CARSON CA - NOVEMBER 07: Seattle Sounders FC fans show their support as their team lose to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Western Conference Semifinal match second leg at The Home Depot Center on November 7 2010 in Carson California. The Galaxy defeated Sounders FC 2-1. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Juninho Scores Only Goal In 1-0 Galaxy Win

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MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Juninho Scores Only Goal In 1-0 Galaxy Win

nd so the Seattle Sounders run of starting the season with a win comes to an end tonight against Los Angeles Galaxy, with a 1-0 loss to the visitors. This is the third time in their three MLS seasons that the Sounders have hosted First Kick, and the first time the Sounders have lost. But more significantly for the home team, Seattle appears to have completely lost the plot. Their play was a sloppy array of mis-placed passes interspersed with a marked inability to finish in front of goal.

Of course, it was always going to be a tough night for Seattle. Just prior to kickoff, the Sounders announced that forward Blaise Nkufo had left the club, leaving O'Brian White to immediately step in to fill his boots. Although the shape did not change, making such a significant change on the day of the game was always likely to have a negative effect. Add to that the fact that White completely wasted three chances, including one in the 24th minute in which just a mere touch would have knocked the ball inside the net.

Erik Friberg, signed in the offseason, was a bright spot for the Seattle midfield, even sending in a shot that went just wide. On the other end, just before the whistle blew for halftime, David Beckham earned a free kick about 35 yards out. The venerable Galaxy man sent in an almost perfect kick, with it just grazing the top of the net.

The second half brought the only goal, scored by Juninho in the 58th minute. Friberg gave away the ball in midfield, with Todd Dunivant coming through to intercept. He took the ball up the left flank before passing it on to Juninho. Kasey Keller dove but could only get a hand on the ball, unable to avoid it heading into the back of the net.

The rest of the match brought more of the same, with Seattle attacking but failing to capitalize on their chances. The home side were also completely ineffectual from set pieces, often failing to beat the first man -- or even, on one occasion, sending the ball straight out of play. It's just one game, of course, but fans will be hoping that Seattle manage to pull themselves together in time for the visit to New York Red Bulls.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. LA Galaxy: Juninho Opens The Scoring, 1-0

In a half that saw Chris Birchall getting in a shot on target within thirty seconds of the restart, it seems almost inevitable that it was the Los Angeles Galaxy opened the scoring in the 58th minute against the Seattle Sounders. Juninho scored on a ball from Todd Dunivant. The ball curled around Sounders midfielder Erik Friberg, with defender Jeff Parke moving out of the way to allow Kasey Keller to get into position. Unfortunately, the Seattle keeper could only get a hand to the shot, and the ball tipped into the back of the net.

The Sounders almost appear to have never played together before, based on the number of mis-placed passes and the number of times that the players have been just a pace or two out of position. To alleviate the problem, Sigi Schmid has removed Alvaro Fernandez in favor of Roger Levesque, although it remains to be seen if this will help tighten up the Sounders play through the midfield.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. LA Galaxy: No Shortage Of Chances, No Score

Well, MLS is back, but many will be forgiven for having already tuned out, as its first episode, featuring the Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy, has only been a showcase for missed chances and shaky defense. The best chance in the game fell to O'Brian White in the 24th minute. After a scramble in front of the Galaxy goal, the ball fell to White, but rather than taking a shot, the forward took the time to control the ball and then failed to get his shot away.

New Seattle midfielder Erik Friberg has impressed so far, combining well with Alvaro Fernandez on the right wing. Just before the whistle, Friberg grabbed a ball that had bounced off a Galaxy player, turned, and shot from distance. The ball missed the outside of the post by just a few inches.

In injury time, David Beckham proved that there's a reason for Los Angeles to keep him around, despite the fact that he looks off the pace. After Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez brought Beckham down, he was shown a yellow and a free kick was awarded to the Galaxy. Beckham stepped up to take the kick and, from 35 yards out, sent in a ball that grazed the top of Kasey Keller's net. A great shot and a reminder of how dangerous Beckham is from set pieces.

At halftime, the game remains scoreless. Both defenses are shaky, but considering both offenses also appear to be unable to send in a shot that threatens the keeper, we may be looking at a goalless draw.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. LA Galaxy: Fredy Montero Already Looking Hot

It's fifteen minutes into MLS First Kick, with the L.A. Galaxy at Seattle Sounders, and there's at least one thing that we've learned so far: Fredy Montero is hot. Whether it's appearance or his actual play, the Colombian needed just a few minutes on the field to make it clear that he'll be making quite an impression on the league this year.

