By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE – Despite myriad successes for an expansion team, the Seattle Sounders have had decidedly mixed results with bigger name Designated Players. Freddie Ljungberg, Blaise N’Kufo, Alvaro Fernandez, Christian Tiffert. Even Fredy Montero. All were bought out, traded, or loaned away before their contracts expired.
If early results are any indication, Obafemi Martins—Seattle’s biggest signing of all—just might turn all that around. The 28-year-old Nigerian notched a brace Wednesday night to lift the Sounders to a 2-0 win over D.C. United in front of 39,180 at CenturyLink Field.
Martins now has the team lead in goals, with six in just 10 appearances. The Sounders are also 6-0-0 when Martins scores or records an assist.
In the 19th minute, Martins split two D.C. defenders while tracing a perfectly weighted through-ball from Brad Evans to get himself alone behind the United defense. The former Levante striker tracked down the pass at the top of the penalty area before slapping a one-touch, left-footed dart past goalkeeper Joe Willis for all the scoring Seattle would need.
Following a second half full of missed opportunities for the the Sounders (7-5-3), Martins finally iced the match in the 91st minute, powering defender James Riley off the ball in the area and easily beating a helpless Willis from the top of the 6-yard-box.
Martins’ efforts overshadowed a game that was otherwise relatively unattractive.
“I think tonight was one of those games that you have to grind out,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid. “I don’t think it was necessarily our best soccer, per se.”
The loss drops D.C. United to 2-13-3, further cementing their place in the Eastern Conference cellar.
“It’s tough to say, but I was pleased with most of the way we played—the way we built up our attack,” said D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen. “But again, the final stuff just isn’t there. The quality just isn’t there. It’s a very frustrating thing because we’re getting the right numbers there, we’re getting in the right situations to get good service…the numbers are there. It’s just not clicking.”
“I don’t think we worked hard enough and I think we may have given them too much respect at the beginning,” said United defender Ethan White. “Once we stepped up and actually made some tackles and we woke up and realized that we were men too then the game changed.”
Chris Pontius had three decent opportunities to equalize in the second half before Martins put the game away, but the UC Santa Barbara product could never solve Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
In the 56th minute, Pontius earned a clean look from 16 yards out, but barely made Gspurning shuffle his feet.
Pontius did much better in the 64th minute, stepping into a loose ball 22 yards out and whipping in a shot that the 6-5 Gspurning barely managed to bat away.
In the 86th minute, with D.C. United finally mounting good pressure, the fifth-year forward got one last look from distance, but Gspurning came up with the stop again, dropping to his left to smother the shot and United’s hopes.
D.C. never really threatened to equalize in a first half featuring fairly limp attacks from each side: a 23-yard shot from Alain Rochat just past the 30-minute mark was the only United attempt even forcing Gspurning to register a save.
Even after a less than beautiful game, some Seattle players are starting to like what they see from their offense.
“The potential is frightening,” said Evans.
Here are the match highlights:
The insinuation that Fredy Montero somehow didn’t pan out is patently ridiculous. He is empirically one of the better players in MLS history. That he wanted to try his foot in Europe and the Sounders offered him the chance is a credit to them both. Arguments can be made that all the other listed DPs played important roles in the Sounders success. I wouldn’t consider any of them a true bust even if strategic decisions were made to move them in one way or another. That said, so far Martins has exceeded expectations. He’s fun to watch.
I would say you can consider Nkufo and Tiffert busts fairly easily. However I agree with what you said about Montero, people hate on him but when he was in MLS he was a top player. Although it has to be noted that when he was at his best really it was before he signed a DP contract.
Never said any of them were busts. Said as a whole they’re decidedly mixed results, and that’s undeniable.
Montero certainly did a lot of great things for the club and I never felt he deserved any of the derision some Sounders fans sent his way. But he was benched at least twice for a lack of effort and scored 0 goals in 10 career playoff games. And as a forward making DP money (and occupying a DP slot) he was subbed out with 20 minutes to play in the second leg of the 2012 Western Conference finals with his team desperately needing goals. It was clear then he wouldn’t be back this season, and not because Seattle wanted to “offer him the chance” to play in Europe.
If DC wants to return to their glory days, they need all their players to start sporting the Marco e
Etcheverry circa 1996 mullet.
Ok, they’d still stink, but we’d have even more laughs at their expense!
The problem is pretty simple, Ben in the final third. It starts with Lionard and ends with Pajoy. He’s were attacks go to die.
On the heals of Martin’s two goal performance and the NYRB announcement that Juninho has been released,….I have to rant!
Martins is 28 and came to Seattle because he was excited about the club and MLS and thought it the best situation to move his career forward. Obviously a guy who knows a good/great situation when he sees one and is making the most of it. Compare Martins to Juninho, who is 38, physically spent and could not keep up with the pace of MLS and seemed to have an indifferent attitude toward the league.
I am simply out of patience with the GMs and coaches who can’t change the dynamic for the DP slots. Do your homework,…find the talented players between 20-28 who want to come to the league because they view it as we’ll run and well supported,…new stadiums, US lifestyle, etc.
NYRBs…..get it together. The trophy case is empty. Supporters would rather support a younger hungry player who DOESN’T have a reputation as a ‘big time’ player but rather has upside and is willing to bust his ass for the team and league.
It’s not that hard. It’s not rocket science. We have to get over these foreign ‘soccer gypsies’ and there accents selling bullsh$t and re-treads. US soccer and MLS have to change the paradigm.
DC United – Team of the 90s!
“But again, the final stuff just isn’t there. The quality just isn’t th–Oh, hi there, Lionard! Didn’t see you there!”
Not the greatest game (which i feel bad saying about a 2-0 win), but looking at the sounders record in games without Alonso, a win is sort of an anomaly.
It was the referees fault.
LOL!….It was one of the few games I’ve seen in MLS where the ref wasn’t noticed. That should be every referee’s goal (pun kinda intended)…..
That second goal that DC gave up was just so bad. It was actually a fairly open game considering it was only 1-0 for most of it. Definitely a game Seattle needed to win even without Alonso so glad to see they did.
Yep, Seattle was rusty from such a long inactivity as was obvious with the Mauro Rosales swing and a miss with the net begging inside 10 yards, amongst many other embarrassing passes to nobody or straight out of bounds….That said, DC United never came close to scoring aside from a couple of shots from distance. Sounders would have lost if it was any team close to in form. Fortunately for Sounder fans, United hasn’t been that way since day ONE.