By JOSE M. ROMERO
The Seattle Sounders could certainly use a healthy Fredy Montero back in the starting XI. In the striker's absence, however, Mauro Rosales has quickly emerged as a credible threat with the ball.
So much so, it would seem, that Coach Sigi Schmid might have a bit of a dilemma on his hands come later this week should Montero be deemed fit to play in Seattle's next match against Philadelphia. Rosales has played well enough in his past two games — including Saturday afternoon's 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire — to earn strong consideration for the starting lineup, meaning someone would have to come out.
All the Sounders wanted to do Saturday, however, was win their first MLS game of the season, and with the help of Rosales and solid play from the midfield, goals by Steve Zakuani and O'Brian White and three big saves from Kasey Keller, they did just that.
Seattle opened the scoring in the 7th minute with Rosales crossing to White, who split defenders Dasan Robinson and Jalil Anibaba for a header that beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Not two minutes later, Chicago answered with good passing from forward Gaston Puerari to right wing Patrick Nyarko to forward Diego Chaves, who got position on Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez and scored.
Chaves, a Uruguayan national signed in February, was a difficult matchup for the Sounders' defenders for much of the afternoon at Qwest Field.
Seattle's midfield was collectively strong, with Brad Evans getting himself free for chances, Osvaldo Alonso playing his usual physical style, Rosales leading the attack and Erik Friberg playing perhaps his best match of the season. Zakuani, playing more of a forward with White as the only true striker in the lineup, made a run down the left side and beat Anibaba for a shot that sound the net in the 25th minute.
The Sounders never scored again, but neither did the Fire, thanks to Keller.
Keller had earlier this season been the keeper on two of the league's Goals of the Week awardees, one from New York's Juan Agudelo and the second last week from Khari Stephenson of San Jose. This coming week, however, he might end up with a Save of the Week.
In the 58th minute, the Fire's Marco Pappa took a free kick that was deflected by Seattle's James Riley to Chaves, whose shot Keller stopped. In the 61st minute, Keller stopped Puerari's open shot from in front, and in the 66th minute, Keller was there to clear a shot off the bottom of Pappa's boot that was dangerously close to going in.
Nyarko had to come off in extra time with what looked like a right lower leg injury after a hard tackle from Sounders rookie Servando Carrasco, who was cautioned though the Fire lobbied for a red card.
The Sounders moved to 1-2-2 on the season while the Fire, playing for the first time since March 26, is now 1-1-1. Chicago began a stretch of three MLS matches in an eight-day span Saturday.