The Seattle Sounders not only moved to the top of the standings in Major League Soccer on Friday, but their 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake also featured several of the assets that got them there.
Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle added to their team-leading goals totals, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning recorded his league-high 10th shutout, and U.S. national team members Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson made late appearances off the bench.
The result moved Seattle (15-8-4) past Salt Lake (14-9-6) and every other team in the league. And as the game wound down, the CenturyLink Field crowd of 55,107 chanted “Who’s in first place?”
“We’ve kept climbing, kept climbing, and now we’re in first place,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “And now we’ve got to make sure we stay there and enjoy the view a little bit.”
The Sounders jumped ahead in the third minute, when Andy Rose
slipped a pass in front of the RSL goal and Martins ran on and finished with a single touch. It was his eighth goal of the season, and the club’s quickest score of the season.
Seattle kept the pressure on with more good chances in the opening minutes before RSL began getting into the flow.
In the 38th minute, Seattle doubled its lead on a counter as DeAndre Yedlin was allowed a free run down the right side. Once he got into the penalty area, he sent the ball to the middle, where Neagle ran on and knocked it home for his eighth goal.
“I thought we came out and played very well the first 15 or 20 minutes of the game, which was one of the things we talked about: come out with good energy and enthusiasm and carrying the game to them,” Schmid said. “We got the early goal, as well. I thought we were a little unfortunate not to get a few more goals in the first half and the second half with some of the breakaways that we had.”
The Sounders outshot RSL 10-9 and put five on target to the visitor’s three.
But even without additional goals, the defense ensured the win with its fourth shutout in the last five games.
“I don’t mind if the whole attraction is up front,” Gspurning said. “That shows that we play great soccer. … It was a great win. It is now momentum that we’re first — that’s great. It always proves something, but there’s a long way to go.”
Second-half highlights included the appearances of Dempsey in the 61st minute and Johnson in the 75th after returning from midweek national team duty.
“It’s obviously a scary situation when you’re down two goals and (Schmid) brings on Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “But our guys stuck with it.”
The result was the Sounders’ fifth straight win, the longest streak in MLS this season, and matched the club record. Seattle also extended its record home unbeaten streak to 13 games (10-0-3). The Sounders also remained unbeaten with an 8-0-2 record in games played in front of crowds larger than 40,000.
The crowd raised Seattle’s season average to 43,180, moving just ahead of their 2012 MLS-record average of 43,144 with three home games remaining, including one more with the full stadium open.
A few hours before first kick, just before the MLS rosters were frozen, the Sounders acquired midfielder Adam Moffat from Houston in exchange for midfielder Servando Carrasco and a second-round SuperDraft choice.
Moffat, 27, is a seven-year MLS veteran who this season already has career-highs with 26 appearances, 24 starts and three goals.
Carrasco, 25, made 40 appearances and 22 starts for Seattle since being selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 SuperDraft.
The Sounders continue play in the upper reaches of the Western Conference next weekend when they visit the third-place Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Seattle and RSL reserve teams meet at noon Saturday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.