A good soccer game to watch, this past Saturday, full-spirited and full-hearted if you are a Sounder. Seattle pulled the table cloth in extra time, beating the heartbroken Kansas City Wizards 1-0 in the 93rd minute, as Mike Fucito (call him King Fu) cut inside his defender for the goal. It was the fourth match of the young season but the air, and the play, are heating up.
Fucito was only signed three weeks ago, after spending a year on the development team, a five-foot-nine-inch Harvard kid, same size as Sounder stars Montero and Ljungberg, but more the stern, quick plug than either of the two. This was his first ever goal in Major League Soccer, against a very fine KC keeper Nielsen and a very taut KC defense. It broke the tie, lit the crowd, sent the Sounders off on a two-game road trip with plenty of spunk and left Fucito to sign the whole goal side row of new King Fu fans.
Fucito's shot came on a throw in (had this happened TO the Sounders in extra time, then you would have heard a Sigi Schmid you would never want to hear); you may watch a lot of games and never see it again. The Wizard defenders paused, Fucito ducked in, a long skip pass from Brad Evans, shot, goal, all in one motion and moment. Fifty, a hundred times you may run that play and have nothing. It was the 93rd minute, everyone was maybe tired but no one was asleep. It was just soccer, where one moment, one microsecond-late glance to check where your other defender has himself, may trump two hours of play.
So up rose the 35,000 fans and green scarves, hugging and jumping. And it was a fine soccer game because in that very jumping moment, the Wizards nearly scored to tie again. And would have — they were upfield and at Keller's throat before the fans were even half high-fived, they were at the mouth and shot, as good a shot as Fucito's, and you would have been playing the thing back and forth all day in replay, shaking your head.
But Keller knows things. He saw through all the green scarf cheering that there were still sharks in the water and he saw the one boring in. He dove right, just got the one hand to it, and pushed the ball off goal. It was in, otherwise, in for certain, a kind of error and pause that can infect a season.
The Wizards are a stout team, a fine example of Major League Soccer growing stronger as a league. The match had more effort than tact, was more a collision than the matches, say, with the LA Galaxy, which seem ever to involve standings and position. Kansas City came to play &mdfash; rack it up, boys — and the Sounders knew it. Heads knocked, the game stopped frequently for blood or dizziness, and for some of the match, the Wizards held control. The Wizards' fine defender, Jimmy Conrad, who played on the US Men's National team, left in the 20th minute with a calf injury. It was Conrad's replacement whom Fucito cut behind at game's end.
For many reasons, the Sounders like to strike — they are not naturally patient. But they must learn to be and Kansas City was a good test in that regard. You must unzip the Wizard defense, and the Sounders are learning both how and why that is. At moments, Seattle held the ball, working their triangles, probing, coming back, probing again. At moments, it was elegant and effective. At other times, they swung for the fences, as is their youth.
The Sounders now go away for 10 days, a match in Dallas and then up to Toronto against a rugged, and controversial, Canadian side. They return to Qwest Field on May Day, a Saturday evening game against Sigi's old club, the veteran Columbus Crew.