In what would be the final MLS match before the World Cup break, the Seattle Sounders wanted to go out strong and take an even larger lead at the top of the table. Standing in their way were the Chicago Fire who looked to finally get the monkey off their backs and defeat the Sounders for the first time in franchise history (the only team in MLS to have never managed the feat). It was also a reunion, of sorts, as Seattle carries former Fire forward Chad Barrett, midfielder Marco Pappa and defender Jalil Anibaba while the Fire have defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni who along with Anibaba were swapped in a trade this past January. Scoring streaks, points streaks, and a little deep dish pizza to top it all off.
The first 30 minutes played out to stalemate with few scoring opportunities for either side. One of Seattle’s best early chances came in the 5th minute when Chicago GK Sean Johnson raced to the top of the penalty box and missed his attempt for the ball. It rolled deep into the area where Obefemi Martins caught up to it, squared up and shot wide across the wide open goal. A rare miss for the Goal Machine but he would make up for it twice over. Oba connected in the 31st minute when he took a deflected Brad Evans pass with his back to the goal, turned and fired from about 8 yards. 1-0 Sounders and the wild ride was only just beginning. A mere 6 minutes later and former Sounders player Hurtado earned his second booking of the night (a hard tackle on Martins in the box) and made his way off the field. In a rare occurrence, Oba set up to take his own PK, which he converted, and put the Sounders ahead 2-0. Firing on all cylinders it appeared the Sounders couldn’t be stopped and would cruise into the second half with an upper hand. That’s when things got interesting…
“It got a little bit out of control. … Consistent calls could’ve kept everything in shape.” – Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid on the officiating during the first half.
Four minutes later Fire youngster Harrison Shipp slipped around three Sounders defenders and sent a sure-footed shot past Stefan Frei to trim the lead to 2-1. On the ensuing re-start an off-sj screen mishap involving Oba & Fire’s Benji Joya resulted in a straight red card. As Martins attempted to gather the ball he reached over the top of Joya’s shoulder and inadvertently made contact with Joya’s jaw, sending him sprawling to the field (in what I’m sure was an Emmy winning performance). What started as a dominant Sounders lead with a man advantage had turned to 10 Vs. 10 and a cut lead at the half.
Starting the second half the Fire came out invigorated and challenged Seattle early. In the 59th minute Frei managed a beautiful leaping tip on a Jeff Larentowicz header that cleared the top of the net. He would then make a MLS “Save Of The Week” candidate (personal opinion) when blocked a direct shot from Quincy Amarikwa from about 9 yards out only moments after the tip. The Sounders would refuse to fall back on the heels in the face of the Fire’s attack as Lamar Neagle would make it 3-1 in the 78th minute as he received the ball off of a Kenny Copper header (and an amazing goal celebration ensued). Undeterred, Shipp struck again in the 87th minute trying to grab a point from the clutches of defeat. A few yellow cards tossed around all willy-nilly during stoppage time and the Sounders managed to hang on for the 3-2 victory.
The result now propels Seattle 7 points ahead of Real Salt Lake at the top of the MLS table heading into the World Cup break, and has spirits high. Averaging 2 goals per match, the Sounders offence is a sight to behold and is the main reason they find themselves in their current position. Captain Brad Evans did an excellent job of directing the team throughout the match, outside of the defensive lapse resulting in the goal. The red card to Obafemi Martins means he will miss out on the DC United match at the end of July unless the MLS Disciplinary Commitee decides to rescind, which they likely will.
The Rave Green will be in action during the World Cup as they will meet PSA Elite on June 18th at Starfire. The match is completely sold out so if you don’t already have your tickets you will just have to follow the action on Twitter.
- Obafemi Martins‘ seven goals ties him for the team lead with Clint Dempsey and his 20 points are already tied for ninth-best in a Sounders season.
- The Chicago Fire are now the only team in MLS to have never beaten the Seattle Sounders. The Rave Green are 7-0-2 in all competitions.
- Lamar Neagle‘s goal makes him the third-highest scorer in Sounders FC history. (Montero: 47 - Johnson: 23 - Neagle: 18)
- The Sounders are presently on pace to net an MLS record 72 league points.
- In what was likely a moment of muscle memory, former Fire player Marco Pappa started to head towards the Chicago players area when subbed off before realizing his mistake.
- Coach Sigi Schmid had plenty of fun things to say about the match. Watch his interview here.
Tags: Seattle Sounders