SEATTLE — Lamar Neagle scored a hat trick as the Seattle Sounders turned a four-goal first-half blitz into a superlative 6-2 victory on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. For a match that was expected to be a showdown between two of the league’s best, Seattle and Neagle were simply unstoppable on the afternoon.
The bright spot for the Crew: Jeff Cunningham became the league’s new goal king in the loss. The second-half substitute converted a 59th-minute penalty kick for his 134th career goal, eclipsing Jaime Moreno’s all-time mark.
READ: Cunningham becomes all-time scoring leader
Mauro Rosales, Mike Fucito and a Josh Gardner own-goal accounted for the rest of the scoring for Seattle, who picked up three points on the idle LA Galaxy. Gardner scored Columbus’ other goal on a second-half free kick.
Seattle drew first blood through the 24-year-old Neagle, who looked tremendous on the left side of midfield. The Federal Way, Wash., native cut inside his defender and directed a low shot on goal. Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer failed to corral the ball, letting it slip behind him and into the goal.
The soft goal was a portent of things to come for the Crew.
Seattle’s second came in the 16th minute, courtesy of a Mauro Rosales penalty kick. Columbus defender Rich Balchan, making his first appearance after eight games out with a groin injury, handled the ball at the edge of the penalty area under pressure from Fucito. Rosales buried the resulting penalty kick and the rout was on.
With Seattle continuing to pour on the pressure, Neagle got his second goal in the 21st minute. The midfielder, who has formed a platoon of sorts with Álvaro Fernández in left midfield, got his fourth of the season by calmly converting a touchline cross form James Riley.
The domination continued in the 40th, with the Crew defense standing by while Fucito rounded Hesmer for Seattle’s fourth. It was a masterful half from the home side, aided by some crucial miscues from the visiting defense. Balchan, who was filling in for the Julius James (yellow-card suspension) in central defense, had an especially forgettable first 45.
It got better briefly for the Crew, as Cunningham converted his record-breaking penalty kick after a foul on Emilio Rentería, bringing the score to 4-1. The celebrations were short-lived, as Seattle continued to attack well into the match.
Neagle’s third of the game was the best of the day, a superb effort that hit the underside of the crossbar and barely cleared the goal line. It also marked the first time a Sounders player had tallied a hat trick in front of a home crowd. By the time Garnder knocked in Seattle’s sixth, just a minute after he scored on the other end, one had the feeling that the Crew were ready to get back on the plane and head home.
The six goals marks a franchise best for the Sounders, with the four goals in the first half another new record.
Seattle return to action against FC Dallas in a US Open Cup semifinal Aug. 30 at the Starfire Sports Complex. The Crew get a two-week break to regroup before hosting Toronto FC on Sept. 10.
SEA -- Lamar Neagle 3 (Mike Fucito 2) 4
SEA -- Mauro Rosales 5 (penalty kick) 16
SEA -- Lamar Neagle 4 (James Riley 2, Mauro Rosales 8) 21
SEA -- Mike Fucito 1 (Mauro Rosales 9, Fredy Montero 7) 40
CLB -- Jeff Cunningham 2 (penalty kick) 59
SEA -- Lamar Neagle 5 (Osvaldo Alonso 3) 70
CLB -- Josh Gardner 2 (unassisted) 73
SEA -- own goal (Josh Gardner) 74
CLB -- Kevin Burns (caution; Tactical Foul) 64
SEA -- Jeff Parke (caution; Reckless Foul) 73
SEA -- Zach Scott (caution; Reckless Tackle) 81
Columbus Crew -- William Hesmer, Sebastian Miranda, Rich Balchan, Chad Marshall, Josh Gardner, Kevin Burns, Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers, Dilly Duka (Jeff Cunningham 56), Andres Mendoza (Tommy Heinemann 56), Emilio Renteria (Justin Meram 76).
Substitutes Not Used: Bernardo Anor, Eric Gehrig, Danny O'Rourke, Alex Riggs.
Seattle Sounders -- Kasey Keller, James Riley, Jeff Parke (Zach Scott 75), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Tyson Wahl, Mauro Rosales (Alvaro Fernandez 71), Osvaldo Alonso, Erik Friberg, Lamar Neagle, Mike Fucito (Nate Jaqua 78), Fredy Montero.
Substitutes Not Used: Servando Carrasco, Brad Evans, Roger Levesque, Terry Boss.
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Referee's Assistants: Frank Anderson; Ian Anderson
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal
Time of Game: 1:50
Weather: Clear and 72 degrees