By Talha Zaheer
In a cagey, scrappy match, the Seattle Sounders recorded a two-goal win thanks to a moment of inspiration from Freddie Ljunberg and a moment of hesitation from the TFC rearguard. Ljunberg was integral to both Sounders goals and was easily the best player on the pitch. Despite being closely marked for much of the game, he was able to break free almost at will to impact play.
Pablo Vitti contrived to produce the first meaningful chance of the game as he weaved past 2 defenders only to see his shot blocked in the 10th minute. A moment of consternation followed for the Sounders as John Kennedy Hurtado's clearance almost went in off Chad Barrett.
Ljunberg provided the inspiration for Seattle's opening goal as he incisively sliced through the Toronto defense, playing a one-two with Nate Jaqua that left the defenders ball watching. Ljunberg calmly slotted the ball past Greg Sutton for his first MLS goal. It was a move reminiscent of his days at Arsenal.
Toronto took their time getting over that early setback. Dwayne De Rosario who had largely been quiet through the first half suddenly burst into life in the 28th minute igniting Toronto's best spell of the half. A one-two with Guevara almost led to an assist for the Canadian international. Soon after, Amado Guevara could only head a Barrett cross behind Vitti who was ready to pull the trigger.
A penalty claim from Toronto was denied; the players subsequently getting into a scuffle that resulted in a Yellow card for Hurtado on the half hour mark. Toronto were enjoying the better of the play with Wynne especially effective down the right hand side. A low cross found its way to De Rosario who missed the target.
With a gusty wind behind their backs, Seattle dealt the killer blow at the end of the first half as some splendid intricate play down the right was accompanied by hesitation in the Toronto defense that presented Zakuani with an opportunity he simply could not miss. Seattle went into the break two goals ahead.
Rohan Ricketts had been ineffectual and John Carver opted to replace him at the break with Sam Cronin. This improved Toronto's urgency in what was a packed midfield. Despite the change, Seattle continued to play with purpose, as their build up play was both patient and meticulous. Sigi Schmid's side hardly look like a debutant team; they kept possession effectively and outclassed a Toronto FC side that despite all its hustle and bustle failed to find a way past Kasey Keller who remains unbeaten.
Tyrone Marshall almost capped a successful return to Toronto with a goal but missed a free header in the 55th minute. Danny Dichio was introduced to the fray as a number of calls went against Toronto that agitated the home crowd. TFC kept plugging away and nearly pulled a goal back first through a Kevin Harmse header that went over and then through a Guevara header that clipped the crossbar.
With 20 minutes remaining, Toronto's pressure caused confusion in the Sounders box and the ball rolled agonizingly across the six-yard box with no Toronto player on hand to apply the finish. Toronto threw more men forward looking for a way back into the match, opening the game up. Seattle were dangerous on the counter with the fantastic Ljunberg orchestrating play. One could hardly have told the Sounders were missing the leagues MVP for March with Freddy Montero absent.
Toronto continued to go forward in numbers and Guevara spurned a great opportunity with a free kick from the edge of the area. In the dying moments of the game, Serioux made a fantastic challenge on Jaqua to keep the score line respectable. De Rosario seemed to lose the plot at the end: lunging at Alonso's face with his hands, right in front of the referee. Somehow, De Rosario managed to escape a caution for what many would view as a sending off offense.
The Seattle Sounders keep their 100% record alive and their defense has yet to be breached as they move 3 points clear at the top of the league. Toronto's performance was an improvement on their display against Columbus last week.
Clearly second best against a Sounders team that is playing with a maturity and talent one hardly expects from a debutant team, Toronto must show character and bounce back quickly if they are to remain championship contenders.
Talha Zaheer covers Toronto FC for Goal.com