Sounders add scoring punch

  • Thu Mar 4th, 2010 11:06pm
  • Sports

By John Boyle Herald Writer

TUKWILA — For all of the inaugural season success enjoyed by Seattle Sounders FC, no one associated with the rave green was satisfied with how the 2009 season ended.

After leading the league in attendance, after winning the U.S. Open Cup, and after advancing to the playoffs in its first season, Sounders FC was bounced after its first playoff series when, over 210 minutes of soccer, Seattle failed to score a single goal, falling 1-0 to Houston on aggregate scoring.

On Thursday, Seattle announced a signing that should help them avoid similar scoring droughts in 2010. Blaise Nkufo, a Swiss striker who for the plast seven years has starred for the Netherlands’ FC Twente, will join Seattle this summer after fulfilling commitments to Twente and Switzerland in the World Cup.

Nkufo, 34, is the career scoring leader for Twente with 111 goals, and has 27 caps with the Swiss national team. He has more than 200 career goals in club and international soccer.

“Obviously, we’re excited with the signing of Blaise,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s something that is going to make our team better down the line. He’s an experienced player. He wants to be here, which is important as well. He’s got a history of scoring goals. His movement in the box is very good. He’s intelligent… . It’s going to be good to have him as an addition for the second half of the season.”

Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said the team has had its eyes on Nkufo going back to last year, and praised the striker not just for his soccer skills but also his character. Hanauer mentioned Seattle’s July 15 game at D.C. as a possibility for Nkufo’s debut.

Nkufo came to Seattle in December and had a meeting with Hanauer, as well as goalkeeper Kasey Keller.

Nkufo not only hopes to enjoy the end of his career here — he signed through the 2011 season — but also find a place to settle down with his family.

“For me it is not just coming for playing, but like I said to Adrian when we met for the first time, I want to settle and also live in Seattle,” said the 6-foot-2 Nkufo, who should provide a physical presence up top for the Sounders. “That’s my wish.”

By the time Nkufo comes to Seattle, he will have played an entire season with Twente, plus a World Cup, which on the surface could be problematic for a player who turns 35 later this spring. But both Schmid and Hanauer raved about Nkufo’s fitness and work ethic, and don’t think he will come to Seattle with too many miles on his legs. Nkufo is also confident he can handle a long season.

“The last years I’ve proved that I can play a lot of games in Europe,” he said. “I do believe I can do that. Of course I think I will need time to adapt maybe for the first games, but it should be not a problem.”

Nkufo has at least one fan on his new team in midfielder Steve Zakuani. Like Nkufo, Zakuani was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (then known as Zaire) before moving to Europe.

“He’s got a record that speaks for itself,” Zakuani said. “The fact that he’s playing in the World Cup is a good achievement; Switzerland is a decent European team. He’s playing in a competitive European league and has scored a lot of goals.”

“Obviously I’m aware of him from before because he’s from where I’m from. I’m excited for this. Just to get a chance to play with that kind of player. He’s going to help our team. He’ll be here for half the season and hopefully through the playoffs if we make it, so he’s going to be a big addition.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com.