SEATTLE — With the game winding down through the final seconds, Michael Gspurning saw referee Mark Geiger put the whistle to his mouth.
Rather than throwing the ball to Seattle Sounders teammate Zach Scott, Gspurning decided a long kick would be the smarter play.
Caught between two minds, the ball slipped out of Gspurning's hands and he picked it up again. At the same time, Geiger blew his whistle. Instead of a potentially dangerous free kick from inside the penalty area, the game was over and the Sounders had safely secured three more points with a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Wednesday that gave them the second highest point total in MLS.
“I was a little excited too early,” Gspurning said.
It's not hard to see why: The breaks suddenly seem to be going the Sounders' way.
“Yeah, the game seemed to turn on us a little bit early in the season, where the smidgen of luck didn’t come our way,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Today at the game, smidgen of luck, Gspurning makes a mistake, drops the ball, and the referee blows the end of the game. Some other referee might have said, ‘Oh he dropped it and picked it up, indirect free kick’ and we would have been scrambling there at the end.
“You always need some results like that,” Schmid continued. “You need to win games, you need to control games, you need to dominate games, then there’s the hard games in there where you got to just figure out a win to win it. The last two games have been difficult games for us, playing a man down and today with all of the people missing, we had to figure out a way to win games and we did that.”
Although the Sounders dominated the early portion of this game, it was hardly a pretty performance. Already missing four starters from the previous week, the Sounders were left scrambling just about an hour before kick off when they learned Obafemi Martins had failed his pregame fitness test and would be unable to play.
That forced David Estrada into the starting lineup for the first time since May 8 and left the Sounders with a starting lineup that had scored just 11 goals between them.
Five those goals belonged to Lamar Neagle, who was luckily able to add one more to his total.
“It shows a lot about our team, the depth we have,” Sounders fullback DeAndre Yedlin said. “I thought Dave came off the bench and did great. He always works hard. I was impressed by that. Everybody did great and it just shows that if we're missing players we can still compete.”
Once scrambling for points and fighting just to stay in the playoff race, the Sounders now find themselves with the best points per game figure in MLS. That their last three wins have been by identical 1-0 scorelines -- something they've now done five times this year -- hardly seems to matter. All the Sounders seem to care about is coming away with three points.
“We talked about it before the game, this is one of the games [in] hand,” Schmid said. “This is a game in hand game, and there’s three points — we’re holding them in our hand. Do we want to put them in our pockets or do we want to throw them away? We decided to put them in our pockets. As long as we take each of those games at hand that we have and put them in our pocket, we will continue to climb and rise up the standings.”