican team for two World Cup qualifying matches next week. Boss has six career appearances with the Puerto Rican team. He is eligible due to his residency there while playing the 2006-07 seasons with the USL Puerto Rico Islanders.
Today, the Sounders return to regular-season play with a chance to continue their ascent in the MLS standings.
A win would send Seattle within three points of league-leading Los Angeles, which is idle because its scheduled game at New York was postponed until Oct. 4 as a precaution from the threat of Hurricane Irene.
Columbus also hopes to make progress in the league standings, where Sporting Kansas City has cut the Crew’s lead in the East to four points.
The Sounders and Crew are making their runs behind strong defense.
Seattle comes into the game with back-to-back shutouts – one in league play and one in CCL. With another clean sheet today, the Sounders would match a club record with 340 scoreless minutes in MLS competition.
Meanwhile, Columbus is third in the league with a 0.96 goals-against average.
“We worked hard to get into second place in Dallas (a 1-0 victory), and we want to be able to hold on and maintain it,” Schmid said. “… We are at home, so this is a week maybe for us to extend some distance between us and Dallas, but more importantly maybe make up some ground to L.A.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
COLUMBUS CREW (11-7-7; 40 PTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (12-5-9; 45)
1 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: KONG 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM; 99.3-FM (Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: The Sounders lead 2-0-3, outscoring Columbus 8-3. Both previous matches in Seattle ended 1-1, as did the May 7 meeting this season at Crew Stadium.
CLUB LEADERS: For Columbus – G 8, Andres Mendoza; A 4, Robbie Rogers; S 55, Eddie Gaven; SOG 23, Gaven; GAA 1.04,William Hesmer. For Seattle – G 6, Alvaro Fernandez and Fredy Montero; A 7, Mauro Rosales; S 71, Montero; SOG 28, Montero; GAA 1.04; Kasey Keller.
NOTES: Columbus leads the Eastern Conference, while Seattle has the second-best record in MLS. The Sounders are 3-1-1 over their last five league matches; the Crew is 4-1-0. Seattle is 6-2-4 at home, Columbus 3-6-3 on the road. … Seattle hasn’t allowed a goal in 250 minutes of league play. A shutout today would match the club record. … The Crew is 13th in MLS with an average of 1.16 goals per game, but third in the league with a 0.96 goals-against average. Six of Columbus’ 29 goals have come on penalty kicks (second in MLS). … Crew forward Emilio Renteria has scored in back-to-back games. … Sounders coach Sigi Schmid coached the Crew from 2006-08, leading them to the MLS Cup in 2008. The Sounders’ Brad Evans and Pat Noonan were part of that championship team. … Columbus defender Julius James is out because of disciplinary suspension. For Seattle, Servando Carrasco, Eric Friberg, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Fredy Montero and Tyson Wahl are all one caution away from a one-game yellow-card suspension. … The referee is Baldomero Toledo.
QUOTABLE: “Mendoza has obviously gotten some goals for them. Renteria has gotten goals as well. Robbie Rogers is playing better over the last part of the season. … It took them a while, I think, to realize where people fit and their best positions. They have moved a guy like Emmanuel Ekpo around a little bit.” – Schmid, on Columbus.
NEXT: The Sounders will meet FC Dallas in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal match at 7 p.m. at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. The Sounders return to MLS play Sept. 10, meeting Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink.
Don Ruiz, staff writer