By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – Seattle Sounders fans might be missing their Demolition Man, but Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle are doing their best to ease the pain.
With Eddie Johnson starting for the United States Men’s National Team earlier in the day, a Neagle goal and a pair of Martins assists helped lift the Sounders to a 2-1 comeback victory over struggling Chivas USA on Sunday night.
With the match tied 1-1 in the 57th minute and the Sounders mounting a flurry of attacks, Martins sent a cross into the heart of the area. Mauro Rosales, sliding to the turf near the penalty spot, managed to flick the pass along to a wide-open Neagle, who beat goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for his fifth goal of the season and the 2-1 lead in front of 38,463 at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders are now 4-0-1 with Martins and Neagle paired at forward. They are also undefeated when Martins scores or records an assist.
“We’ve played together for a little while and we kind of know each other’s tendencies now,” Neagle said. “A couple of passes went astray but that’s always going to happen when we’re trying to pressure and get in behind.”
Despite playing on its heels for most of the first half, Chivas nonetheless found itself up 1-0 in the 16th minute after newcomer Erick Torres capitalized on the defensive confusion stemming from a Seattle turnover deep in its own territory. Midfielder Carlos Alvarez fed him for the assist. It was the second goal in two matches for the 20-year-old striker on loan from CD Guadalajara.
“I’m very happy to have been able to score my second goal in MLS,” said Torres. “I’ve only been here for two games, so I was happy to be able to collaborate and help the team. Unfortunately it didn’t help much, but personally, I’m happy for it.”
It was the second straight match the Sounders fell down 1-0 at home after outplaying the opposition. The Colorado Rapids opened the scoring in the 60th minute last week before Seattle eventually equalized to escape with a draw.
“It happens,” said Seattle goalkeeper Andrew Weber. “We’ve been there before. We showed great character tonight coming back and tying it up, then going and getting the second.”
“Obviously I’m happy with the character we showed going down 1-0 and coming back to win the game,” said Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid. “I thought we created more chances today again, so it was good. I thought our possession was a little better as well. I thought we knocked the ball around fairly well.”
The Chivas lead didn’t last long, as Brad Evans got on the end of a Martins through-ball into the area in just the 23rd minute and cleanly buried a one-touch shot into the far netting.
“It was a good bit of possession,” Evans said. “Some good passing and Oba found me slipping through the middle. First time shot and luckily [I] beat Kennedy.”
Torres forced Weber into a fingertip save in the 30th minute, but otherwise the Sounders controlled the rest of the half, outshooting Chivas 10-2. Seattle then ratcheted up the intensity to start the second half before finally taking the lead in the 57th minute.
Despite trailing 2-1, Chivas remained on the defensive for the final half-hour, failing to challenge Weber and nearly falling behind 3-1 on multiple occasions.
“There were two parts to the game,” Chivas coach Jose Luis Real said via translator. “In the first half, Chivas couldn’t have gotten a better result, in my opinion. In the second half, however, we played differently. The performance differed from the first to the second half and that’s the reason why we couldn’t get this game going.”
For the Sounders (8-7-4, 28 points), the victory ends a stretch that saw it record just one victory in its last five matches, and gives it four points from the first two matches of a three-game homestand. Seattle hosts FC Dallas (8-5-8, 27 points) on Saturday night.
For Chivas (4-12-5, 17 points), the loss caps a rough week in a brutal season. A fired coach, a 14-match winless streak, cratering attendance, and an employee lawsuit generating national controversy have buried memories of a surprisingly bright 3-1-1 start to the season.
Chivas travels to San Jose to face the Earthquakes (7-9-6, 23 points) on Saturday. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, for one, saw reason for optimism after the match, saying the team is “moving in the right direction.”
The game also saw the return of Patrick Ianni to the Seattle lineup for the first time this season. The eight-year veteran struggled with back and foot injuries over the last 10 months before returning to action in place of Jhon Kennedy Hurtado Sunday night. Ianni, with three career goals for the Sounders, got his head on a corner kick at the hour mark, but couldn’t put the ball on frame. He also picked up a late yellow card for a rough tackle.
What did you think of the match? Surprised Seattle didn’t find the back of the net more than twice? See any bright spots for Chivas USA? Think Torres looked impressive?