Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE — It took 94 minutes and two DeAndre Yedlin assists, but the Seattle Sounders survived a back-and-forth battle of Western Conference heavyweights on Friday night, riding a last-gasp Andy Rose goal to a 3-2 victory in front of 38,976 at CenturyLink Field.
With extra time winding down and the match tied 2-2, Yedlin redirected an Osvaldo Alonso cross to Rose, who scooted a low half-volley past a diving defender and goalkeeper Nick Rimando for the game-winning goal.
“We said at the beginning of the season,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, “that we are a team that is going to play from minute one through minute 90 or 95. That’s something we have showed off and we showed it again tonight.”
It was Rose’s third goal of the season after posting a brace against Chivas USA on Sept. 3.
“This team always believes we can find a winner in that sort of situation,” said Rose. “Earlier in this season we came back an awful lot, and the character of the team shines through. We felt it coming, we were pumping a lot of balls into the box.”
The Sounders (17-7-3, 54 points) have now won four straight matches and temporarily extended their Supporters’ Shield lead over the LA Galaxy to four points. The Galaxy visit the San Jose Earthquakes on Sunday.
Real Salt Lake (12-6-10, 46 points) did everything it could to escape the Emerald City with at least a point, going up 1-0 in the first half, rallying from 2-1 down to equalize in the second half, and nearly surviving a late onslaught despite going down to 10 men in the 68th minute.
“There are definitely positives to take from this,” said first-year RSL head coach Jeff Cassar. “I thought our possession when we decided to possess was fantastic. I think we could have done more of that. We need to get better at that and managing the game. The effort was there.”
The loss leaves Real Salt Lake in third place in the Western Conference, behind the Galaxy and Sounders.
Javier Morales opened the scoring in the 30th minute, finding himself all but abandoned in the penalty area as he stepped into a short cross from Luke Mulholland and easily beat goalkeeper Stefan Frei for his eighth goal of the season.
Lamar Neagle offered the first of two sublime Seattle replies just eight minutes later, taking a pass from Yedlin and lashing a stunning left-footed strike into the far corner from more than 25 yards out.
“I don’t know how he is able to strike the ball like that,” marveled Brad Evans. “He seems to do that a couple of times a year. When he gets ahold of it, he gets ahold of it. Phenomenal strike. Ridiculous.”
Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey then paired up to put the Sounders on top in the 43rd minute, working a clever give-and-go that began with a Martins backheel to Dempsey and ended with Martins alone against Rimando at point-blank range. The Nigerian striker paused for half a beat before gently toeing a shot past the diving goalkeeper for the 2-1 lead.
“Martins, he’s an unbelievable player,” said Kyle Beckerman. “His game is just so tricky, especially on this turf even more (so), so shifty.”
The goal, Martins’ 13th of the season, leaves him just one shy of the club single-season record. Eddie Johnson scored 14 times for the Sounders in 2012.
Joao Plata equalized with a 50th-minute strike from just outside the penalty area, stepping into a pass from Morales and firing a shot that deflected off Alonso before sneaking inside the far post for the 2-2 tie.
Referee Kevin Stott issued Nat Borchers a straight red card in the 68th minute for tugging down Martins at the edge of the penalty area.
“(Martins) obviously had position,” said Borchers, “he’s alone on goal. It’s a split second decision, I think we’re tied 2-2 at the time, and I definitely got him. It’s a red card.”
Despite absorbing enormous amounts of pressure down the stretch, it appeared Real Salt Lake would escape with the point until Rose stepped into Yedlin’s pass in the waning moments of the match.
Looking forward, the Sounders travel to Philadelphia to face the Union in the U.S. Open Cup final on Tuesday, then visit the New York Red Bulls (9-8-10, 37 points) next weekend. Real Salt Lake hosts the Colorado Rapids (8-13-6, 30 points) on Friday night.
Here are the match highlights: