Toronto FC outdone by desperate Sounders
Seattle keeps playoff hopes alive with victory
Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey reconnected at a time the Seattle Sounders need all the points in the standings they can get.
Martins scored his 11th goal of the season in the opening minutes, Dempsey connected off a counter attack in the 77th minute and Seattle beat Toronto FC 2-1 on Saturday night, a crucial victory for the Sounders' playoff hopes.
Martins and Dempsey played together in an MLS game for the first time since May 31 and showed they remain one the more dynamic duos in the league. The pair instigated both goals, Dempsey feeding Martins for the first goal and Dempsey pouncing on a loose ball at the end of Martins long run to put Seattle (13-13-2) in front late.
The Sounders have 41 points and jumped ahead of both Sporting KC and Portland — at least temporarily — in the Western Conference playoff chase.
"We've always had that pick-up style understanding with each other with our movements and knowing where we want the ball," Dempsey said. "It just seems like something you can't really teach. We just have it, that understanding."
Eriq Zavaleta scored in the 59th minute for Toronto (11-11-4), but its offensive attack struggled to create consistent pressure with Sebastian Giovinco out with an adductor injury and Jozy Altidore playing for the U.S. on international duty.
Seattle played without coach Sigi Schmid, who missed the game due to an undisclosed health issue. He's expected to rejoin the club next week, but was just the fifth match Schmid has missed in his long coaching career.
Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer said he found out Saturday morning that he might be filling in for Schmid.
"At the end of the day it was just Oba and (Dempsey) doing what they do," Schmetzer said.
A combination of injuries, suspensions and national team duty kept Martins and Dempsey from being on the field at the same time for more than three months. During that stretch, Seattle tumbled from the top of the Western Conference to a spot where its playoff status is far from certain.
The pair was back on the same page quickly. Dempsey chipped the Toronto defence and Martins was barely onside, beating Toronto goalkeeper Chris Konopka with a left-footed shot in the sixth minute. After lax defending allowed Zavaleta an open header to pull even, Dempsey and Martins teamed up once more.
Dempsey sent Martins on a run behind the Toronto defence. Konopka came out to try and slide into Martins' feet and take the ball. Konopka couldn't keep possession and it bounced to Dempsey with an open net in front of him. It was his eight goal of the season.
Dempsey subbed off late, while Toronto's Michael Bradley played the entire game. Both are supposed to join the U.S. for its exhibition against Brazil on Tuesday. Dempsey said he's still not 100 per cent and would be speaking with U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann about his availability.
"I still don't feel like 100 per cent I can go out there and sprint, but I wanted to be out there and be able to make an impact," Dempsey said.