A funny thing happened under the roof of Olympic Stadium in Montreal on Sunday as Sounders FC earned a 2-0 road win over the Impact, as a goal-scoring tandem from last season that often went overlooked found its rhythm.
On two separate occasions, Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins combined for goal-scoring opportunities and suddenly, the magic the two had conjured during their brief time together on the field in 2013 was rekindled.
“Me and Oba are kind of picking up right where we left off, finding each other,” Neagle said. “We always want to be dangerous and if we can connect, that’s a good thing.”
In the 17th minute, with Seattle already toting a 1-0 lead, Neagle popped a cross from just inside the box on the left side to Martins at the edge of the six-yard box. His header back across the face of the goal left Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins sprawling, reaching his right hand back against the momentum of his body to get a hand to it and make the remarkable save.
Then in the 31st minute, it was Martins leading Neagle on a run past the Montreal defense through the middle of the field. Neagle clipped a contested left-footed shot past a stone-footed Perkins, but it caught the inside of the left post and ricocheted out.
When Neagle gave Seattle a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute, Martins was among the first jumping up and down in celebration.
Then, when Martins netted his first goal of the year in the 58th minute off a dangerous run from Neagle and well-played cross from Kenny Cooper, the two teammates were again celebrating.
Martins’ goal felt like redemption to the Nigerian striker, who wanted to make up for his missed chance earlier in the match, no matter how tremendous Perkins was in making the first-half stop.
“I was thinking I had a chance to score and I was so surprised. That was a great save,” Martins said. “The second one, I had to take my time and he even tried, but it was too late for him to get there.”
The match was reminiscent of 2013 for the forward tandem. When Martins and Neagle started together at forward, Seattle went 6-1-1, going seven-straight games unbeaten before the lone defeat late in the year. In those eight matches, Martins had three goals and four assists while Neagle had four goals and two assists.
In the 10 other matches they played together, Martins had four more goals, so just one of his eight goals on the season came without Neagle on the field with him. As Neagle and Martins continue to gain momentum as a duo and they include Cooper and Clint Dempsey into the mix, it can only mean good things for the Seattle offense.