Man what a fantastic opening to the MLS season. Seattle did not look like an expansion team last night, they looked like a team with organization, energy, skill and above all, a young man who could turn the league on its ear this season. Hats off to Sigi Schmid for putting out a team that performed. Hats off to the Sounders who took the game by the throat from the first minute and didn't really ever let go. Seattle has become the first expansion team to win their opening match since Chicago did it in 1998 and in 1998, Chicago won the MLS Cup. An omen? Well, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves.
Man of the match has to be 21 year old Columbian Fredy Montero, who got the first goal of the 2009 MLS season, the first goal for the Seattle Franchise and his first goal in the MLS, all by the 12th minute of the game. Montero grabbed an assist when Brad Evans made a brilliant penetrating run, collected a nifty pass from Montero and then nutmegged Red Bull keeper Danny Cepero for the second goal. Finally, in the second half, Montero stripped Mike Petke of the ball about 10 yards into the New York half, muscled the bigger Petke off and then broke away, made Cepero committ and buried his second goal of the night. Sigi Schmid subbed the young Columbian off in the 89th minute in order to give the young man the standing ovation he earned. Watch MLS, you are going to have to do more than just mark this guy, you are going to have to be smart with the ball. Montero and to a lesser extent Nate Jaqua harrassed the New York back line and midfield.
Seattle played with an amazingly high level of energy and New York simply looked flat. New York's own Columbian sniper, Juan Pable Angel had a few chances, but mostly didn't get the service he needed, New York really is missing Dave Van den Bergh. The New York midfield were like ghosts out there. Mac Kandji and Dane Richards, two speedy wingers were contained and the central midfielders simply couldn't string three passes together under the Seattle pressure.
To be fair, New York probably will never see that starting line-up again. Khano Smith, Albert Celades, and Alfredo Pacheco will all be available next week and that should provide more stability and skill in the central midfield. For New York, it looked like former Maryland Terrapin standout Jeremy Hall could get some serious minutes this year. After coming off the bench around the 30th minute, he played well (made a few rookie mistakes, but never repeated them) and helped shut down Sebastion Le Toux a little.
On the Seattle side, Sigi Schmid has a problem--where to put Freddie Ljunberg when he gets healthy? Probably for Nate Jacqua or Brad Evans. Although Evans looked good at times, the midfield trio of Le Toux, Sanna Nyassi, and Osvaldo Alonso looked like quite the trio. Nyassi made some bad challenges, but he looks like he is faster than his brother, Sainey, who plays for New England (if that is possible).
Finally, Qwest field is probably going to be harder to play at than BMO field in Toronto or RFK in DC, 22,000 season ticket holders plus another 8,000+ meant a raucus crowd, a fantastic atmosphere and a knowledgeable crowd. What a place to play. The only drawback is the artificial field, but it really didn't look as fast as concrete field like the old Rice Eccles was for Real Salt Lake or Giants Stadium for New York.