There is a reason, perhaps, the Seattle Sounders are the defending MLS Cup champions.
A reason, too, D.C. United owns the worst record in the league.
D.C. United entered Wednesday’s match against the Sounders with the worst record in MLS, and having scored eight fewer goals than any other team in the league. They took a shocking 3-0 lead in front of 42,714 at CenturyLink Field in the 50th minute, then promptly wilted before losing 4-3 and cementing their place in the Eastern Conference cellar.
Cristian Roldan, freshly returned from his first stint with the U.S. men’s national team in CONCACAF Gold Cup play, bagged the game-winner off a 78th-minute pass into space from Will Bruin. Roldan easily rounded defender Steve Birnbaum before charging into space, catching goalkeeper Travis Worra in no-man’s land, and slipping a ball through the goalkeeper’s legs for the 4-3 lead. The visitors never seriously challenged down the stretch.
It was the first time the Sounders had ever come back from a 3-0 deficit to win, and the first time — per the league — an MLS team had returned from a 3-0 scoreline to win in regulation.
For much of the match, it seemed D.C. United was poised for an upset, and an upset by a stunning scoreline.
Deshorn Brown opened the scoring in just the eighth minute, tapping into an empty net at the doorstep after Patrick Nyarko split a pair of defenders and streaked unmarked into the 6-yard box before slipping a pass past goalkeeper Tyler Miller to the far post. It was the second goal of the season for Brown in just his third start of the campaign after being picked up from the second-tier Tampa Bay Rowdies in late June.
Ian Harkes doubled the lead in the 27th minute, slipping unmarked into the penalty area to collect a pass from right back Sean Franklin, who was also softly defended. Harkes took a pair of touches to create space against Gustav Svensson before beating Miller for the 2-0 lead. It was the second goal in two games for the promising rookie.
In a stat that will sound familiar to Sounders’ fans, Seattle controlled 67 percent of the ball in the first half but was outshot 8-2.
MLS may still be a league defined by parity, but the halftime score was shocking by any measure. Both teams were coming off the long break in league play for the Gold Cup, but the Sounders had gone 4-2-2 in their last eight, had only lost to D.C. United once at CenturyLink Field dating to their 2009 expansion season, and had only lost once at home in 2017.
Lloyd Sam seemingly put the match away in the 50th minute, collecting a pass at the top of the arc and jogging alone into the penalty area before sliding a shot past Miller for the 3-0 lead.
From then on the Sounders displayed that championship mettle, and the visitors looked every bit a team unaccustomed to holding a road lead.
Will Bruin pulled one back for the Sounders just a minute later, deftly flicking a pinpoint Joevin Jones cross past Worra for his seventh goal of the season, tying him with Dempsey for the team lead.
Brad Evans headed in his first goal of the season in the 58th minute, finding himself unmarked inside the 6-yard box and putting away a short cross from Jones to make it 3-2. It was the team-leading eighth assist for Jones.
Svensson, the veteran Swedish multitasker who has been a revelation in his first season with Sounders, found the equalizer in the 72nd minute, cleverly redirecting a Nicolas Lodeiro corner kick past Worra from the edge of the goalkeeper’s box.
The Sounders were missing All-Star goalkeeper Stefan Frei and captain Osvaldo Alonso to injury, and U.S. men’s national team players Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris to Gold Cup duty. Worra started for Bill Hamid, who is also on Gold Cup duty.
Man of the Match
Will Bruin. Scored the goal that put the Sounders back in the game, but he also motored throughout — providing energy and belief when few others were. This from the new guy.
Moment of the Match
Brad Evans’ goal in the 58th minute. Result felt inevitable after this one. And do not be fooled into thinking it a coincidence his first goal of the season came in the first match after the Sounders signed Kelvin Leerdam at his position.
Match to Forget
Steve Birnbaum. Award could go to the visitors’ entire back line, but how Birnbaum — not sitting on a yellow card — fails to foul Roldan and stop the counter on the final goal is mystifying.