TORONTO – The highly anticipated debut of Clint Dempsey came a bit sooner than imagined, as the newly-minted Sounders FC midfielder was on the bench to start the match against Toronto FC.
However, an ankle injury suffered by Obafemi Martins brought Dempsey into the match in the 34th minute with Sounders FC already toting a 1-0 lead.
Seattle would go on to topple Toronto 2-1, as Marcus Hahnemann earned his second straight victory after moving into the starting role last week against FC Dallas and Sounders FC continued to climb the ladder in the Western Conference, improving to 10-7-4 and moving to fifth in the conference with still two Western Conference matches remaining on Sunday.
“We had to hang on to it, but we did hang on to it, so that was big,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “In the first half, I thought we played well, but obviously it changed in the second half.”
In the 16th minute Seattle put together a great string of soccer to get on the board. Pinging the ball back and forth with seeming ease, the ball wound up with Brad Evans on the left side of the box. He crossed it for Eddie Johnson on the right side and he knocked a header back across the box to Mauro Rosales, who bounced a side-winding volley into the net for his third goal of the season.
“It was very good for us to get control of the game and it was very good to get an early goal,” Rosales said. “It was important when you can move the ball and you keep possession and make the other team run.”
Seattle added to that lead in the 40th minute when Neagle carried the ball up the left side of the box and skipped the ball along the grass to the middle of the box. His pass was blocked by Doneil Henry and the ball rolled slowly into the far netting for a 2-0 Seattle lead.
Seattle looked comfortably in control at halftime, but Toronto would pull one back just 30 seconds after the start of the second half.
Andrew Wiedeman pressed up the left side and crossed it to the middle. Reggie Lambe dummied the ball through to Jonathan Osorio coming down the middle of the box. Osorio cut the ball back to his left foot to elude Osvaldo Alonso before getting a shot away. Hahnemann got a leg on the ball, but his deflection didn’t slow the ball enough for Leo Gonzalez to get to the line for the clearance and the lead slipped to 2-1 in the 46th minute.
Seattle continued to hold off the Toronto comeback as the second half wore on. In the 60th minute, Robert Earnshaw unfurled a left-footed shot from the top of the box that clanged off the post. Then three minutes later, Richard Eckersley skipped a low cross that slid straight through the defense to the far side to Jeremy Brockie, but DeAndre Yedlin was there for the sliding stop.
Dempsey soon found the rhythm of the game and created some opportunities, highlighted by one chance in the 70th minute.
He worked his way around three Toronto players before taking a right-footed shot toward the post that forced goalkeeper Joe Bendik into a desperation dive to get a finger-tip save pushing the ball away for a corner kick.
“It felt good,” Dempsey said. “I was happy with my play. I thought I was able to bring people into the game and help create chances for my teammates. I would have liked to have done better with some of the chances that I had.”
For all the momentum Dempsey brought Seattle’s way, Toronto would make one last run at equalizing the game.
As second-half stoppage time wore on, Jeremy Brockie got into the box on a long ball from the left side, but Hahnemann was there for the stop for his second save of the night to seal the 2-1 victory.
The win was the first on the road for Sounders FC since a 2-0 win over Chivas USA on June 1.
“This is the way that we wanted to be. It’s something that we have worked very hard to be here,” Rosales said. “Getting points at this part of the year is really, really important. We have a few games in hand and we need these points.”
Seattle will play an MLS Reserve League match on Sunday against Orlando City SC of the USL-Pro at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The club’s next MLS match will be August 17 at BBVA Compass Stadium against the Houston Dynamo.
Sounders FC – Mauro Rosales (Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans) 16; Own goal (Doneil Henry).
Toronto FC – Jonathan Osorio (Andrew Wiedeman) 46.
Sounders FC – Eddie Johnson (caution) 23; Shalrie Joseph (caution) 75.
Toronto FC – None.
Sounders FC – Marcus Hahnemann, DeAndre Yedlin, Patrick Ianni, Djimi Traore, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Shalrie Joseph 72), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans (Marc Burch 89), Lamar Neagle, Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins (Clint Dempsey 34).
Toronto FC – Joe Bendik, Richard Eckersley (Justin Braun 89), Steve Caldwell, Doneil Henry, Ashtone Morgan, Reggie Lambe (Alvaro Rey 71), Matias Laba, Jonathan Osorio, Bobby Convey, Andrew Wiedeman (Robert Earnshaw 56), Jeremy Brockie.