By John Boyle Herald Writer
TUKWILA — Nate Jaqua spent the better part of Wednesday night reminding Sounders FC fans what they’ve been missing this year.
The Seattle forward, who missed the first 13 games of the season with an abdominal injury, scored both goals in a 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals at Starfire Stadium.
“Obviously he can make a difference,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said of Jaqua, who had nine goals and seven assists last year. “He’s a different type of forward than what we had. … Nate being back, he’s putting a lot of heart and soul into it. He’s been tremendous.”
The win sends Sounders FC, the defending Open Cup champions, to the semifinals where Seattle plays Chivas USA at home on Sept. 1. The victory over Los Angeles also provides a bit of redemption for Seattle, which lost to the Galaxy 4-0 and 3-1 in two league games this season.
“That was a good team effort, everywhere on the field,” said Jaqua, who also scored in Seattle’s Open Cup win over Portland last week. “Everyone battled hard, and it’s good to get L.A. back after getting beat up down there. It’s good to beat them up at our place. It’s one of those ones where now we’ve got to carry the momentum forward, and we’ve got to get a win against Dallas this weekend.”
Seattle does indeed need this win to carry over to Sunday’s home game against Dallas. Despite putting on a show in front of a sellout crowd of 4,512 on Wednesday, the team is still 4-8-3 in league play and a long way away from a playoff berth. But despite its regular season struggles, Sounders FC is now just two wins away from defending the Open Cup title in won last year. Seattle also made the semifinals in 2007 and 2008 as a United Soccer League team.
“They’ve mentioned this since the beginning that one of our goals is to repeat as champions,” midfielder Mike Seamon said. “We are the defending champions and we want to keep that title.”
After a scoreless first half that saw both teams fail to capitalize on numerous scoring chances, Jaqua put Seattle ahead in the 50th minute with a header from point-blank range on an open net. Jaqua got the reward on the play, but the goal was set up by midfielders Seamon and Miguel Montano. Seamon found an open Montano in the box, but Montano’s first shot was saved by L.A. goalkeeper Josh Saunders. Montano recovered the rebound and fired a shot that bounced of the crossbar and straight down toward the goal line. From there it was just a matter of cleaning up the mess for Jaqua.
Jaqua made it 2-0 in the 62nd minute, again with the help of Montano, a 19-year-old rookie from Colombia. Montano played a cross into the far post, setting up Jaqua for a header that glanced off the post before ending up in the back of the net along with Saunders, who was attempting a diving save.
“Miguel did well, very well,” Jaqua said. “He caused them some problems and whipped in some very good balls. Especially the one — I didn’t know if it was a goal or not — it bounced on the line and it was one I wasn’t taking a chance with. The other one was a great ball to the back post, so credit him.”
Even though the Galaxy was without stars Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle, holding L.A. scoreless is a feat worth celebrating for a team that has given up nine goals in its past three league games. And the performances of players like Montano, Seamon and a back line that contained the Galaxy could prompt Schmid to make some changes in his regular starting lineup.
“The guys today put in a pretty good claim for getting on the field again,” Schmid said.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.