First of all, Seattle has adopted Adidas TechFit jerseys -- the same sort of kits that France wore in the World Cup when everyone accused them of painting on their shirts. Well, Montero has apparently done the same and it's clear that the forward has been working out in the offseason. Fredy, you're quite welcome to model those Sounders kits.

Of course, there's no point in a player having a sizzling appearance if his current skills can't back up his looks (David Beckham, I'm looking at you). But in Montero's case, before 10 minutes had passed, he'd shown the world that he's about more than just a pretty physique. Montero sent in a long range shot that forced the Galaxy keeper, Josh Saunders, into his first save.

Welcome back, Fredy. Welcome back, MLS.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. LA Galaxy: Lineups

We're just a few short minutes away from MLS First Kick, with the Seattle Sounders hosting the LA Galaxy at Qwest Field. The big surprise in the Sounders lineup is the inclusion of Steve Zakuani, who was thought to be regulated to the bench to continue recovering from a hip injury.

The other big shock, of course, is the news that Swiss international Blaise Nkufo has parted ways with Seattle, effective immediately. Read more here.

Sounders FC lineup: GK Keller, D Riley, D Hurtado, D Parke, D Gonzalez, M Fernandez, M Alonso, M Friberg, M Zakuani, F Montero, F White

Substitutes: GK Terry Boss, M Servando Carrasco, D Patrick Ianni, D/M/F Roger Levesque, M/F Lamar Neagle, D Zach Scott, M/F Miguel Montano

L.A. Galaxy lineup: GK Saunders, D Franklin, D DeLaGarza, D Leonardo, D Dunivant, M Beckham, M Birchall, M Juninho, M Donovan, F Magee, F Barrett

Substitutes: GK Brian Perk, M Paolo Cardozo, D Frankie Hejduk, D Bryan Jordan, M Jovan Kirovski, M Miguel Lopez, M Michael Stephens

Via @joshuamayers


MLS First Kick 2011: Blaise Nkufo Cuts Ties With Seattle Sounders An Hour Before Kickoff With L.A. Galaxy

Blaise Nkufo and the Seattle Sounders have agreed to part ways. According to the official Seattle Sounders press release:

Seattle Sounders FC and Blaise Nkufo have mutually agreed to end the Swiss forward's association with the club, effective immediately, it was announced today.

The details of Nkufo's status are being negotiated by Sounders FC, the player's representative and Major League Soccer.

It was reported earlier that there had been an "incident" at training that had resulted in disciplinary action against the forward, and that Nkufo would be left out of the starting lineup for the Sounders match against the L.A. Galaxy. Obviously it was much more than an isolated incident that lead the team to the conclusion that the Swiss international would be leaving, but the full details may never be revealed.

The real question is, why did this move happen an hour before First Kick? Many Sounders fans expected Nkufo to head to Vancouver Whitecaps during the expansion draft. Could this not have been worked out in the offseason?


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Blaise Nkufo Possibly Out Of Starting Lineup, O'Brian White To Replace

According to Joshua Mayers at the Seattle Times, Blaise Nkufo will not be included in the Seattle Sounders starting lineup against the L.A. Galaxy tonight. Apparently there was an "incident" at Sounders training that leaves Nkufo out of the side -- not an injury, but something else that has resulted in a disciplinary punishment. O'Brian White, traded to Seattle after being picked up from Toronto FC in the MLS expansion draft, will start with Fredy Montero up front.

The disciplinary punishment given to the Swiss international may still change and Nkufo could be added back to the starting XI. However, White and Montero provided a bright combination during preseason, so having him start up front would not be the most tragic replacement for the Sounders.

For more on this story and other MLS First Kick news, check back to this stream. To interact with other Sounders fans, including letting the world know what you're wearing to support Seattle against the Galaxy, visit Sounder at Heart.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Sounders Fans Hopes High

The 2011 MLS season begins on Tuesday night for the Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy at Qwest Field. The Sounders and Galaxy received the MLS First Kick honors this year, serving as ambassadors for the game on a live ESPN broadcast. It’s a game filled with star-power — six designated players between the two rosters — and an atmosphere that’s second-to-none.

