SEATTLE — Ask around the Seattle Sounders locker room and they'll tell you: It's too early to make a statement.
After beating FC Dallas, who entered the match with MLS's best record and riding a-match unbeaten streak, with a 4-2 win on Saturday, though, the Sounders came pretty close.
"We couldn't have asked for a better team, who's been hot all year, to come here and really challenge us as a team and see where we are," forward Eddie Johnson said after the match. "Tonight we showed our true character."
Even before Blas Perez's questionable 73rd-minute red card essentially ended any hopes FCD had of completing their comeback and actually getting three points and despite the fact that the Sounders blew a two-goal lead, Seattle dominated the run of play. If not for some impressive work by FCD goalkeeper Raul Fernandez and a miraculous play by London Woodberry to clear a ball off the line, the scoreline could have been much worse as the Sounders repeatedly got behind the Dallas defense.
"That's what happens when you have quality players and are connecting," Sounders forward Lamar Neagle said after the match. "We have a few games together, we're clicking and our confidence is high. The chances are going to keep coming, no matter what team we play."
The chances definitely came. The Sounders had 16 shots, 11 of which hit the target. Both of Neagle's two shots were on goal, with one of them finding the back of the net. He also posted an assist. His front-running partner, Eddie Johnson, finished with two goals and an assist. And the third forward, Obafemi Martins, who subbed on in the 64th minute, notched a goal.
"I think our forwards are running off of each other really well," head coach Sigi Schmid said. "You see Neagle and Eddie up front, they are playing combinations off of each other. One is showing and one is going, and you know the other is getting back in there if the ball goes past them. Same thing when Oba comes in. The two forwards playing off each other, our defense knows they are going to run and so our defense now [can] stretch the defense and play balls in behind."
That's how Neagle got his goal in the 30th minute. Brad Evans slipped Neagle in behind the Dallas defense, who had stepped up on an offside trap, and Neagle calmly rounded Fernandez and finished in the empty goal to give the Sounders a 2-0 lead that they took into the halftime break.
But a few minutes after the break, Dallas had equalized through Kenny Cooper and Michel, who struck a magnificent, rare "Olimpico" goal. In the past, a collapse like this might have caused panic within the Sounders. Instead, they reclaimed the lead just moments later with Neagle feeding Johnson for the second of his two goals.
"We lost our mark on the first one and obviously Michel hits a great ball on the second and Michael [Gspurning] got tied up," Schmid said. "The timeliness of our third goal was really vital and we continued to get opportunities."
The Sounders have now struck for four goals in their last two games, an offensive explosion unseed in Seattle since the club joined MLS.
"It's two games, just two games," Schmid said. "Certainly I think with the emergence of Lamar right now, with Eddie playing as he's playing right now, with Obafemi coming in -- that's three goals in three games for him -- we're a handful up front. If you're center backs and you lose sight of our forwards for a second, they're going to be running behind you."
And that promises plenty more chances for the Sounders to make a statement.