SEATTLE — Early deficit? No problem. Having a penalty saved? Not a big deal. Missing several key starters and playing on short rest? Just more obstacles the Seattle Sounders seem perfectly capable of overcoming these days.
Those were just some of the details of Seattle's latest win, a 2-1 come-from-behind effort over the Chicago Fire on Saturday in which the deciding tally came from an own-goal in the final minutes of regulation. The Sounders have now won four straight and seven of eight to move within two points of Supporters' Shield-leading Real Salt Lake, coincidentally next Friday's opponent.
"It's no secret, winning gives you confidence," midfielder Servando Carrasco told MLSsoccer.com. "We're on a tremendous momentum right now and things are going our way. We're playing well, we're creating chances. We've been scored on once in four games and when you have that stat, you're going to be in position to win games."
While the defense did its job in holding the opposition to one or fewer goals for the ninth time in the past 10 matches, Seattle's ability to come back from deficits is perhaps the most glaring change from earlier in the season.
The Sounders have now gone 2-1-1 in the past four games in which they've surrendered the first goal, a far cry from earlier in the season when they lost their first eight games after being scored upon first.
After falling behind on Mike Magee’s 25th-minute goal, the Sounders’ first chance to erase the deficit came from the penalty spot. But the normally reliable Osvaldo Alonso had his attempt saved by Sean Johnson.
While such a blown opportunity can often have a knock-on effect, they hardly seemed bothered and continued to press throughout the first half.
They finally got the equalizer off the foot of Lamar Neagle, who bagged his career high seventh of the goal season, that also happened to tie him for the team lead with Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins, who returned from a four-game absence.
"He's certainly been a consistent goal-scorer for us when he's had the opportunities up front and you can't take that away from him,” Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said about Neagle. “He gives you a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, and sometimes, as with everyone, we want a little more at times. But he's there, he's around the box, he's looking to pounce on things that fall free.”
The game, however, looked like it was destined for a draw in the waning minutes. That all changed in the 89th minute when the Sounders pressure resulted in Gonzalo Segares knocking in the ball in his own goal.
That the winner came off an own-goal was generally seen by the Sounders as the product of constant pressure paying off and just another sign that their fortunes have changed.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game," Neagle said. "We had a lot of games, they were going to be coming for us and were in good form. We had a lot more chances we probably should have finished, but it all came out."