SEATTLE– With just more than 10 minutes to play in Saturday night’s match against the Montreal Impact, the Seattle Sounders looked headed for their fourth straight disappointing performance. Mired in a largely toothless and scoreless draw, it seemed the Sounders would end the night with just one point from their first four matches.
Then their big money designated player came through in the clutch, giving the club its first win of the season in front of 39,705 at CenturyLink Field.
In the 79th minute, Clint Dempsey rose to meet a bending Andreas Ivanschitz corner kick at the far post, thudding a header off the FieldTurf and past goalkeeper Evan Bush for a 1-0 lead Montreal never seriously threatened over the final 10 minutes. Late Montreal substitute Johan Vanegas did earn two decent looks, but the Costa Rican dragged the first well wide of the right post and saw the second deflect off a defender straight into the waiting hands of goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Despite the loss, the Impact — one of the surprise teams of the young MLS season — still sit atop the Eastern Conference with a 2-2-0 record. For the Sounders, the win at least temporarily alleviates mounting pressure on head coach Sigi Schmid and the club’s new 4-3-3 formation (although many observers will surely note the lone goal came via a a set piece.)
The Sounders (1-3-0, 3 points) raced out of the gate for the fourth time in four matches, nearly scoring barely 30 seconds into the game. But Aaron Kovar couldn’t avoid a close-range shot from Nelson Valdez, accidentally heeling a ball headed for goal over the end line.
Seattle controlled nearly 60 percent of possession over the course of a tentatively played first half, but managed few legitimate opportunities before the break. Each of Seattle’s two on-target shots were taken from well outside the penalty area. For its part, Montreal seemed content to play for the road point.
The Impact began to see more of the game in the opening minutes of the second half, but a scrambling Seattle defense managed to keep the Impact’s attack off-balance, and Frei was only rarely called into service on the night.
Looking forward, both teams are back in action next weekend. The Impact host the Columbus Crew (0-2-2, 2 points) on Saturday, while the Sounders visit the Houston Dynamo (1-2-1, 4 points) on Sunday.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Dempsey. More pressure than ever has been on the Texan’s shoulders since the abrupt and unexpected departure of Obafemi Martins mere weeks before the season. That pressure only grew as he went scoreless during the club’s 0-3 start to the season. But after delivering for the United States Men’s National Team earlier in the week, Dempsey delivered for his club on Saturday night, helping the Sounders avoid a stunning 0-4 start to the season. Honorable mention goes to Osvaldo Alonso, putting in yet another vintage Alonso performance in a stellar start to the 2016 campaign.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Aaron Kovar’s deflection, embodying much that had gone wrong for a Sounders’ attack that couldn’t seem to get out of it’s own way the first three games of the season. Aside from providing the Sounders the lead, an early goal would have surely opened up a match that took more than an hour to provide much in the way of drama.
MATCH TO FORGET
Dylan Remick. After losing the starting left back job to Oniel Fisher in 2015, Remick had to watch the Sounders make a major offseason trade for Joevin Jones, who started the first three matches of 2016. With Jones getting a rest after midweek international duty, Schmid awarded Remick the spot start. The fourth-year player out of Brown acquitted himself well but was forced to depart in the second half with what appeared to be a shoulder injury as well as a bad limp. A player who can’t seem to catch a good break caught one more bad one.