Clint Dempsey took a week’s break after the World Cup, and he made that rejuvenation count on Sunday.
His goal in the 71st minute put Seattle ahead, 1-0, of the Portland Timbers (4-5-10) and sparked a 2-0 Sounders win in front of 64,207 at CenturyLink Field.
The Sounders (12-4-2) have historically performed well in highly attended MLS matches: They are now 10-0-3 all-time in games with more than 40,000 in the stands.
“It was fun to play in front of a crowd like that, 64,000,” Dempsey said. “But it’s more fun when you win in front of a crowd like that.”
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Dempsey’s goal was the third chance Seattle had, all within a minute of each other. Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts deflected a corner kick and then an Obafemi Martins rebound shot. A bounce back out to Dempsey seconds later at the top of the circle was fired into the back of the net, giving the Sounders the 1-0 lead.
Fifteen minutes later, in the 86th, Marco Pappa took a Lamar Neagle pass on his left foot and shot it past a waiting Ricketts to make it 2-0 and set the final score.
Seattle started the game with Dempsey, in his first match back from World Cup duty, but the teams rolled into halftime locked in a 0-0 tie, parallel to their situation in Wednesday’s Open Cup match, where Seattle prevailed in extra time, 3-1.
“We were having more control of the game,” Pappa said of the second half, where the Sounders added 13 shot attempts to their first-half total of five.
The Sounders had a couple of close chances early, but did not have a shot on goal in the first half. DeAndre Yedlin fired straight down the end line in the 26th minute, but it was too wide. And in the 42nd minute, Pappa shot with his left foot from the top of the box, and it sailed just over the net.
Portland had its own chances, too, albeit only one on goal. Diego Valeri’s straight-on shot from the middle of the box in the 23rd minute was saved by Stefan Frei, his only save of the half.
Seattle’s offense came together in the second half, especially with Martins returning from a hamstring injury.
“I thought it was a pretty even game in the first half,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. “I thought in the second half we were able to step up the tempo a little bit.”
Osvaldo Alonso had two shots in the first half, leading the Sounders, but also a yellow card after his tackle of Portland captain Will Johnson. Alonso already sat out the Sounders’ game against Vancouver last week because of caution accumulation. Yellow cards were also issued to Portland’s Jack Jewsbury and Valeri, both in the second half of the rivalry match.