Sebastien Le Toux and Roger Levesque played alongside one another for two consecutive years for the USL First Division Sounders. The familiarity showed as the pair reprised their old strike partnership with phenomenal results, leading Seattle Sounders FC over Real Salt Lake in a U.S. Open Cup play-in game.
Le Toux scored a pair of goals while Levesque added three assists and earned a penalty in Seattle's 4-1 victory Tuesday at Starfire Sports Complex in front of another sellout crowd to watch Sounders FC in the Seattle area.
It was a surprising result considering Real Salt Lake's starting lineup featured several starters, including Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson, Jamison Olave and Robbie Russell. In contrast, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid went with mostly reserves, including six USL veterans. Additionally, he gave Patrick Ianni, Taylor Graham, Stephen King and Tyson Wahl their first action of the 2009 campaign.
Several of Seattle's stars, including Fredy Montero and Kasey Keller, were on the bench and ready to take advantage of the Open Cup rule allowing four substitutions per match. They were not needed, thanks to the offensive prowess of Le Toux.
The performance was especially sweet for the Frenchman, who was recently dropped from the starting lineup after his disappointing play in midfield. But the Open Cup match gave him a chance to play in his more comfortable position of striker and he looked dangerous early.
His best early chance came through Sanna Nyassi. After some initial confusion about a ball being out of play, Nyassi stole the ball from the RSL defender and raced towards goal. His low driven ball found an unmarked Le Toux at the back post but his shot somehow found its way over the bar from extremely close range.
However, Le Toux would soon have a chance to redeem himself from the penalty spot.
After a Steve Zakuani run and cross, RSL's Tony Beltran fouled Roger Levesque in the penalty area as he attempted to shoot. Le Toux, with his red shoes contrasting greatly with the green turf, stepped up to take the ensuing penalty. Even though Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Chris Seitz guessed correctly, the Frenchman's powerful shot found the left side of the goal for the 25th-minute opener.
Just two minutes later, Le Toux was at the center of Seattle's second goal on a counterattack. Taking a short pass from Levesque, Le Toux advanced against the rapidly retreating RSL defense. With Levesque running to his left, Le Toux played the unexpected ball to the right to Nyassi. The Gambian youngster quickly took a controlling touch as he cut inside his marker and toe-poked the ball into the net from about 15 yards.
However, Will Johnson pulled one back for RSL in the 32nd minute with a superb individual effort. From his left midfield position, he cut in on Riley and dispatched a rolling right-footed shot to the Chris Eylander's near post. That proved to be the last action of the half, as Seattle took its 2-1 lead into the halftime interval.
Both teams came out swinging in the second half. After a defensive turnover by Seattle, Eylander had to come off his line to save another Johnson shot after just 60 seconds.
Zakuani answered for Seattle, but his tantalizing cross from the left side evaded a bevy of Seattle attackers before being shot wide by Le Toux.
As Real Salt Lake pushed for the equalizer, Seattle and King found plenty of space in midfield. The former Chicago Fire player had a shot saved by an onrushing Seitz and Seattle failed to usher in the rebound. By this time, however, Seattle was attacking with confidence with Le Toux and Levesque leading the way.
The third goal came off a tremendous passing sequence in the 52nd minute. Riley sent a deep ball forward, which was flicked on by Le Toux. Levesque backheeled the ball back to Le Toux, who touched to King, who finished from inside the penalty area.
With Real Salt Lake's defense in disarray, Seattle added a fourth in quick succession. This time, Levesque crossed in from the right side to Le Toux at the far post for his second goal. RSL's defense had difficulty dealing with the pace of Levesque and Le Toux, as Seattle defense kept pumping balls in over the top of RSL's high defensive line. More often than not, Le Toux was able to win these balls with his head or with his feet.
With the lead secured, Jarrod Smith got his first action for Seattle. The New Zealand international had been bothered by hip flexor and quad injuries and started the season on the injured reserve. He nearly scored, as well, stinging Seitz's palms in the 75th minute with a right-footed blast.
Second-round draft pick Evan Brown also came on in the second half for Sounders FC.
Real Salt Lake added Yura Movsisyan in the second half in an attempt to kick start the offense, with limited effect. Just three days after scoring six goals against New England, Real Salt Lake only managed to score once.
Sounders FC now face the Colorado Rapids in late May in the next play-in round and must win that contest to reach the main tournament field of the Open Cup. A coin flip will determine the host of that match.
Both teams hit the road for important league encounters this weekend. Sounders FC travel to Chicago to take on the Fire, second place in the Eastern Conference, while Real Salt Lake go to Colorado to take on the Rapids in the first Rocky Mountain Cup match of the season.
Andrew Winner is a contributor to MLSnet.com.