Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE — Clint Dempsey is running rampant over Major League Soccer, and he has the Seattle Sounders looking like early title contenders.
Dempsey scored his league-leading seventh and eighth goals on Saturday, terrorized the Colorado Rapids throughout the match, and lifted Seattle to a dominant 4-1 win in front of 38,582 at CenturyLink Field.
The match turned quickly on Dempsey’s brace, the pair of goals coming just five minutes apart early in the second half.
In the 47th minute, with the Sounders already leading 1-0, Dempsey fed Marco Pappa into the box on a clever give-and-go. Pappa’s ensuing shot rebounded off diving goalkeeper Clint Irwin and fell to Dempsey as he charged the goal. The league’s highest-paid Designated Player quickly chipped a short-range shot over Irwin’s prone body for the 2-0 lead.
Just five minutes later Dempsey redirected a Chad Marshall header, softly lofting a header of his own over Irwin’s outstretched gloves.
It was Dempsey’s third multiple-goal effort in the six games he has played.
Colorado managed to get on the scoreboard in the 63rd minute when Nick LaBrocca sprung Dillon Serna behind the Seattle back line. Serna easily beat helpless goalkeeper Stefan Frei from 12 yards out to make it 3-1, but the Sounders weren’t done scoring.
In the 75th minute, Obafemi Martins took a quick throw-in from Lamar Neagle, cut in against defender Drew Moor, and buried a 15-yard shot into the far netting for a 4-1 lead.
Seattle (5-2-1, 16 points) has scored 13 goals in its last four matches, going 3-0-1 in the process and looking ever more lethal in attack.
Seattle outshot Colorado 20-10, and nearly scored more goals on multiple occasions.
“Once the guys got on a roll in the second half,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, “it was a lot of fun out there.”
For his part, Dempsey credited his teammates for Seattle’s early season success.
“It was good work from everybody,” Dempsey said. “Good, quick play, quick transition of the point of attack from the midfield. Getting the ball wide—Pappa and Neagle also contributing, Ozzie [Alonso] and [Gonzalo] Pineda with the good passing and getting us the ball in good spots. We were able to make things happen with link-up play through each other, as well. I would have to say it’s a team effort.”
The loss is a setback for a Colorado team that had won two of its last three games and came into the match riding back-to-back clean sheets. But the Rapids (3-2-2, 11 points) were unable to generate an attack without injured midfielder Dillon Powers, and were shredded in back by a Sounders team that threatened in waves of quick combination play.
“The two guys up top really made a difference,” said Colorado head coach Pablo Mastroeni. “Martins and Dempsey really caused us a bit of grief.”
Neagle opened the scoring in first-half stoppage time, cleaning up from barely a yard out after Moor weakly cleared a Dempsey shot off the line. Dempsey’s initial shot came off a perfectly weighted through-ball from Martins that released Dempsey behind Colorado’s back line and drew Irwin out of his box.
After a back-and-forth start to the match, Seattle began to wrench away control of the game around the half-hour mark. But the final pass or the first touch seemed lacking until Neagle found the back of the net.
“In the first half, we did a pretty good job of getting a foot in the game,” said Mastroeni. “But that goal at the end of the first half really set the tone for the second half. We came out flat in almost anticipating almost more of the same. For me it was disappointing that the mindset wasn’t right going into the [second] half.”
Looking forward, both teams are back in action next weekend. Colorado hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy, while the Philadelphia Union travel to Seattle.
Here are the match highlights: