SEATTLE, Wash. —The Seattle Sounders showcased a rejuvenated line-up for Sunday night’s 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers, with two notable returnees making huge impacts. Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, arguably the most lethal forward duo in MLS, made their presence felt in a big way.
Dempsey had the headlines, cashing in the go-ahead goal in the 74th minute after Martins deflected a rebound shot off the hands of Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. He played 90 minutes before subbing out in stoppage time, a welcome surprise for Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid, who told reporters after the game that he only expected to get around 70 minutes from his superstar.
“I was a little surprised at how many minutes we got out of Clint,” Schmid said. “That was over and beyond the call of duty. It was great to have those guys back."
The return and strong play of Martins has to be considered an equally encouraging sign for a Seattle squad that now has 38 points and a stranglehold on first place in the Western Conference.
Martins’ 51st-minute entrance for Chad Barrett was arguably the turning point in a game that had been evenly matched to that point. Once he came on, it was all Sounders – a recurring theme throughout 2014.
Martins and Dempsey have shown impressive chemistry and awareness of each other’s tendencies all year, but it was uncertain exactly how much rust they would need to shake off as they re-acclimate from their time away from the squad. Dempsey was in Brazil captaining the US national team in the World Cup, while Martins missed Seattle’s last two matches—one because of a red card suspension and the other because of a hamstring injury.
“It’s fun,” Dempsey said of his partnership with Martins. “Playing with Oba is like playing pick-up…We see the game the same. We like to link up and make those passes that create space for each other. I really enjoy playing with him.”
Schmid said the great chemistry between his two best attackers played into his decision making as the game against Portland developed.
"One of the thought processes for me was wanting to get Oba onto the field earlier than I normally sub because when Oba is on the field he and Clint have such a good understanding together,” Schmid said. “I figured they could get some minutes—at least 15 or 20 minutes together—and they kept going. It worked out alright."
The Sounders have managed to use their great depth to stay on top of the Western Conference standings despite missing some of their best players at different points throughout the season. But regaining the most dynamic goal-scoring duo on the league can only mean good things for a club that surely has a Supporters’ Shield on its mind.