The Sounders are ready for action, but the fans are, as well. Sounder At Heart’s Dave Clark summed up the fans’ hopes for the season this morning ahead of Tuesday night’s First Kick.

It begins tonight with another whistle. With a roar. With a boom. This is the most anticipated season in MLS history except for the first. It is a league looking to its North and its West. It is a league seeing many greens and blues. We are but one of those teams. We, Sounders are the eldest of our Cascadia brothers. We will lead with trophies.

Check out the rest and head over to Sounder at Heart throughout the day for wall-to-wall coverage of First Kick. It begins tonight at 6:30 p.m., live on ESPN.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Preview

Major League Soccer returns Tuesday evening, with Seattle Sounders hosting L.A. Galaxy in MLS First Kick. The Sounders are hosting First Kick for the third year running, beating the New York Red Bulls 3-0 in their inaugural season and defeating the Philadelphia Union 2-0 last year in Philly's first match. Will this season follow the trend, with Seattle accomplishing a 1-0 win over the Galaxy?

The Sounders might have revenge on their minds. Los Angeles fans are still mocking Seattle for having issued a refund after last year's 4-0 loss at Qwest Field. The Sounders may have knocked out the Galaxy in a B-sides meeting in the Open Cup, but that certainly doesn't make up for being kicked out of the playoffs in the first round last season. For Seattle to start their season on the right note, a win over L.A. is critical.

The home side received a boost of good news today, with Los Angeles announcing that Juan Pablo Angel and Omar Cummings will not be starting. However, the Sounders are without two players that they had planned to include in their regular starting XI. Steve Zakuani (hip injury) and Brad Evans (hamstring strain). Fortunately, the other injuries in the squad are primarily at the forward position, so although Seattle's injuries are not insignificant, the depth in the squad will likely mean that those filling in at midfield will not cause a tremendous amount of stress for the team.

According to the with-it folks at Sounder at Heart, it's likely that Sounder newbies Lamar Neagle and Erik Friberg will fill in for Zakuani and Evans. Should he start, Neagle will take the place of Alvaro Fernandez on the right, but never fear, Seattle fans waiting for Fernandez to get a start in a league game: El Flaco can shift to the left wing. Friberg, of course, plays in the middle, along with Osvaldo Alonso. The rest of the lineup is one that will likely be considered the standard starting XI. James Riley, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Jeff Parke and Leo Gonzalez start in front of Kasey Keller in goal. Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo lead the attack.

As for the Galaxy, I won't pretend to know what exactly they'll do in response to missing Angel and Cummings. But again, Sounder at Heart steps in to give their best idea:

That [the exclusion of JPA and Cummings] caused us to make some last-minute changes, namely moving Landon Donovan to forward, bringing in Michael Stephens to LM, moving AJ De La Garza to CB and sliding Todd Dunivant into the LB position.

The Sounders themselves already predicted Dunivant would start at left back, with Leonardo and De La Garza in the center and Sean Franklin on the right. Donovan Ricketts will likely not get the start, either, with Josh Saunders taking his place in goal. David Beckham, Juninho, Chris Birchall and Michael Stephens are in the midfield, with Donovan and Chad Barrett up front.

Check back throughout the day for updates on lineups, injuries, and more.


MLS First Kick 2011, Seattle Sounders Vs. L.A. Galaxy: Scarves Up, Seattle!

Scarves up, Seattle, for it's finally here, the day Sounders fans have been waiting on for about five months -- First Kick 2011! For the third season running, the Seattle Sounders are tasked with providing an enjoyable match to start off the Major League Soccer season, with the L.A. Galaxy traveling to the unfriendly confines of Qwest Field to see if they can dampen Seattle's spirits.

The Galaxy are looking to throw some star power Seattle's way, bringing along a team that includes David Beckham, Landon Donovan and now Juan Pablo Angel. The Sounders, meanwhile, will see the return of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado after the defender was out almost the entire 2010 season. They'll add Alvaro Fernandez to the starting lineup (finally!), having him attack down the wing, behind Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo. Steve Zakuani remains questionable with a hip injury.

For detailed previews of today's game, including a scouting report and questions with Galaxy fan and SBN founder Tyler Bleszinski, visit SB Nation's Seattle Sounders blog, Sounder at Heart. Meanwhile, we'll have a match preview, latest news, lineups, and in-game updates right here, to satisfy all your First Kick needs.

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