Johnson brace lifts Sounders over FC Dallas

Johnson brace lifts Sounders over FC Dallas

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Johnson brace lifts Sounders over FC Dallas

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Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography

By JASON MITCHELL

SEATTLE – It’s all back. The relentless deep runs. The clever combination play. The brassy, swaggering attack. The Seattle Sounders rode an Eddie Johnson brace to victory in front of 38,979 at CenturyLink Field Saturday night, scoring four goals for the second straight match and dispatching one of the best teams in MLS in the process.

After scoring two goals in its first five matches—none wins—Seattle has now scored 12 times in its last five games, winning four and drawing once.

In an often frantic game, Seattle built a 2-0 halftime lead, gave it up in the first 20 minutes of the second half, and relied on late goals from Johnson and Obafemi Martins to earn a 4-2 victory over FC Dallas.

Moments after Dallas equalized on a stunning set-piece goal from Brazilian midfielder Michel, Johnson received a short through-ball from Lamar Neagle in the area, sidestepped charging goalkeeper Raul Fernandez, and crisply finished from the corner of the six-yard box to put the Sounders up 3-2 in the 62nd minute.

Eric Hassli had a chance to equalize from inside the penalty area in the 66th minute, but sent a volley well wide of the frame. After FC Dallas went down a man in the 74th minute, Martins scored his third goal in three matches to put the game out of reach.

The loss ends a nine-match unbeaten streak for top-seeded Dallas (7-2-3). Missing one of the best forwards in the league in David Ferreira, Dallas couldn’t muster enough of the second-half magic that saved the day in recent matches.

Head coach Schellas Hyndman didn’t seem inclined to read too much into the loss.

“I’ve got George John out, he’s probably our best defender,” Hyndman said after the match. “I’ve got David Ferreira out, he’s our captain and I consider him the best player on the field. And we’ve got Andrew Jacobson out. So I think before we get too hard on ourselves about what we’ve got to do, we’ve just got to get over this one.”

Missing three starters themselves, the Sounders (4-3-3) opened the scoring early, intent on exploiting Dallas’ high pressure and putting the defense on its heels from the start.

“We’re using our speed, so at times we’re a little more direct,” said Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid. “But we also knew this was a team that we could be direct against, that we could get behind centrally.”

In the 16th minute, Osvaldo Alonso headed a Fernandez goal kick back toward the Dallas end of the field. Johnson tracked the ball down near the top of the penalty area, chested it to his right foot while splitting Dallas center backs Matt Hedges and London Woodbury, and easily beat Fernandez for the 1-0 Seattle lead.

At the half-hour mark, Brad Evans released Neagle on the counter, leaving the forward alone against Fernandez. Neagle deftly rounded the charging keeper before finishing into an empty net to put Seattle up 2-0.

Dallas’ best chance in the first half came in the 42nd minute on a close-range Blaz Perez header that struck the left post.

All momentum seemed to be in Seattle’s favor at halftime, but some set-piece magic from Dallas changed things quickly after the break.

In the 54th minute, a perfectly placed deep free kick from Michel found Kenny Cooper completely unmarked at the top of the six-yard box. Cooper’s header easily beat goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to pull Dallas within 2-1.

“His service is incredible,” Cooper said when asked about Michel. “I think he is one of the best in the league. We are very fortunate to have him.”

Michel struck again less than 10 minutes later, stunning the Sounders with a brilliant left-footed corner kick that bent just under the crossbar and past Gspurning’s outstretched gloves to equalize and momentarily silence a raucous home crowd.

But Johnson replied almost immediately to give Seattle a lead it wouldn’t again relinquish, and a red card left Dallas shorthanded as it fought to get back into the match.

Perez was ejected in the 72nd minute after a 50-50 challenge with Leo Gonzalez left the Sounder with a bloodied forehead. The Costa Rican defender was unable to return to the match, and Seattle subbed in Zach Scott minutes later.

Martins scored the final goal of the match in the 83rd minute. Fernandez made a beautiful reflex save on a Johnson header, but the deflection rebounded directly to Evans. The longtime Sounder then fed Martins, who quickly slipped a one-touch shot past an out-of-position Fernandez and through three Dallas defenders for the 4-2 lead.

“We have a couple of games ahead of us to keep [it] going, but it looks way better than it did a couple weeks ago,” said Gspurning.

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