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Eddie Johnson leads comeback over Chivas USA

The Sounders take three points from Chivas USA to pull within six points of Western Conference leader San Jose Earthquakes.

SEATTLE – Just two weeks ago, the Sounders FC trounced Chivas USA 6-2 in a wide-open game at the Home Depot Center.

On Saturday afternoon at CenturyLink Field, Chivas raced to an early lead then bunkered in, but the Sounders persevered with two goals from Eddie Johnson to earn their first comeback win of the season and keep their hot streak that has seen them post a 6-1-4 record in their last 11 matches.

“I think sometimes when you have a win like we had down in LA, you can pretty much stand on your head in the locker room before the game - the edge sometimes is off a little bit and you try to keep them focused and motivated, but the edge is off,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.  “Then we showed some character in terms of coming back.  I’m pleased with our ability to win, pleased with our ability to come back.”

Chivas showed from the opening kick that they were going to put up a fight.  Sounders FC goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was forced into two saves in the matches first two minutes, stopping shots from Ben Zemanski and Casey Townsend.

The pressure persisted, though, and Nick LaBrocca scored on a left-footed shot in the eighth minute on an assist from Shalrie Joseph to give the visitors the 1-0 lead.

That has meant trouble for the Sounders this season, as they were just 0-6-4 on the season when they allow the first goal.

“They wanted to counterattack, and the first goal was on a counterattack,” said Sounders FC midfielder Christian Tiffert.  “Then 80-85 minutes they wanted to play defense.  It’s not easy to win that kind of a game.”

That goal served as a splash of cold water to the face, though and the Sounders dominated possession for the rest of the half and drew even in the 28th minute.

Steve Zakuani, making his first start at CenturyLink Field this season, was fouled in the left corner to give Seattle a free kick in a dangerous position.  And Tiffert delivered.

Sending a right-footed free kick to the far post, Tiffert found a grouping of players that included Johnson, Fredy Montero and Zach Scott.  Johnson elevated above the group and bounced a header past Dan Kennedy and into the net for his 12th goal of the season.

“Tiffert is a great deliverer of the ball, and I just wanted to get on the end of it,” Johnson said. “We tried to run between each other and get into the gaps. It was just a well-timed ball.”

The Sounders would get three more goal-scoring chances before halftime, but couldn’t break the 1-1 tie.

They would continue to control possession and got early shots in the second half, too.

Montero threaded a great ball to Zakuani up the left side and he was clean into the box, but Kennedy was up to the task and got the foot-save on Zakuani’s right-footed shot in the 55th minute.

Johnson made a knifing run into the box in the 57th minute and crossed it to Brad Evans at the far post, but his leaping volley attempt hit the post and was cleared by Chivas.

It looked like the Sounders would have to settle for the draw as the second half wore on, but then in the 89th minute, Johnson proved to be the difference.

Second-half substitute Alex Caskey led Montero up the left side and he got enough space to twist a low, hard cross to Johnson charging down the box behind the defense.  All alone in the middle of the box, Johnson headed the ball into the net, as Kennedy was barely able to get a finger to it before it gave Seattle the lead.

With the win, the Sounders climbed to second in the Western Conference, just six points behind the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes.

“Our motivation was to win this game, to be in second place,” Montero said.  “The hard work paid off in the end with the second goal and we were really happy with those three points.”

The Sounders will look to keep pace with the Earthquakes and gain some ground in the Cascadia Cup standings when they face the Portland Timbers on Saturday at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland.

Sounders FC – Eddie Johnson (Christian Tiffert) 28; Eddie Johnson (Fredy Montero) 89.
Chivas USA – Nick LaBrocca (Shalrie Joseph, Miller Bolanos) 8.

Sounders FC – None.
Chivas USA – Shalrie Joseph (caution) 66; Casey Townsend (caution) 77.

Sounders FC – Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Brad Evans (Cordell Cato 84), Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert (Alex Caskey 61), Steve Zakuani (Andy Rose 75), Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson.
Chivas USA – Dan Kennedy, James Riley, Danny Califf (Tristan Bowen 63), Rauwshan McKenzie (Jose Correa 90), Jorge Villafana, Shalrie Joseph, Ben Zemanski, Miller Bolanos, Nick LaBrocca, Juan Agudelo (Laurent Courtois 67), Casey Townsend.