Already short-handed and in a bit of a slump, the Seattle Sounders were in desperate of a bounceback performance.
Leave it to their marquee to deliver it.
Obafemi Martins scored his fourth goal in his brief Sounders career, this one standing up as the game-winner in a 2-0 victory over Chivas USA on Saturday. The win means Sounders are now off to their second best start in their history, only a couple months after getting off to the worst start in franchise history.
“We feel good about what we can do,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters after the game. “The team is still very confident in their abilities. We know we laid an egg here last week [against the LA Galaxy]. Today, they stepped up and showed their character.”
Coincidentally, Martins’ goal came just a couple minutes after the Sounders were dealt another blow to their roster. Osvaldo Alonso, who hadn’t played since coming out of the May 18 win over FC Dallas with a strained adductor, started but was only able to go 21 minutes before a right quadricep injury forced him out.
Only a minute after Alonso left, Martins took a pass from Lamar Neagle, streaked behind the Chivas USA defense and chipped goalkeeper Dan Kennedy from about 12 yards out. It marked the fastest any Sounders player had reached four goals, besting Blaise Nkufo by 265 minutes. It also left Martins with a figure of .98 goals per 90 minutes, the best current mark in MLS.
“He’s gotten goals for us, for sure,” Schmid said. “He’s there to finish chances. That’s what you want from your strikers and that’s what he’s giving us.”
Unfortunately, the Sounders will likely be forced to look elsewhere for a boost next week against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Martins was shown a straight red card in the 71st minute after he collided with Gabriel Farfan, meaning he will serve an automatic one-match ban. That would leave the Sounders without their top two forwards (Martins and Eddie Johnson), their top two central midfielders (Alonso and Shalrie Joseph) and two more other potential starters (Brad Evans and Mario Martinez, who are expected to be with their respective national teams).
“Nobody cares what my opinion is,” said Schmid, who was reluctant to comment on the red card, though audibly protested it on the game's TV broadcast. “The league doesn’t care what my opinion is, the referee doesn’t care what my opinion is.”