By LEE PRINDLE
Clint Dempsey continued his recent run of good form on Saturday night as his two assists rallied the Seattle Sounders to a 2-1 victory against 10-man Chivas USA in Carson, Calif.
Dempsey’s playmaking abilities were on full display as he created goals for Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins in a physical and back-and-forth match. The win put the Sounders in second place in the Supporters’ Shield race with 13 points after seven games.
Martins and Dempsey combined for the game-winning goal in the 81st minute.
Martins received the ball in midfield and laid it off to Dempsey, who pushed toward goal. Dempsey drew three defenders, opening a diagonal channel for Martins to make a run. Dempsey found Martins with a weighted through ball, and the Nigerian chipped an onrushing Kennedy for the game-winning goal.
For not the first time this season, the Sounders rallied from an early deficit.
Chivas USA opened the scoring when Erick Torres converted a penalty kick after Osvaldo Alonso was adjudged to have brought down Leandro Barrera in the area in just the fifth minute.
Replays suggested the contact may have happened outside the box, but that did not bother Torres as he sent goalkeeper Stefan Frei diving the wrong way while slotting the penalty home for the 1-0 lead.
Neagle responded in the 24th minute, lashing home from six yards after a scramble in the box.
Coming off last week’s hard fought 3-2 victory against FC Dallas, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid surely was surely hoping to avoid any defensive miscues. Those hopes were quickly dashed Saturday night with Alonso’s penalty.
Play resumed after the penalty in a somewhat sluggish fashion as both teams attempted to find their footing, with neither side able to stamp their authority on the match.
Possession changed frequently in the midfield and Chivas USA battled possession with grit as Seattle suffered a team record 26 fouls compared to Chivas USA’s 7. That record has been set and broken twice this season as opponents have answered Martins’ and Dempsey’s interplay with increased physicality.
Both teams had chances to break the deadlock but neither side looked decisive as Obafemi Martins was unable to capitalize on a few good opportunities and Frei did well to thwart attempts from Torres and Mauro Rosales.
Marco Delgado was shown a straight red for raking Pineda’s shins with his studs. Facing 10 men, Seattle put numbers forward in search for the go ahead goal.
There were glimpses of positive play for Wilmer Cabrera’s side, particularly before the red card. Chivas USA had spells of possession and they fashioned a decent amount of chances. Carlos Bocanegra helped organize a somewhat makeshift backline featuring Bobby Burling back from injury as well as an out of position Andrew Jean-Baptiste at left back. They did well to stall Seattle’s attack for a majority of the game, but they lacked the decisive star power featured in the Sounders lineup and paid for it in the form of three points.
Jurgen Klinsmann will surely be pleased with Dempsey’s increased production, as his star man now has six goals and three assists in only five games this season. Dempsey has looked like a new man since a turbulent start to his Sounders career, a fact that bodes well for USMNT fans heading into the summer.
Dempsey will look to continue his return to form next week in Seattle as the Sounders go for three wins in a row against the Colorado Rapids. Chivas USA hope to bounce back in San Jose as they battle the Quakes for California supremacy.
Watch video highlights of the match below: