SEATTLE — Everything the Seattle Sounders have become, everything they hope to be yet again come December, was brilliantly displayed in Sunday’s 68th-minute, game-winning goal. That blend of resolve and skill that helped hoist a championship banner a little over an hour earlier in front of 45,600 at CenturyLink Field.
Barely 10 minutes after the visiting New York Red Bulls earned an equalizer against the run-of-play, Nicolas Lodeiro found Joevin Jones along the left edge of the penalty area. Jones, a speedy young left back dripping with potential, made clear why he often features in midfield for the Trinidad and Tobago national team, nutmegging and then tracing a circle around defender Sal Zizzo with an ease that suggested they should not find employment in the same league before sending a cross back to a Lodeiro.
The Uruguayan designated player, the signing that ignited a historic championship run, promptly sent a one-touch, left footed cross to Jordan Morris as the second-year striker slipped into space between defender Justin Bilyeu and goalkeeper Luis Robles. Morris, who had missed chances earlier in the afternoon, sent a powerful header past Robles for the 2-1 lead.
Harry Shipp delivered the insurance goal in the 77th minute, redirecting a long-range shot from Jones past a flat-footed Robles. It was the midfielder’s first goal since joining the Sounders in the offseason.
The 3-1 victory was the first win of the year for the Sounders (1-1-1), who had started their two previous matches slowly and surely wanted a win in their first home match since topping Toronto FC in December to win MLS Cup.
The Red Bulls (2-1-0) started the season with wins over Atlanta United and the Colorado Rapids, but aside from the goal never seriously challenged the Sounders on Sunday. Their trademark high pressure never troubled the Sounders, but did leave Seattle rivers of space in attack.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his first goal of the season in the 57th minute, nearly helping the Red Bulls (2-1-0) escape the Emerald City with a valuable road point.
With his team trailing 1-0, Wright-Phillips lost defender Gustav Svensson just inside the penalty spot and headed in a cross from Zizzo. It was a goal from nowhere for a Red Bulls team that spent most of the match on its heels, unable to threaten on the counter attack or build through possession.
Beset by injury and suspension, the Sounders fielded a makeshift backline featuring Svensson — typically a defensive midfielder — at center back and reserve Oniel Fisher at right back. Center back Roman Torres served a one game suspension for kicking a Montreal Impact player last week. Starting right fullback Brad Evans missed his third straight match with a strained calf.
Referee Baldomero Toledo, who had already called 11 fouls at the time, awarded the Sounders a 28th-minute penalty kick when Robles tackled Morris as the forward tracked down a pass into the penalty area. An ugly turnover by defender Damien Perrinelle led to the penalty, which Clint Dempsey easily converted for the 1-0 lead and his second goal of the season.
The goal seemed to open the floodgates for the Sounders, but throughout the first half they lacked composure in front of goal, missed scoring by inches, and were repeatedly let down by poor final passes. Morris latched onto a gorgeous through-ball from Lodeiro barely 10 minutes after the Sounders took the lead, but failed to challenge Robles as the goalkeeper charged off his line. In the waning moments of the first half, Lodeiro received a pass from Shipp inside the arc and slapped the left post with a first-touch shot.
Looking forward, the Red Bulls host Real Salt Lake on Saturday. The Sounders host Liga MX side Necaxa next weekend before hosting Atlanta United in league play on March 31.
Man of the Match
Jordan Morris drew the penalty on the opening goal, then headed home the goal that gave the Sounders the lead for good.
Moment of the Match
Nicolas Lodeiro’s excellent floated pass to the front of goal set up Morris for the go-ahead goal, and reminded us of his quality.
Match to Forget
Damien Perrinelle’s poor back-pass led to the penalty that gave Seattle its opening goal, then Perrinnelle watched Harry Shipp slip in front of him to redirect the Sounders’ third goal past Luis Robles.