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Schmid's call sounds sweet to Seattle fans

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Seattle's Osvaldo Alonso (left) yells at Portland's James Marcelin and draws a yellow card during Sunday's match at Jeld-Wen Field.

Seattle Sounders striker Fredy Montero scored his team's first two goals of the match against the Portland Timbers in the 57th and 74th minute Sunday at Jeld-Wen Field.

Timbers fans were spared from seeing Montero grab a hat trick only because of a decision by Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.

When Timbers defender Eric Brunner fouled Lamar Neagle in the 18-yard box in the 81st minute, the Sounders were awarded a penalty kick. While Montero could have lined up for the PK, Schmid made the call for Osvaldo Alonso to take it.

'The guys who were up for penalties today were (Alvaro) Fernandez and Alonso,' Schmid said. 'When we got the penalty, 'Ozzie' wanted to defer to Fredy to give him the chance at the hat trick, but I said no.'

The PK that resulted in the 3-2 Sounders win was the result of a seemingly prophetic move by Schmid, who substituted Neagle into the match for Fernandez in the 66th minute.

'One of the reasons we wanted to get Neagle on there at the end is we felt we could get behind (Timbers defender Steve) Purdy with Neagle's speed,' Schmid said. 'I told Lamar to make sure he made runs off the ball, which he did. He ran hard behind, and Brunner wasn't left with a lot of choices, or else Lamar brings that ball down and buries it.'

• At halftime, it was announced that Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller was selected to the first 11 of the Major League Soccer All-Star team as one of MLS' top vote-getters.

It is the second time Keller has been voted to the first 11 and the third time he has made the team in his three MLS seasons.

'It's cool,' Keller said. 'It's always an honor. I thank the fans for giving me the opportunity.'

Keller, the 41-year-old former Portland Pilots star from Olympia, Wash., made sure to also thank the back line playing in front of him for his success.

'Goalkeepers don't do it without good teammates around them, and that makes a big difference,' he said. 'We're doing a lot of big things this year.'

The only problem for Keller now is whether he will be able to attend the All- Star game on July 27 at Red Bull Arena, where the MLS squad will face the defending English Premier League champions, Manchester United.

'I just don't know if I'm going to be able to go,' Keller said. 'That's the tricky part. They want to promote this game and be this big thing, but then they schedule stuff around it so some of us won't be able to make it, which is a bit frustrating.'

•• Keller, who has played some 700 matches of professional soccer, has announced that this will be his final season. That means that if the Timbers do not make the playoffs - which would take a significant turnaround at this point - he has played his final match in Portland.

Keller played on the downtown Portland pitch when it was Civic Stadium and when it was PGE Park. His first and likely last visit to Jeld-Wen Field could not have been a happier occasion.

'It's a great place to play a game,' Keller said. 'It kind of goes back to the decision of playing another year of these games, and I'm just happy to have this one in the memory banks.'

Keller wished the Timbers luck in the future. A little luck, anyway.

'In this country, you want to see franchises like this, with this kind of support, be successful,' he said. 'At some stage, I wish (the Timbers) all the best of success, as long as they're just one place below us.'

•••• Though Montero was the villain Sunday afternoon, Sounders striker Roger Levesque has long been hated by the Portland fans.

Levesque said it was 'not a huge shock' that he was booed so viciously by the Timbers Army. Then, showing his light side, he backtracked and joked that the reception surprised him.

'I was expecting some positivity coming from the Portland fans,' Levesque said. 'Maybe next year.'

••••• The Sounders' perfect day was ruined in the 56th minute, when defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado left the pitch with a knee injury. After a hard Timbers challenge, Hurtado crumpled to the turf and looked to be in serious pain.

The Sounders weren't sure of the extent of the injury.

'We'll have to see,' Schmid said. 'He hurt his knee, but we think it's just an MCL (sprain) or something like that. Anything I could say right now is just a guess.'

•••••• The Sounders seemed to use Hurtado's injury as a battle cry, though. Just one minute after Hurtado went down, Montero scored Seattle's first goal to tie the score at 1-1.

'The second half was not for anybody with weak hearts, going back and forth like that,' Schmid said. 'The emotional lift from (Montero) scoring that free kick - getting that goal back as early as we did (10 minutes after the Timbers had scored) - was really important. If we had had to keep battling for 10 to 15 minutes longer to get that goal back, it would have given (the Timbers) a better chance at things.'

••••••• Schmid is more than pleased with how much the Sounders have grown this season as they make a run toward the playoffs.

'We've matured,' he said. 'We've grown. Our character is better. We don't let a setback take us down. Last year, if something negative happened, it sort of impacted us for a little bit and we struggled to find our game again. Our psychology is a lot stronger. The character of the team is stronger. That's been our big change over the last two months.'

•••••••• The Sounders coach hopes that Sunday's derby match, with diehard fans showing up for both teams, can inspire other MLS fans to show the same enthusiasm.

'The fans in other MLS cities who watched this game, imagine what it would be like if they could recreate this environment at every stadium in the league,' Schmid said. 'It would shoot the game through the top. It would become must-see TV.'