SEATTLE — The David Estrada show has come to Seattle.
The Sounders’ third-year professional celebrated his first career MLS goal by scoring two more, leading Seattle to a 3-1 victory over visiting Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night. Including his tally in the CONCACAF Champions League, the unheralded youngster now accounted for four of Seattle’s five goals in 2012.
Along the way, he has developed an excellent understanding with left midfielder Álvaro Fernández, who provided the final pass on all three goals. If Estrada keeps scoring at this rate, fellow striker Eddie Johnson can take all the time he needs recovering from a hip flexor injury suffered in the crushing 6-1 defeat to Santos Laguna.
For Toronto, Ryan Johnson scored an astonishing goal in the 62nd minute to bring TFC back to 2-1, but Estrada immediately answered with his third less than a minute later.
The Reds’ defensive issues were exacerbated by the early loss of Torsten Frings to a hamstring injury, suffered while making a superb last-ditch tackle on the lively Estrada, when clean through on goal. While the Canadian side advanced to the semifinals of the CCL, the Reds were a clear second-best Saturday night to an eager Seattle side.
Toronto FC rested a handful of starters from the midweek clash against LA as Danny Koevermans, Joao Plata, Ashtone Morgan and Julian de Guzman started the match on Aron Winter’s bench. In goal, Milos Kocic was preferred to Stefan Frei.
Seattle also made a few changes from midweek, most notably on the back line where Patrick Ianni and Marc Burch stepped in for Leo González and Jeff Parke, respectively.
Perhaps one could have expected the pace to pick up with the new bodies, but the fatigue from the CCL manifested itself in a more methodical pace early on. Even with relatively few scoring chances for either side, Estrada broke through in the 17th minute. After Fernández sent in a teasing cross from the left, Estrada was the quickest to react, eventually punching the ball home for his first MLS goal.
Estrada nearly scored again after being sent clean through by Fredy Montero, with only a last-second challenge from Frings preventing another goal. Injured on the play, Frings then gave way to Aaron Maund in the 25th minute.
Toronto’s back line looked to be struggling, with Estrada again getting through only to shoot directly into the gloves of Kocic. Toronto tried to answer with some offense of its own, with Ryan Johnson’s header hitting the cross bar in the 28th minute.
Aron Winter realized he needed to do more to spur a TFC attack that recorded no shots on target in the first half, so he brought on Koevermans to start the second half. However, Estrada’s second six minutes after the break just deepened the hole for the visiting team.
Johnson halved the lead with a stunning strike into the far corner in the 62nd minute, but the joy was short-lived. Estrada popped up in the penalty area for his third goal, with Fernández earning his second assist of the night.
Frings’ hamstring injury, which could be a crucial blow to their 2012 season, will be reevaluated in Toronto. The Reds next host San Jose on March 24.
Seattle, meanwhile, who saw Mauro Rosales withdrawn in the 79th minute, return to action in six days, hosting Houston on March 23.