In yet another soggy CenturyLink outing, the Seattle Sounders put their #1 status on the line against the Philadelphia Union as the “Seattle Sunshine” was pouring down. A tough Philly team entered hostile territory and brought a strong defence with them, hoping to turn their season around and bag only their second win of the season. The Sounders were looking to ride the momentum they generated last Saturday in the dazzling offensive display put on against Colorado. All the elements for a showstopper were in place and the Rave Green Faithful would not be disappointed.
The Sounders started the match playing on their heels as the Union attack were relentlessly pushing forward. Philly managed to take the lead at the 13th minute when a free kick taken from about 35 yards curled deep into a cluster of bodies in front of the goal, making contact with the head of Brad Evans and into the net for an own goal. An unfortunate error, one we rarely see from a usually sound free kick defence, but there it was. The Union would press for the remainder of the half with the normally cerebral Sounders offence being held in check. Seattle’s best chance at an equalizer came moments before the half time whistle when Philly’s Amobi Okugo was called for handling the ball in the box. The Honey Badger Osvaldo Alonso stepped to the spot and placed the ball near perfectly in the lower right corner. “Near Perfectly” as the shot was denied by Zac MacMath in what could be the “Save Of The Week.” Half-Time was blown and the Sounders went to the dressing room scratching their heads, wondering how to solve the puzzle of the Union’s solid defence.
The second half kicked off and the Sounders looked rejuvenated & refocused. The passing between Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, & Lamar Neagle was pinpoint. The trio were punching holes through the Union midfield like a needle through tissue paper, however, they would continually fall just short and be stripped outside the box. Frustrations were mounting by the minute… And then it happened! Evans managed to find his redemption for the earlier own goal by nodding a ball into the penalty area, allowing Martins slip almost undetected past the Union defense and nod it past MacMath from 6 yards out. 61 minutes gone and we stood level.
“When it’s raining and they’re still singing and chanting and jumping up and down. We deserve to keep working for them.” – Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid on the raucous Supporters
From there it was a defensive clinic from Chad “Air” Marshall as he seemed to be anywhere & everywhere for the remainder of the match and managed to block a shocking 6 shots. Relentless, untiring, and refusing to give an inch, Marshall would prove to be more than the defensive cornerstone of the match, he would also become the difference maker. The Sounders game-winner came late in the 84th minute when Marco Pappa launched a B-E-A-Utifully placed corner kick to the PK spot where Marshall went skyward, heading the ball with authority and sealing the 3 points for the home team. “Pappa served me in a great ball.” Marshall said post-match, “I felt like we’ve been close all season to getting one.” The goal would be Chad’s first as a Sounder, and one that won’t soon be forgotten.
Bit of a worrisome moment at the 51st minute as LB Dylan Remick, who was already filling in for the recovering LB Leo Gonzalez, went down hard off a foul and appeared to hurt his ankle. Sigi sent out Pappa to replace him (we saw how that went) and shifted Evans into the left back role. While Evans was still looking a tad bit rusty at forward, he played excellently in the back, working well defensively and paired with DeAndre Yedlin to make several great turnovers and keep the lead firmly in the Sounders hands. Coach Sigi Schmid indicated post match that Gonzalez was expected to be back in the squad for Wednesday’s match against FC Dallas and with Remick now down with injury… Here’s hoping. Worst case scenario, should Evans need to remain at the LB position for a match, it could make for an interesting combination with Pappa, Pineda, & Alonso through the middle with Neagle, Dempsey & Martins up front in a 4-3-3 formation.
There were a few low points to the Sounders performance against Philly, most coming in the first half. Lamar Neagle had trouble throughout the match with turnovers, a step back from his performance last week, and was having difficulty when scoring chances presented themselves. The one truly excellent shot he got off was in the 7th minute and struck the crossbar. Lamar looked his best with the tight give-and-go exchanges between the other forwards. The missed PK needs no discussion, it is what it is. Sounders did well to play disciplined throughout the match, although there were times when no one would have blamed them to become heated *Cough… Hoppenot’s flop… Cough*. The sole Sounders yellow card came at the 90th minute mark to Dempsey for an elbow.
“Joe Roth said we would get players who would run through walls. He forgot to mention that we would get a player who WAS a wall.” – Emerald City Supporters Twitter
With the home win our beloved Sounders improve to 6-2-1 and remain in first place in the West. With only a short rest Seattle now looks to a second match of the year against the West’s #2 side, FC Dallas, on Wednesday. It wasn’t the prettiest win of the 2014 campaign Saturday night but 3 points are 3 points no matter how soggy they are. Besides, there’s plenty of sun to dry us off at the top of the table.
Odds & Ends :
- Obafemi Martins goal extends his streak to three straight matches, giving him 4 goals & 4 assists on the year. He’s won “Goal of the Week” two weeks in a row but I don’t think this one will make the cut.
- Clint Dempsey‘s streak with either a goal or an assist has ended at seven-straight games dating back to last season. Deuce had contributed 9 goals & 3 assists in that time.
- The players were the ones that decided to let Osvaldo Alonso take the PK in honour of his daughter’s 1st birthday on Sunday AND because his wife is pregnant with their third child. Family man.
- Sounders are 13 for 21 on PKs in league games. Brad Evans is a perfect 7 for 7. Osvaldo Alonso is 1 for 3.
- For the fifth time in Sounders history, the team has won four matches in a row.
- For the first time this season the Sounders dished out more fouls (16) than they received (10).
- Sounders attendance: 38,516