SEATTLE — Sounders FC snatched the top spot lead from rival Real Salt Lake with an early goal and dominant performance in Friday’s heated match at CenturyLink Field.
Forward Obafemi Martins’ goal in the third minute proved to be the game winner after Seattle came out blazing and never took its foot off the gas. Martins started the play by flinging a one-touch give-and-go to a sprinting Andy Rose, who managed to keep the ball in play at the end line and feed a perfect pass back to Martins 10 yards out. The Rave Green crowd of over 50,000 erupted when the ball hit the back of the net, and RSL knew it had a long night ahead.
The Sounders continued to push the ball forward at will in the first 10 minutes, forcing RSL goaltender Nick Rimando to make two huge stops inside the box. His early saves kept the Claret-and-Cobalt in the match, but sloppy passes and lazy play in the backfield gave Seattle additional momentum and a chance to do even more damage.
It didn’t take long until DeAndre Yedlin danced down the right sideline uncontested to the penalty box, finding a wide-open Lamar Neagle through three defenders for the Sounders’ second tally of the night in the 38th minute. At that point, Rimando wore his frustration on his sleeve for the lack of defensive help.
Real’s best scoring opportunity came from forward Joao Plata in the 31st minute, but his shot sailed just left of the goal, and it seemed like it would be that kind of night for a struggling RSL offense, whose league-leading offense was shut out for the first time since April.
A second-half surge by Salt Lake fell just short as Ned Grabovoy’s rebound attempt zoomed wide of the net. Seattle held RSL to just three shots on target during the game, as they improved to 10-0-2 when leading at the half.
Both Sounders goals came without stars Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey, who sat out the entire first half in their first match back since playing for the USMNT in Tuesday’s 2-0 defeat of Mexico.
Referees handed out seven yellow cards Friday night, with six going to RSL, whose play quality declined as the game went on.
Seattle’s eighth win in its last nine attempts and sixth straight home victory gives them a one-point advantage over RSL with two games in hand in the final month of regular season play. They became the first team in MLS history to rebound from a 15-point deficit in conference standings and take over the lead.
“We’ve kept climbing. We’ve kept climbing, and now we’re in first place,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Now we have to make sure we stay there and enjoy the view a little bit.”
RSL will host the San Jose Earthquakes next Saturday at 7 p.m MDT as they fight to regain home-field advantage and take back the Supporters’ Shield lead.