Sounders FC scored twice in the first half to beat the expansion Philadelphia Union 2-0 in the Major League Soccer season opener Thursday at Qwest Field in front of a team-record 36,241 fans.
For the second straight year, Major League Soccer turned to Seattle to kick off the regular season in front of a capacity crowd and a national-television audience.
And for the second straight year, Sounders FC — with both its players and a sellout crowd of 36,241 — put on a dazzling show while beating expansion Philadelphia 2-0 on a rainy Thursday night at Qwest Field.
Behind first-half goals from Brad Evans and Fredy Montero, who combined to score all three goals in last year’s opening-day win against New York, Seattle took a commanding early lead and didn’t relinquish it.
“For us, we wanted hopefully to start something here like we did last year,” said Evans. “It’s important to jump off with three points.”
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The fast start silenced worries about the offense.
Seattle had struggled to finish scoring chances consistently in 2009, and went scoreless in its final two games this preseason against lower-tier opponents Vancouver and Portland.
“The scoring drought is over,” coach Sigi Schmid said with a smile.
Sounders FC (1-0) took the early lead in the 12th minute when a great series of passes culminated with a goal by Evans from eight yards out.
The buildup started when Freddie Ljungberg passed it along the left wing to Steve Zakuani, who then played a give-and-go with Montero before cutting the ball back in front of the goal to a wide-open Evans.
Seattle had been emphasizing quick passing and movement off the ball in the preseason.
“I thought the first goal was an excellent goal, was a really well-played goal,” Schmid said. “Those were some of the things we’ve been working on.”
Down 1-0, a comeback effort by Philadelphia (0-1) took a severe hit in the 40th minute when defender Toni Stahl was ejected after receiving his second yellow card of the match.
Three minutes later, Sounders FC doubled its lead when Montero dived from just outside the goal post to head in a wayward shot by Osvaldo Alonso.
“It was one of the toughest goals to score in my entire professional career,” said Montero, who finished with seven shots.
The game was all but settled at that point, with a two-goal lead and a one-man Sounders FC advantage, said goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
“Then it’s over,” he said. “But at the same time, give them a lot of credit. They didn’t stop. They kept working hard.”
In the 55th minute, Zakuani nearly made it 3-0, but his shot on an empty net went wide after Union goalkeeper Chris Seitz left the goal in an attempt to clear the ball.
Seattle had the better of the scoring chances in the second half, including late opportunities by Sanna Nyassi and Michael Fucito.
Philadelphia’s best chance to score came in the 38th minute, when ex-Sounder Sebastien Le Toux appeared to have a goal in his return to Seattle, but it was called back for offside.
The Union missed a chance to become the third expansion team (joining Seattle in 2009 and Chicago in 1998) to win its first MLS game.
• The Sounders placed Nate Jaqua on injured reserve. The 6-foot-4 forward/midfielder has been recovering from a pelvic injury for most of training camp and must now sit out six MLS games, per league rules.
• Starting defender James Riley was suspended for the game after receiving a red card in the team’s last match of the 2009 season, against Houston.
• Thursday’s attendance set a team record for an MLS regular-season or postseason game.
• Seattle’s next game is at home against New York on April 3.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
Sounders FC 2, Union 0
|Philadelphia||0 0 — 0|
|Seattle FC||2 0 — 2|
First half — 1, Seattle FC, Evans 1 (Zakuani, Montero), 12th minute. 2, Seattle FC, Montero 1 (Alonso), 43rd. Second half — None. Goalies — Philadelphia, Chris Seitz; Seattle FC, Kasey Keller. Yellow cards — Califf, Philadelphia, 1st; Alonso, Seattle FC, 15th; Stahl, Philadelphia, 24th; Myrie, Philadelphia, 63rd; Moreno, Philadelphia, 87th. Red cards — Stahl, Philadelphia, 40th. Referee — Ricardo Salazar. Assistant Referees — Corey Rockwell. Peter Manikowski. 4th Official — Paul Ward. A — 36,241 (32,400)
Philadelphia — Chris Seitz, Dave Myrie (Jack McInerney, 78th), Jordan Harvey, Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, Roger Torres (Amobi Okugo, 71st), Toni Stahl, Andrew Jacobson, Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi, 46th), Alejandro Moreno, Sebastien Le Toux.
Seattle FC — Kasey Keller, Tyrone Marshall, Leo Gonzalez, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Steve Zakuani (Michael Fucito, 75th), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Freddie Ljungberg (Sanna Nyassi, 59th), Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque.