Three times this season, Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid has started the forward duo of Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins. This was the dream team that the Sounders hoped to have the fans forgetting about franchise-leading scorer Fredy Montero being gone.
It hasn’t worked so far. Starting those two together has the Sounders being outscored 8-1, with the pair only managing three shots between them. That kind of impotence, combined with basically the month of June off as the Sounders played only three matches had to have Seattle fans feeling nervous.
Facing the floundering D.C. United the other night (July 3) had to give Seattle some confidence. D.C. has the worst record in the league by a long ways, with nine points in 17 games coming into that evening, while Seattle had 21 points in 14 games and is chasing LA, Portland, and Vancouver for playoff positioning.
In this game, the dynamic duo up front quickly changed Seattle’s fortunes despite the rust in the 19th minute when Johnson held the ball up just past midfield with his back to the goal. Judging his options, EJ delivered a pass to his U.S. national teammate Brad Evans, who slotted it beautifully through the defense to an attacking Martins. Martins beat D.C. United keeper Joe Willis to the inside of the near post to make it 1-0 Seattle, despite Willis cutting off the angle.
That goal was the first for Martins while starting with Johnson and his fifth of the season. The veteran from Nigeria celebrated with his signature back flip. The pair almost converted in the 62nd minute when Martins fed Johnson on a give-and-go that had Johnson clear 12 yards out. Willis, who played a great game for DC United, came off his line and blocked the shot.
As the time ticked down to the final whistle, D.C. United pushed everything they had into a tying goal. Seattle survived by their fingertips and a bad D.C. attacking force. Midfielder Chris Pontius played well but was let down by his teammates, particularly forward Lionard Pajoy who seems to have more offside calls than shots.
Martins added his sixth goal of the season in the 91st minute, splitting a pair of United defenders before shouldering former Sounders defender James Riley off the ball and beating Willis to the near post again to make the score 2-0.
No back flip this time, as Martins settled for a running punching celebration. He looked spent from being on the go for the full match. “Oba” is rapidly becoming a fan favorite and earned his Man of the Match accolades.
D.C. United limps to Colorado to take on the Rapids with the worst record in the MLS. Seattle is now tied for fifth place in the Western Conference with the LA Galaxy but has played two less matches than the latter, giving the Sounders an advantage over their nemesis.
Seattle travels north to clash with their Cascadia Cup rivals Vancouver. The Whitecaps sit in fourth place in the conference with 26 points in 17 games, compared to Seattle’s 24 points in 15 games.
Photo Credits: TED S. WARREN/ASSOCIATED PRESS, DEAN RUTZ / The Seattle Times, USA TODAY Sports