The Seattle Sounders’ 1-0 win over Chivas USA tonight pushed them to the highest points-per-game average in Major League Soccer.
It also drew them even with Los Angeles for second place in the Western Conference, with games in hand.
And it also made a pretty good case that Seattle is the deepest team in MLS as the Sounders pulled off the victory despite the absence of at least seven potential starters: Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson (U.S. national team duty), Obafemi Martins, Brad Evans. Shalrie Joseph, Steve Zakuani (injury) and Leo Gonzalez (red card suspension).
All of those absences had been known in advance with the exception of Martins, whom the Sounders had hoped would be able to help compensate for the loss of forwards Dempsey and Johnson. However, Martins limped through a pregame fitness test and was ruled unavailable for the fourth straight game due to an ankle sprain.
With the Sounders’ top three forwards unavailable, Schmid moved Lamar Neagle from midfield to forward, and he responded with the game-winning goal.
That one came in the 24th minute, when Marc Burch launched a free kick in front of the Chivas goal, where Neagle took a touch and then side-kicked the goal past Goats keeper Dan Kennedy from about 5 yards.
It was Neagle’s sixth goal of the season, a career high and one off the team lead.
Goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and the Seattle defense made that goal stand up, as they recorded their third consecutive shutout.
The win moved the Sounders record to 13-8-4, good for a league-high 1.72 ppg.
It also extended several streaks for the club: five straight wins over Chivas, unbeaten (4-0-2) against Chivas at home; unbeaten (7-0-4) over 11 straight games vs. Chivas; a league best 6-1-1 since July 20; unbeaten (8-0-3) over the last 11 home games, and a league-high 37-0-8 when scoring the first goal.
The Sounders’ three-game homestand continues Saturday when the Chicago Fire visit.
82′ Sounders sub: Mauro Rosales out, Andy Rose in.
65′ Game getting chippy. Sounders still up, 1-0.
Halftime: Sounders up 1-0. Dominated possession and chances by far more.
Stats: Goals 1/0, Shots 7/4, SOG 1/0, Corners 5/2, Fouls 5/6, Offsides 2/1, Poss % 60/40, Pass Acc % 77/66
24′ GOALSounders. Marc Burch free kick, Lamar Neagle takes a touch in front of goal and side kicks it home. Sounders, 1-0.
Career high sixth goal for South-Sound’s own Lamar Neagle, born in Tacoma, raised in Federal Way.
First 10 minutes: Almost fully in Seattle attacking end. A few fair chances. No score.
First kick: … has been struck. We’re under way. Lots of empty seats for now — not surprising given a rescheduled midweek game vs. Chivas USA.
Lineups: Sounders: Gspurning; Yedlin, Traore, Ianni, Scott; Burch, Alonso, Carrasco, Rosales; Neagle, Estrada. Reserves: Hahnemann, Caskey, Gavin, Hurtado, Lund, Rose, Zavaleta.
The significant and at least partly unexpected absence is Obafemi Martins, who the Sounders had hoped could ease the absences of Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson. Martins had come out early with training staff for a pregame physical test, and body language did not look good.
For Chivas: Kennedy; Delgado, Burling, Bocanegra, Borja; Alvarez, Mejia, Minda, de la Fuente; Morales, Torres
Pregame: It’s cloudy but not raining at CenturyLink Field two hours before the 7 p.m. first kick between Sounders FC and Chivas USA.
The game will be shown on KONG 6/16 and heard on the usual radio outlets. We’ll blog it here, with additional comments tweeted @donruiztnt.
Will be back when lineups are released, with interest in seeing how the Sounders fill the absences of Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez.