The Swiss designated player hadn't scored in 415 minutes for Seattle coming into Saturday's game.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — On “Silence the Sounders” night at Crew Stadium, Seattle’s Blaise Nkufo silenced his demons.
The touted designated player ended a long-running drought with a sparkling hat trick and midfielder Nathan Sturgis added the first penalty-kick goal in franchise history as Sounders FC blasted Eastern Conference-leading Columbus 4-0 Saturday night in front of 17,144 spectators.
Wearing its rarely seen blue uniforms, Seattle (10-9-6) earned its most lopsided victory ever and the four goals were a team-high in an MLS game.
More importantly, with its first road victory since July 31, Sounders FC collected three extremely valuable points in the playoff chase.
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“For me, the team is most important,” said Nkufo selflessly after recording the first hat trick in franchise history. “We needed to win tonight.”
Nkufo, who joined the team in July, had been disappointedly scoreless in 415 minutes for Seattle coming into Saturday.
He tied a team record for the quickest goal in a game, however, by knocking in a rebound in the fourth minute for a 1-0 lead.
The 35-year-old Swiss forward, who had missed two games with a knee contusion, made it 2-0 in the 39th minute after beating Crew midfielder Kevin Burns along the left side and firing a picture-perfect low shot that bounced off the far post and in.
Nkufo capped his memorable night in the 75th minute with a masterfully placed shot to the upper corner of the Columbus net, past diving goalkeeper William Hesmer, soon to be mercifully substituted off four minutes later.
“He’s a great player,” defender Jeff Parke said of his teammate, “and it’s only a matter of time when the great ones are held down to come back.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said the performance will only help Nkufo’s confidence.
“Any time a goal-scorer scores, it’s huge,” Schmid said. “They sometimes measure their games by different standards than we do.”
Sounders FC’s other goal came in the 42nd minute, when midfielder Sanna Nyassi was dragged down by Crew defender Danny O’Rourke to draw a penalty kick. Sturgis converted the spot kick calmly past Hesmer to snap the team’s curse from the penalty mark (0-for-3).
“That was something we’ve kind of struggled with … it felt good to finally put one away,” Sturgis said of his first career goal.
In contrast to the scoreboard, Columbus (13-7-5) actually controlled much of the action throughout the game but couldn’t get anything past Sounders FC goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Making his 50th consecutive MLS start, Keller made five saves, including a one-handed block on an open shot by Crew forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto in the 54th minute, to earn his 10th shutout.
Schmid improved to 2-0-2 against his former team.
The two sides will meet again in the U.S. Open Cup final Oct. 5 at 7 p.m. at Qwest Field.
• Sounders FC defender James Riley (sprained ankle) traveled for the match but was left out of the 18-man game-day roster. Forward Nate Jaqua recovered from a head injury and played off the bench.
• Continuing a stretch of a four consecutive road games, Sounders FC next plays on the road Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Mexican club Monterrey in the CONCACAF Champions League group stage.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUNDERS FC 4, CREW 0
|Seattle||3 1 — 4|
|Columbus||0 0 — 0|
First half — 1, Seattle, Nkufo 1, 4th minute. 2, Seattle, Nkufo 2, 39th. 3, Seattle, Sturgis 1 (penalty kick), 42nd. Second half — 4, Seattle, Nkufo 3 (Zakuani), 75th. Goalies — Seattle, Kasey Keller; Columbus, William Hesmer. Shots — Seattle 16, Columbus 14. Shots on goal — Seattle 8, Columbus 5. Saves — Seattle 5, Columbus 4. Fouls — Seattle 12, Columbus 16. Offsides — Seattle 1, Columbus 1. Corner kicks — Seattle 5, Columbus 5. Yellow cards — Scott, Seattle, 77th; Parke, Seattle, 90th. Referee — Jair Marrufo. Assistant referees — Joe Fletcher. Brian Poeschel. 4th official — Chris Penso. A — 17,144.
Seattle — Kasey Keller, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Nathan Sturgis, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez, 66th), Osvaldo Alonso, Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque, 87th), Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua, 79th), Fredy Montero.
Columbus — William Hesmer, Frankie Hejduk, Danny O’Rourke, Andy Iro, Chad Marshall, Emmanuel Ekpo (Andres Mendoza, 72nd), Kevin Burns (Emilio Renteria, 64th), Brian Carroll, Eddie Gaven, Guillermo Barros Schelotto, Steven Lenhart.