Sounders FC showed Saturday that it has world-class talent to spare.
With a trio of starters away with the U.S. national team, Seattle got a goal to remember from star forward Obafemi Martins en route to a comfortable 1-0 win against short-handed San Jose in front of 49,746 at CenturyLink Field, the largest crowd in MLS this season.
The Sounders remained in first place at 8-3-1, the team’s best record through 12 games. Four straight wins at home is tied for the second longest streak in team history.
The visiting Earthquakes, who fell to 2-4-4, only suited up 16 players with nearly half of their roster unavailable due to injury, suspension and international call-ups, but coach Sigi Schmid didn’t think that took anything away from the win.
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“Always people make the assumption that, ‘Oh, they’re missing these guys so it’s going to be easier game,’ ” he said. “It never is an easier game.”
Any upset hopes for the visitors took a hit early.
Seattle opened the scoring in the eighth minute with a potential MLS Goal of the Year candidate from Martins, who leads the league with six assists. He said during the week that he would focus on being more of a scorer than a playmaker with Clint Dempsey away for the World Cup, and Martins held to his word.
The play started when Gonzalo Pineda lofted a pass into the penalty box from the left flank. Martins, with a defender on his back, then hit an unforgettable left-footed volley from an impossibly tight angle that looped gently over goalkeeper Jon Busch and into the goal off the inside of the post.
“The guile he has to get a touch on it and get it over Busch, it’s an athletic ability,” Schmid said. “You can’t teach that. … It’s definitely as good a goal as has been scored here.”
Teammates were raving, as well.
“I don’t know a lot of other people in the league who can pull that off,” said Chad Marshall.
“We’re lucky that he’s with us,” added defender Jalil Anibaba.
“That’s the kind of player Oba is: world class, great quality and not afraid to try something like that,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Martins was coy when asked if the shot might have potentially been a cross. He noted in the locker room afterward that he hadn’t seen a replay of the goal but was looking forward to it.
“Can’t wait,” he said with a smile.
Martins has factored into a scoring play in nine of his last 11 games.
The goal would be the only one the Sounders needed as they earned their first shutout since Week 3 — an especially satisfying feat coming off a franchise-worst 5-0 loss Sunday in New England.
Frei, in fact, didn’t have to make a save until the closing moments of the game, a low free-kick in stoppage time from Khari Stephenson that was easily handled. The Earthquakes, without the team’s top three forwards, had their first seven shots either go off target or blocked.
“We wanted to come back and make a statement,” Frei said, “and we really take pride in the clean sheet. … Fortunately we’ve been scoring a lot of goals this season, but today we only needed one, which was great.”
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