SEATTLE – Sounders FC was every bit a winner in its 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake on Friday night at CenturyLink Field, dominating the match from the first minute and overtaking the top spot in Major League Soccer by leapfrogging Salt Lake.
“We’ve kept climbing. We’ve kept climbing and now we’re in first place,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Now we have to make sure we stay there and enjoy the view a little bit.”
Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle both scored first half goals and Seattle was well on its way to its 13th consecutive match without a loss at home in quite convincing fashion. Then the crowd of 55,107 got an extra treat when U.S. National Team forwards Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson entered the match for Seattle, making a dangerous offense downright lethal.
Michael Gspurning made three saves to earn his 10th shutout of the season and fourth in the last five matches.
“We believe in ourselves and today was our day to turn believers out of the doubters,” Schmid said. “It was our chance to show that this is a team we can beat and a team we can play against and we can play well.”
After getting into the box just 20 seconds into the match, Martins again went on the attack two minutes later to put Seattle on the board.
After winning the ball in the midfield, Sounders FC strung together a series of passes and the ball eventually got to Martins at the top of the box. He led Andy Rose up the left side of the box and just before it got to the endline, he popped the ball back to Martins charging down the middle. He hit the first-time shot into the open net for his eighth goal of the season in the third minute, giving Seattle the 1-0 lead.
Even with the early lead, Seattle kept the pressure on.
In the seventh minute, Mauro Rosales sent a corner kick in from the left side and Zach Scott found an opening to power a header on frame, but Nick Rimando made a spectacular diving stop.
One minute later, Lamar Neagle led Martins into the box again, but his first-time shot was stopped for another save by Rimando.
It wasn’t until the 28th minute that Salt Lake got its first threatening opportunity, as Joao Plata scampered to the top of the box and fired a shot just wide of the far post, putting the ball narrowly wide on the low, skipping shot.
In the 38th minute, Seattle made it 2-0 when Neagle netted his eighth goal of the season. On the counter-attack, Martins slipped DeAndre Yedlin up the right sideline. Going undefended, Yedlin carried it all the way to the endline in the box before crossing to Neagle trailing the play. The cross forced Rimando off the near post and Neagle put it right back where he came from for the goal.
“I’m definitely confident. I’ve enjoyed playing up front and enjoyed having that freedom,” said Neagle, who has goals in three straight games. “I was getting on the end of a bunch of crosses and it was just all the service from the other guys, really.”
Seattle very nearly added another in the 54th minute when Neagle went all alone into the box up the left side. He tried to bate Rimando into an open look, but Rimando smothered his effort for the far post for his third save of the night.
Seattle put five of its 10 shots on goal while Salt Lake forced three saves from Gspurning out of nine shots.
Nat Borchers got his head to a Javier Morales free kick in the 80th minute, forcing Gspurning into his most difficult save of the night as it bounced to the far post and the Seattle goalkeeper covered it just before it cleared the goal line to keep it 2-0.
“We bent, but we didn’t give up a whole lot of chances – things that were clean or clear-cut,” Schmid said. “I was pleased with our team’s performance.”
Seattle would entertain the crowd over the final half-hour with its play in the attacking half, but could not add to the lead, improving to 15-8-4 and moving to one point ahead of Real Salt Lake (14-9-6).
Sounders FC will face another tough test in its next match on September 21 at the StubHub Center against the LA Galaxy.
Sounders FC – Obafemi Martins (Andy Rose) 3; Lamar Neagle (DeAndre Yedlin, Obafemi Martins) 38.
Real Salt Lake – None.
Sounders FC – DeAndre Yedlin (caution) 79.
Real Salt Lake – Javier Morales (caution) 33; Carlos Salcedo (caution) 60; Ned Grabavoy (caution) 63; Olmes Garcia (caution) 70; Khari Stephenson (caution) 85; Kyle Beckerman (caution) 89.
Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Zach Scott, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (Eddie Johnson 75), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Marc Burch (Clint Dempsey 61), Lamar Neagle (David Estrada 93+), Obafemi Martins.
Real Salt Lake – Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Carlos Salcedo, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales, Luis Gil (Olmes Garcia 46), Robbie Findley (Devon Sandoval 58), Joao Plata (Khari Stephenson 76).