SEATTLE – Sounders FC responded to yet another challenge laid before it on Wednesday night at CenturyLink Field.
Without several players available to Head Coach Sigi Schmid because of injuries, suspensions and international call-ups, Sounders FC was still able to hold off Chivas USA for a 1-0 victory to climb into a tie for second place in the standings with the LA Galaxy at 13-8-4.
“We had to make a lot of changes tonight going into the game, but I thought we showed a lot of character,” Schmid said. “I’m pleased with our fight and our character. Sometimes games go that way and you have to battle. That’s what we did in the second half.”
The win extended Seattle’s home unbeaten streak to 11 straight matches and moved it to 6-1-0 in its last seven matches, also pushing Michael Gspurning’s shutout streak to three straight matches and 286 straight minutes. Lamar Neagle scored his career-high sixth goal of the season, four of which have been match-winners.
The importance of the match was emphasized because it was the only match of the night in the Western Conference and was a game-in-hand for Seattle.
“There were three points we were holding in our hands,” Schmid said. “Do we want to put them in our pockets or do we want to throw them away? As long as we take each of those games-in-hand and put the points in our pocket, then we’ll continue to climb and race up the standings.”
Sounders FC dominated possession over the first 20 minutes and it paid dividends in the 24th minute.
After DeAndre Yedlin was brought down for a foul 20 yards out against the right sideline, Marc Burch put a free kick into the box, finding Neagle all alone inside the six-yard box. Neagle had time to control the cross and hit a twisting point-blank shot to beat Dan Kennedy for the 1-0 lead.
“I got free and the ball dropped right in my lap,” Neagle said. “I took a bad touch, but I was able to get it down.”
Seattle continued to control the majority of possession and outshot Chivas 7-4 in the first half, but could not add to its lead before the halftime whistle.
The second half brought more of the same, but Sounders FC was only able to garner two more shots on goal before Chivas registered their first in the 77th minute. Defender Bobby Burling got his head to a ball from Edgar Mejia, but placed the ball at the feet of Gspurning, who recorded his first and only save of the night on the play.
Sounders FC maintained control throughout the remainder of the match and held on for the 1-0 win, its third straight win by that score line. The team shifted its defensive focus after a 3-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo on August 17 and has not allowed a goal since.
“We always want to play to zero in the back and the Houston game was an eye-opener for us that we had to change,” Gspurning said.
Seattle played without several key players due to injuries, international duty and a red card suspension to Leo Gonzalez. Forwards Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey were away with the U.S. National Team and will face Costa Rica on Friday and Mexico next Tuesday. Obafemi Martins, Brad Evans and Shalrie Joseph were all out with injuries.
Alongside Neagle, David Estrada made his first start since May 8 and played a key role in putting pressure on the Chivas defense throughout the night. Servando Carrasco also made his first start since July 20, doing the defensive work with Osvaldo Alonso to stymie the Chivas attack.
“Some guys stepped up today,” Schmid said. “You always want to have a team that has good depth.”
Sounders FC will continue its three-match homestand and play the final match of a stretch of three matches in eight days on Saturday when it hosts the Chicago Fire in a nationally televised match on NBC Sports.
Sounders FC – Lamar Neagle (Marc Burch) 24.
Chivas USA – None.
Sounders FC – None.
Chivas USA – Mario de Luna (caution) 34; Oswaldo Minda (caution) 64.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Patrick Ianni, Djimi Traore, Zach Scott, Mauro Rosales (Andy Rose 82), Osvaldo Alonso, Servando Carrasco, Marc Burch (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 91+), David Estrada (Eriq Zavaleta 84), Lamar Neagle.
Chivas USA – Dan Kennedy, Carlos Borja, Bobby Burling, Mario de Luna, Marky Delgado, Bryan de la Fuente (Eric Avila 46), Oswaldo Minda (Gabriel Farfan 80), Carlos Alvarez (Matthew Fondy 60), Edgar Mejia, Julio Morales, Erick Torres.