Sounders FC made another big leap in the Western Conference standings Saturday, but its dig-your-heels-in victory in rainy Columbus came at a cost.
Defender Leo Gonzalez will be suspended for Wednesday’s home game against Chivas USA after receiving a red card, and midfielder Brad Evans suffered a calf strain, an injury that will also prevent him from playing with the U.S. men’s national team for the next round of World Cup qualifiers.
“We had to deal with that adversity, and I thought our team showed a lot of character,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
Evans traveled home with the Sounders instead of reporting to USMNT camp in Miami ahead of qualifiers Wednesday in Costa Rica and Sept. 10 against Mexico back in Columbus.
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Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson were set to join the national team despite back and hamstring soreness, respectively.
A hard-fought three points Saturday will help alleviate the pain of losing four starters, as Seattle leapt up to third place in the West, the team’s highest position of the season. The Sounders, who have played at least two fewer games than everyone else in the conference, boast the third-best points-per-game average in the league at 1.67.
Results-wise, there is an abundance of positive news as Seattle has won five of its last six games and completed its best August ever as a franchise at 4-1.
The Sounders could also match their best record through 25 games with a win Wednesday, which could see the return of forward Obafemi Martins, who has missed the past three games with an ankle injury.
Johnson irritates some fans
Johnson’s game-winner Saturday was his third goal in four games, but what had many people talking afterward was his celebration of the goal.
The forward appeared to repeat the phrase “Pay me” while making a show-me-the-money gesture, rubbing his fingers together.
Johnson has long been regarded as a bargain in MLS with a $150,000 salary, though many fans felt that wasn’t an appropriate forum to lobby for a raise. An informal poll on Seattletimes.com indicated most fans felt his celebration was a “big deal” as opposed to the other options of “little deal” or “no deal”.
Amid criticism on Twitter, Johnson posted, among other things, “I celebrate however how I feel,” and “… I’ve been quiet too long,” in response to his followers.
• An unsung hero Saturday was Lamar Neagle, who filled in at left back, a position he has never played before in MLS, after Gonzalez received the red card. “We saw a different side of Lamar Neagle,” Schmid said, “but what he contributed to our win was fantastic.”
• Defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado is no longer on yellow-card warning after receiving the “good behavior incentive” — a rule that expunges one yellow card from a players’ record after appearing in three consecutive games without one. Djimi Traore is back on warning, however, and will be suspended one game upon his next caution.
• The Sounders found a unique way to pass time during a 90-minute weather delay Saturday: “We had a little game of cricket going,” Schmid said.