SEATTLE (AP) - Fredy Montero set up the first goal of the 2010 Major League Soccer season, then scored on a diving header that'll be tough to top all season, and the Seattle Sounders FC started year No. 2 with an impressive 2-0 win over the expansion Philadelphia Union on Thursday night.
Give Montero a stage and the 2009 MLS newcomer of the year usually performs. Last year in Seattle's inaugural game, Montero came away with two goals and an assist in Seattle's 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls.
Fast-forward 12 months and Montero was making the debut of the league's 16th team mostly forgettable.
Just 12 minutes in to the new season, Brad Evans beat Philadelphia keeper Chris Seitz off deft passes by Montero and Steve Zakuani. Minutes before halftime, Montero's diving header redirected Osvaldo Alonso's drive that looked to be headed wide, and the party was on for Seattle.
Seattle remains one of just two expansion teams to win in its debut, stymieing the Union on a blustery night with waves of rain pelting the more than 36,000 that turned out, many arriving after Washington was knocked from the NCAA tournament by West Virginia.
The start of the 15th season of the MLS was in doubt until last weekend when the players and owners agreed on a new five-year labor contract. With the labor strife resolved, the Sounders went out and looked like the one of the favorite many have predicted.
The Union's debut wasn't helped when defender Toni Stahl was red carded in the 41st minute after receiving a second yellow card, and the Union were forced to play a man down for the final 49 minutes.
Sebastien Le Toux, at one time the first player Seattle ever signed before being taken in the expansion draft by Philadelphia, had the Union's best scoring chance. His shot beat his former teammate Kasey Keller in the 38th minute, but he was whistled for being offsides.
By then the Union were already in a 1-0 hole thanks to Montero and Zakuani. Holding just outside the penalty box, Montero left a perfectly judged pass to an overlapping Zakuani near the end line. Zakuani left-footed a low pass back to the middle, onto the right foot of Evans and just under the flailing left foot of Seitz.
Then two minutes after Stahl was sent off, Montero took advantage. Seitz punched a corner kick out of the box, but Alonso volleyed down a shot that hopped off the wet turf, but was headed wide of the net. Montero never let it reach the end line, diving to head the drive just inside the far post and past a helpless Seitz.
It was a long and wet night for the Union and some of the "Sons of Ben" supporters that made the trip from Philadelphia. The Union get a week off before playing their first home game on April 10 against D.C. United.
But Philadelphia wasn't afraid to get chippy.
Danny Califf was carded in the first minute for taking down Montero. Seattle's Freddie Ljungberg often found himself getting knocked to the ground or jawing with the Union defense. Ljungberg left in the 60th minute still limping after getting sandwiched during one challenge in the first half and his own verbal confrontations with a number of Union players and referee Ricardo Salazar.