Making his first return to Seattle since being traded to Chicago last month, Ljungberg was roughed up in a physical match and jeered by the fans on every touch Saturday night. The final insult came on a game-winning header by Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero in the 92nd minute to give the home team a...
Whatever pregame pleasantries Freddie Ljungberg exchanged with his former Sounders FC teammates were quickly forgotten after the opening whistle.
Making his first return to Seattle since being traded to Chicago last month, Ljungberg was roughed up in a physical match and jeered by the fans on every touch Saturday night. The final offense came on a game-winning header by Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero in the 92nd minute to give the home team a thrilling 2-1 victory in front of 36,386 fans at Qwest Field.
“We’ve been dreaming about this situation: a goal so late in the game, giving us the three points, putting us closer to the playoffs,” said Montero through a translator.
The result extended Sounders FC’s unbeaten streak against Major League Soccer opponents to seven (5-0-2) and strongly encouraged its postseason hunt.
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The win came unexpectedly, however, when midfielder Nathan Sturgis collected a throw-in from James Riley in the final moments and swung in a left-footed cross to the far post, where a wide-open Montero headed the ball past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Said Sturgis: “Any time you can get a quick restart or just something to change the pace of the game, you can catch defenses off guard.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said the last-second goal, which capped a rare come-from-behind win, could become a season-defining moment.
“When you do all the hard work and you win one like that, and you score late like you do, it’s just such an outstanding feeling,” Schmid said.
In a rough-and-tumble first half, which had 19 combined fouls and three yellow cards issued, Chicago (6-7-6) took a 1-0 lead in the 28th minute when midfielder John Thorrington converted a penalty kick after Seattle defender Jeff Parke handled the ball in his own penalty box. The score snapped a Sounders FC shutout streak of 351 minutes.
Ljungberg turned down the chance to take the penalty kick and said the game was “so hyped up before I felt it was more important for other players.”
Sounders FC (9-8-5) responded in the 36th minute, when defender Tyson Wahl tiptoed the sideline to keep the ball inbounds and swung in a cross to Montero, who fired a shot past Johnson for the equalizer.
“I was pretty thankful that he finished it. It was my first (career) assist,” said Wahl, who replaced the suspended Leo Gonzalez.
Despite being booed, Ljungberg said he appreciated the reception he got from the crowd before and after the game.
“Of course it’s special to come back,” he said. “I have a special relationship with the people of this city and the fans were amazing.”
On the field, Ljungberg and the vaunted Chicago attack were kept relatively quiet. Some gave most of that credit to Sounders FC defensive stalwart Osvaldo Alonso, who was assigned to spy Ljungberg around the field.
“I know Fredy will get the headlines, which is great, but sometimes you have to look at someone like Ozzie,” midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “He did so much today for the team.”
And the win did so much for team’s season.
• Sounders FC will next host Chivas USA in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
• Saturday night was Seattle’s 28th consecutive sellout for an MLS game and the largest crowd for a non-friendly.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sounders FC 2, Fire 1
|Chicago||1 0 — 1|
|Seattle FC||1 1 — 2|
First half — 1, Chicago, Thorrington 1 (penalty kick), 28th minute. 2, Seattle FC, Montero 9 (Wahl, Ianni), 36th. Second half — 3, Seattle FC, Montero 10 (Sturgis, Riley), 90th+. Goalies — Chicago, Sean Johnson; Seattle FC, Kasey Keller. Yellow cards — Kinney, Chicago, 22nd; Montero, Seattle FC, 24th; Nkufo, Seattle FC, 43rd; Ljungberg, Chicago, 83rd; Jaqua, Seattle FC, 90th. Shots — Seattle FC 12, Chicago 9. Shots on goal — Seattle FC 4, Chicago 4. Saves — Seattle FC 3, Chicago 2. Fouls — Chicago 18, Seattle FC 13. Corner kicks — Seattle FC 6, Chicago 3. Offsides — Chicago 3, Seattle FC 2. Referee — Ramon Hernandez. Assistant referees — Corey Rockwell. Paul Scott. 4th Official — Landis Wiley. A — 36,386.
Chicago — Sean Johnson, C.J. Brown, Krzysztof Krol, Steven Kinney, Gonzalo Segares, Baggio Husidic, Patrick Nyarko (Calen Carr, 86th), John Thorrington, Logan Pause, Collins John, Freddie Ljungberg.
Seattle FC — Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Tyson Wahl, Alvaro Fernandez (Roger Levesque, 89th), Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi (Steve Zakuani, 62nd), Nathan Sturgis, Blaise Nkufo (Nate Jaqua, 82nd), Fredy Montero.