Sounders FC has strength in numbers at the forward position and that has been evident throughout the first five matches of the season. However, on Saturday against the Portland Timbers it was on full display as the foursome of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kenny Cooper and Lamar Neagle finished the match with four goals and three assists in a 4-4 draw.
It continues an early trend for Seattle as the team has found success in its high-powered group of forwards.
“Everybody sees goals. Dempsey stepped up with three goals. Oba was a little unlucky, but still had two assists, so he stepped up well there,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought as well, Lamar Neagle came in and had a presence off the bench. I know he was disappointed in not starting, the first game he didn’t start, but he made a real big impact coming off the bench for us.”
Add to that Cooper’s third-minute goal and that attacking foursome was quite the force on Saturday.
All four have made their impacts in different matches as Dempsey now sits atop the MLS goalscoring leaderboard with four goals to go with one assist. Martins, who had eight goals last year, leads the league with four assists and has also tallied one goal. Cooper has two goals and one assist while Neagle has one goal and two assists.
That’s a combined eight goals and eight assists in five matches among them and it’s still a burgeoning relationship as Cooper is new to the team and Dempsey missed the preseason while away on loan to Fulham.
The relationship between Dempsey and Martins, the two most high profile players on the club, is continuing to evolve as they play more matches together. The pair has quickly become each other’s biggest fans in their short time together this year.
“This is what we do in training. We love playing with each other and trying to connect. We’re trying to score goals and it happens that we did well,” Martins said. “He’s giving me some passes as well. It’s just the beginning. I hope we are going to play well and play a lot of games together.”
For his part, Dempsey would like Martins to see more of the ball and could quickly see defenses open up the more Martins can act as a creative player in the attack.
“We need to do a better job of getting him on the ball because he has a lot of skill, a lot of vision and he can create things,” Dempsey said. “Talking with Oba we know that we have to play well for this team to do well also, so it’s important to get each other on the ball and combine well and to get that partnership, that relationship of understanding where each other are on the field and that’s building.”
It should come as no surprise that Seattle’s foursome is getting on the scoresheet with regularity. Dempsey had 10 goals and nine assists in his MLS Best XI season in 2005 and went on to international acclaim as the captain of the U.S. National Team and an integral part of Fulham’s success in his six seasons at Craven Cottage, highlighted by a 17-goal campaign in 2011-2012. Martins had eight goals in just 20 matches for Seattle last season after a career that saw him score goals in Italy, England, Germany, Russia and Spain before coming to MLS last year. Cooper ranks 18th on the MLS all-time scoring list with 74 career regular season goals, including two seasons when he netted 18 goals in 2008 and 2012. Neagle had a career-high with eight goals last season, giving him 13 goals in two seasons with Sounders FC before this year.
They are now building momentum in the 2014 season and more performances like the one on Saturday will continue to cement them as one of the more lethal scoring groups in MLS. If that comes to fruition, wins will follow, which is the focus of all four players.
“We just need to win games,” Martins said of the Sounders. “The season’s early right now and we have a lot of games to play.”