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Sunday, May 20, 2012 - Page updated at 10:00 p.m.
Sounders' Fab Four show why this season could be special
By Steve Kelley
Seattle Times staff columnist
VANCOUVER, B.C. — Something clicked in the second half under blue sky at the remodeled B.C. Place. The Sounders' future started to come alive. The kind of team the front office envisioned had moments when the dream began to feel real.
For the Sounders, the 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday afternoon had the feel of something bigger.
This was the first time their Fab Four of Eddie Johnson, Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero and Alvaro Fernandez were on the field at the same time. This was just the start of something.
After a flat first half when this Fab Four looked as uncertain as the Miami Heat in Indianapolis, the season found some focus. After a couple of halftime tweaks, the offense became creative and attacking and threatening.
This was exactly what the Sounders were searching for this winter when they began putting this team together.
"This is what we are working for," said midfielder Rosales, the former Argentine national. "We need more time to figure it out. We have to understand Eddie more. Where he feels better with the ball. Where he wants the ball. When we got possessions (in the second half) we were very confident when we tried to score. I saw something special."
This will be Sounders soccer this season:
They will have three or four guys who can possess the ball. Three or four players who will look for each other. Three or four dangerous players who will make it impossible for defenses to key on one man.
"It's coming," Johnson said. "It's not coming as fast as we thought it would be. We've had some injuries. Guys haven't been able to play on a consistent basis together. We just want to build off these positives."
After his team played a slumberous first 45 minutes, coach Sigi Schmid dropped Montero back to midfield, leaving Johnson as the solo striker.
"After the first half, we said, 'This ain't working,' " Schmid said.
Vancouver's midfield had dictated play in the first half, but with Johnson alone up top, the Sounders found more space and more energy than they had earlier.
That's the beauty of this season's Sounders. Schmid has more versatility in his lineup, more quality than ever. He has more scoring options.
In the 47th minute, Montero passed to Rosales, who served a lovely cross that allowed Johnson to hammer a header past 'Caps keeper Joe Cannon. Johnson, who has hoop-like hops, out-jumped Martin Bonjour for the goal.
Soon after that, Montero had two dangerous shots that forced Cannon to make spectacular diving stops.
This was five minutes of magic. A flash peak at the rest of this season. The beautiful game looked even prettier.
"I still don't think we're sharp, per se," Schmid said. "You sort of think it might look like this, but then you get them out there and it doesn't quite look like that. So you have to tweak it and you have to adjust it a little bit.
"I've always been a coach that, it's not about 'You have to play my system.' It's about, 'Let's create something that allows you to take advantage of your talents.' It's a matter of us understanding how to put those four guys on the field together. When we made that change I think the four combined much better."
After Camilo scored on a free kick in the 82nd minute, Montero finally got one, taking a pass from Johnson, shooting through a clot of 'Caps and beating Cannon to tie the score about 20 seconds before stoppage time. It was a fitting ending to a highly entertaining game.
"Definitely it's going to be a long, long season and we just have to get really good at what we need to do," Montero said. "I'm happy because Eddie Johnson scored a goal. And Mauro crossed the ball. And I happened to score too again."
Even a galaxy this bright will have its struggles. Chemistry and cohesion don't happen in a couple of practices or even a couple of games. Fernandez had just a few full days of training before this start.
The Sounders will get healthier. Midfielder Brad Evans will return for Wednesday's home match with Columbus and be the glue guy in the middle. Defenders Leo Gonzalez and Patrick Ianni eventually will be back.
"This is the kind of soccer we want to play," technical director Chris Henderson said. "Good possessions, good attitude, versatility and soccer with flair. And Eddie Johnson is a big part of that."
This was only the beginning for the Fab Four. But after those final 45, the future never has looked brighter or more beautiful.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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