The Seattle Sounders are getting healthier, and so is their position in the Major League Soccer standings.
With Sunday night’s 1-0 win over Portland at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders (11-8-4) moved into a tie for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot with 37 points. However, the Sounders have played two to four fewer games than all the teams above them.
In terms of points per game, Seattle is second in the conference and third in the league.
“It’s the three points, it’s winning against our rival — those things are important,” coach Sigi Schmid said Sunday. “We still have games in hand on people, so we continue to gain. But it’s also just the team, the confidence. It’s the first time we had Clint (Dempsey) with Eddie (Johnson) up front.”
One key regular was unavailable Sunday, and Schmid held out hope that forward Obafemi Martins could return from his ankle injury in time for Saturday’s match at Columbus.
“(Midfielder Lamar Neagle) played well on the left,” Schmid said. “So we are starting to see how it’s going to work and fit together when they are all on the field.”
Johnson scored the lone goal, assisted by midfielder Mauro Rosales in the 60th minute. Meanwhile, Dempsey got the fans’ attention in other ways during his home debut.
“I know there were a couple ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from the crowd on a couple of moves that he made,” Schmid said. “For him to know our guys and for our guys to know him, it’s going to take a few games. He’s the kind of player who has really quick feet. Sometimes I watch him in warm-ups or watch him in practice, and he does stuff that many people can’t do.”
One thing Dempsey hasn’t done yet is register a goal or assist over his first three games as MLS’ highest-paid player. However, he senses those are coming.
“I tried,” he said. “I had a little ninja kick to try to put the ball in (but) wasn’t able to get there. I had a bicycle (kick), I had a header cleared off the line. I had a shot the keeper saved for a corner. Had a heavy touch in the first half — I could have done a little better with that.
“All in all, I am getting good looks. Just a matter of time before goals and assists start coming. But I’m happy with the touches that I was getting. More importantly, I am happy the way the team played and getting three points.”
With a club-record crowd of 67,385 at Sunday’s match, Seattle’s average home attendance moved to 42,963 this season. The club’s season attendance record is 43,144, set in 2012. Seattle has six more home dates, including two with the entire stadium open. … The Sounders’ starters trained only lightly Monday. The club will be off Tuesday before returning to training Wednesday. … The Sounders played to a 2-2 draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in an MLS Reserve League match Monday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. Eriq Zavaleta and David Estrada scored for the Sounders. … Federal Way’s Kelyn Rowe, a midfielder for New England, was MLS player of the week after scoring twice from long distance in leading the Revolution to a 5-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt