One of the most thrilling moments of the Seattle Sounders’ 3-1 win at Colorado on Saturday turned out to be an utter dud.
In the 29th minute, Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins found themselves on a 75-yard, two-on-two break down the center of the pitch. Martins carried for about 50 of those yards before trickling a botched pass hopelessly out of Dempsey’s reach.
So, nothing that time … but Martins would make up for it later.
But still, the eight seconds it took for Dempsey and Martins to counter up the pitch were about as exciting as any in Seattle sports. It was Ken Griffey Jr. up with the bases loaded. It was Gary Payton breaking down the right side with Shawn Kemp speeding down the left. The result might be a strikeout or a home run, a block or a dunk. But as it unfolds fans hardly breathe and they certainly don’t look away.
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Now in their third season together in green, Dempsey and Martins are approaching that status. They already are the most entertaining and dangerous tandem in Major League Soccer.
But two talents can take a soccer team only so far, and through their first five matches, Dempsey and Martins bore the entire scoring load for Seattle. And so it was comforting Saturday when Lamar Neagle belatedly joined the party with a pair of goals.
“It’s great to get on the board,” Neagle said, “to finally get some shots on goal last week, and this week actually ended up putting some in.”
The Federal Way native had 17 goals over his past two seasons in Seattle, including a career-high nine last year. But he hadn’t scored over the first five games of this season, which both he and coach Sigi Schmid publicly noted was off to a poor start.
His April 12 performance in Los Angeles was tough in two ways: he wasn’t able to score in five shots on goal, and those several good opportunities while filling in at Dempsey’s forward spot reinforced the concern that Neagle is playing out of position as a wide midfielder.
Schmid never bought into that, and Neagle’s pair produced a chance to repeat the point.
“He can score from the wing,” Schmid said. “He doesn’t have to be up front. I thought he had an uptick game last week up front, and he was able to transfer that onto the wing.”
With Neagle now in the scoring column, Seattle’s offensive contributions seem spread out more evenly and sustainably: Martins four goals, Dempsey three, Neagle two — with 2014 multigoal scorers Chad Barrett, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda and Andy Rose yet to break through.
Neagle’s second goal came from tenacity — fighting through burgundy shirts to follow his own shot and touch the rebound across the line. But on any normal week his breakthrough score could have been an MLS goal of the week candidate: launched from the top left corner of the penalty area to curve beneath the top right corner of the frame.
However, this was no normal week, as Martins’ goal was a jaw-dropper that gets only more amazing with repeated viewings.
It began with a long pass by Rose, across midfield and short-hopping in front of Martins about 30 yards from goal. Martins received it with his back to the Colorado goal, using his left foot to touch it behind his back and between two Rapids defenders, before firing from 17 yards out past charging goalkeeper Clint Irwin.
“I decided to do something different, so I just turned with the ball and placed it,” Martins said. “That was one of those goals sometimes where you score a really good goal.”