Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography
By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE– The Seattle Sounders keep finding themselves trailing early, and they keep finding ways to salvage a result.
Saturday night was no different.
Defender Chad Marshall, signed in the offseason at least partially due to his aerial prowess, put the Sounders ahead in the 84th minute, powerfully heading a Marco Pappa corner kick into the far netting for a 2-1 lead in front of 38,516 at a soggy CenturyLink Field.
Marshall was also strong in defense throughout the match, snuffing out counterattacks and blocking six shots to prevent the Union from adding a second goal.
“I’m a big guy, and I’m just trying to get in the way,” Marshall said when asked about deflecting so many shots. “I think I have a nice Adidas tattoo on my back from one of them.”
The Union couldn’t mount a serious response down the stretch despite some shaky Seattle defending.
Trailing most of the night after allowing an early goal for the fifth time this season, Seattle found the equalizer just after the hour-mark.
In the 61st minute, Brad Evans headed a loose ball into the area that found Obafemi Martins near the penalty spot as he charged past defender Amobi Okugo. Martins chested the ball to his left foot and buried a one-touch shot past goalkeeper Zac MacMath, tying the match at 1-1 with his fourth goal of the season.
“I’m proud of our team, our character, our willingness and ability to fight back again,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid.
The assist was a bit of redemption for Evans, whose own goal gave the Union the early lead.
Philadelphia got on the scoreboard in just the 13th minute on a 35-yard Cristian Maidana free kick that skimmed off Evans’ head before finding the back of the net for the 1-0 Union lead.
“It just skipped off my head,” Evans said. “First time I’ve ever had one of those, but, yeah, [it] definitely feels better helping the team tie the game.”
Seattle nearly scored on multiple occasions in the first half.
In just the seventh minute, Lamar Neagle one-touched a wide open shot off the crossbar from 15 yards out.
In the 39th minute, referee Silviu Petrescu awarded a penalty for an Okugo handball in the area. MacMath dove to his left on the ensuing penalty kick, getting just enough glove on Osvaldo Alonso’s driving low shot to deflect it off the post.
It was the third straight penalty MacMath has saved this season.
Seattle tweaked its formation in the second half, pinching its wide midfielders to clog the center of the park and to open up space for overlapping fullback runs. The effect was almost immediately obvious, especially after Schmid inserted Pappa into the match for the injured Dylan Remick and shifted Brad Evans from midfield to left back.
Philadelphia (1-3-5, 8 points) is now winless in its last eight matches, tying a club record set in both 2010 and 2012. The Union were shut out in their previous two games; only Evans’ own goal ended Philadelphia’s 203 minute scoreless streak.
With an overhauled midfield featuring Maurice Edu and Maidana—both Designated Players—as well as Vincent Noguira and his Ligue 1 pedigree, many expected the Union to climb the Eastern Conference ladder this season.
It isn’t happening so far.
“Disappointment was the feeling right after the game,” said former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux. “It’s just very frustrating. I thought we played well but a mistake here and there cost us the game. There’s a little bit of frustration and disappointment, but we have to move forward.”
“It’s a difficult one to take,” said Philadelphia head coach John Hackworth, “because [we] came in and played well in the first half and we got up a goal.”
“I feel like the defense has a good game and the offense struggles,” added Okugu, “or the offense has a good game and the defense struggles. We just have to have a complete performance from both sides and hopefully we can get a win.”
Seattle (6-2-1, 19 points) has won four straight and sits perched atop the league, led by Clint Dempsey’s dominating start to the season and an offense capable of overwhelming opponents. Coming into Saturday’s slate of matches, the Sounders were tied for the league lead in goals, and also led MLS in assists, road goals, shots-on-goal, and goal differential.
It wasn’t all good news for the Sounders, though. Remick left the match in the 51st minute with an injured ankle. The Sounders were already shorthanded at the position, with usual starter Leo Gonzalez missing the match with a hamstring injury. Evans and late substitute Zach Scott split duty at left back for the remainder of Saturday’s match.
Looking forward, the Sounders host FC Dallas (5-2-1, 16 points) Wednesday before traveling to New England for a weekend match against the Revolution (4-3-2, 14 points). Philadelphia hosts DC United (3-2-2, 11 points) next weekend.
Here are the match highlights: