Seattle Sounders FC survived the first half of Clint Dempsey’s suspension just fine Sunday, taking a 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact at Olympic Stadium.
With their highest-paid player sitting out the first of a two-game suspension handed down Friday by the Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee, the Sounders got the win by combining an own goal with designated player Obafemi Martins’ first score of the season. They preserved it behind goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s second shutout of the season.
“We knew they were a team that lost their first two games,” veteran defender Djimi Traore said. “That could have affected their confidence. We knew that if we came here and scored early, it would put even more pressure on them. That’s what we did.”
Seattle jumped ahead in the eighth minute when Gonzalo Pineda sent a free kick into the penalty area. Lamar Neagle headed the ball off the crossbar, and it rebounded down onto goalkeeper Troy Perkins and
finally across the line.
Neagle, a former standout at Federal Way’s Thomas Jefferson High School, initially was credited with the goal, but it was later ruled an own goal.
“To get it on a set play, it’s usually what you kind of want to do,” said Neagle, who played the 2012 season in Montreal. “When you’re an away team, take your time on set plays and make the most of them. And we did that.”
Seattle doubled its lead in the 58th minute when Neagle carried a ball from midfield to near the top of the penalty area, where his cross was deflected forward. However, Kenny Cooper ran it down just before the end line and chipped it back across the goalmouth for Martins to head home.
The Sounders had several other chances on the large Olympic Stadium pitch. In the 17th minute, Martins put a header on goal that was one-handed away by Perkins. In the 32nd minute, Neagle knocked a low shot onto the left upright. In the 80th, Traore put a bicycle kick on target, only to have it handled by Perkins.
The match was the home opener for Montreal, which fell to 0-3-0 on the season. An announced crowd of 27,702 turned out for a match that was postponed from Saturday because of snow accumulation on the stadium roof.
With Dempsey out and midfielder Brad Evans having suffered a calf injury the weekend before, coach Sigi Schmid tweaked his lineup into a 4-3-3 formation with Neagle, Martins and Cooper up top, and Pineda, Osvaldo Alonso and Andy Rose in midfield.
“We wanted to sit back a little bit, so I knew we were going to absorb some pressure,” Schmid said. “We were trying to get forward on the counter, and I figured we could create some chances like that.”
As the Sounders protected their two-goal lead, midfielder Michael Azira came off the bench for his MLS debut, forward Cam Weaver of Kent made his Sounders FC debut, and veteran defender Leo Gonzalez made his season debut after missing the first two games because of a groin injury.
“It shows we have a good squad,” Traore said. “We were missing players like Clint Dempsey and Brad Evans, but we have other players that can come in at any time and do the work.”
Seattle also debuted its new alternate kits: black jerseys with neon-green trim and shorts.
The Sounders (2-1-0) will meet the Columbus Crew (2-0-0) at 7 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field. blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer