Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE– Just call them the comeback kids.
After falling behind 1-0 early to visiting FC Dallas on Wednesday night, the Seattle Sounders once again delivered late magic.
With the score tied 1-1 in the 88th minute, Obafemi Martins collected a pass just outside the penalty area, spun on defender Matt Hedges, and found late substitute Kenny Cooper as he charged past the penalty spot. Cooper, who spent five seasons with Dallas, easily beat goalkeeper Raul Fernandez for the 2-1 win in front of 38,489 at CenturyLink Field.
It was Martins’ second assist of the match, his league-leading sixth assist of the season, and Seattle’s fifth-straight win.
“I’m here to help score goals as a team,” Martins said. “Today, in the second half we deserved to win because we kept going. We were losing and everything, but we just kept going. We knew we could get a point, but now we’re happy with three.”
It was Seattle’s fourth come-from-behind victory in its last five matches, and all four game-winning goals have come after the 80th minute.
“They have a great belief in themselves,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said about his players. “One-nothing for us is nothing. We can battle back from that.”
Hedges got his head on a cross from Michel as stoppage time wound down, but failed to put the ball on frame.
Trailing for much of the night after giving up a penalty-kick goal in the 16th minute, the Sounders equalized just after the hour-mark.
In the 62nd minute, Martins found Neagle making a hard run to the near-post in front of defender Zach Lloyd. Stepping into the six-yard box as the cross approached, Neagle slipped a one-touch shot between Fernandez and the post to tie the match at 1-1.
“If we get [Martins] on the ball,” said Schmid, “or if we get Dempsey on the ball in the final 20, 25 yards of the field, it’s problems for the opponent.”
Only stellar goalkeeping from Fernandez kept the Sounders from taking the lead earlier. In the 68th minute, Fernandez first dove to his left to slap a long-distance Osvaldo Alonso shot off the post, then somehow managed to toe away Clint Dempsey’s short-range attempt off the rebound.
Despite bunkering for much of the match, Dallas took the early lead thanks to a Michel penalty kick.
In the 16th minute, Brad Evans tangled legs with Blas Perez in the penalty area, and referee Baldomero Toledo awarded the penalty. Michel easily beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei, burying a shot into the left corner before Frei even moved. It was Michel’s fourth goal in four matches against the Sounders.
Evans vehemently protested the call, and hadn’t softened his tone after his post-match shower.
“He just falls like a sack of [excrement] on the ground,” Evans said about Perez. “And that’s pretty typical of him. That’s how he plays. Don’t expect anything else. [I] should have known better, though, just to kind of stay out of his way and let him bring the ball down.”
It was the sixth goal the Sounders have allowed in the first 20 minutes this season.
“It goes without saying we’d obviously like to not go down 1-0,” said Schmid. “That would be nice.”
“It’s getting kind of old,” added Neagle, “having to come from behind. Hopefully we can kind of change the tune next game.”
The first half was a choppy, chippy, foul- and card-filled 45 minutes. Toledo called 19 first-half fouls—13 on Dallas alone—and issued two first-half yellows to each team.
Seattle (7-2-1, 22 points) holds the best record in the league, and is undefeated since rallying to tie the Portland Timbers on April 5. In just 10 matches, the Sounders have scored game-winning goals in the 81st, 84th, 85th, 88th, and 94th minutes, and scored the tying goal against the Timbers in the 87th minute.
Dallas (5-4-1, 16 points) began the season 4-0-1, but has now lost three matches in a row and four of its last five. After losing at home 1-0 to the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, FC Dallas traveled more than 1,500 miles to Seattle to play on just two days’ rest. Dallas head coach Oscar Pareja was also missing midfield impresario Mauro Diaz to injury and Je-Vaughn Watson to suspension.
“That’s the way the schedule was set and so we play with the boys that are healthy and the boys that can come in and do the job,” Pareja said.
Despite the lack of rest and despite being so shorthanded, the visitors defended well for most of the night, keeping the Sounders off the scoreboard for more than an hour while absorbing 19 shots.
The penalty-kick goal, however, was one of only two shots FC Dallas managed to put on target despite playing against a makeshift Seattle back line featuring Zach Scott at center back and Brad Evans at left back.
“We knew they were going to push,” said Dallas midfielder Andrew Jacobson, “they’re at home. We were in a good position going into the second half, but we knew they were going to push. They have a lot of talented guys, so it was no surprise.”
Wednesday night’s match was the second time the two sides have met in the last four weeks. The Sounders defeated Dallas 3-2 on April 12 in Frisco, Texas. The teams play for a third and final time at Toyota Stadium on Sept. 24.
Looking forward, the Sounders play the Revolution (4-3-2, 14 points) in New England on Sunday. FC Dallas visits the San Jose Earthquakes (1-3-3, 6 points) on Saturday.
Here are the match highlights: