TORONTO– The moment everyone was waiting for came early. Sounders FC’s superstar signee, Clint Dempsey, made his much-anticipated debut Saturday, getting a mix of boos and cheers from a BMO Field crowd of 18,766.
Eyes from around the league also got what they tuned in to see — the captain of the U.S. national team back on the field in MLS.
The moment that secured Seattle’s 2-1 road win against Toronto FC, however, came just seconds before the final whistle.
Sure, Marcus Hahnemann’s last-gasp stop on forward Jeremy Brockie won’t go down in the annals of club history, like Dempsey trotting onto the field in the 34th minute as a replacement for the injured Obafemi Martins, but the veteran goalkeeper’s stoppage-time save was huge in allowing the Sounders to stave off the hard-pressing hosts and secure three vital points.
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The play came when Toronto forward Jeremy Brockie sneaked behind the defense and beat an offside trap, but Hahnemann slid to deny the one-on-one chance. The ensuing corner kick was cleared away and Seattle (10-7-4) had won its third game in a row to make another massive leap in the Western Conference standings.
“Huge save,” said coach Sigi Schmid.
“We all thought it was offsides,” added Hahnemann. “That goes in and now you’re talking a different game. It’s a tie and everybody’s disappointed. Now we’re just disappointed we didn’t play very well.”
Toronto FC (4-11-8) heaped on the pressure after trailing 2-0 at halftime. The effort resulted in a goal by midfielder Jonathan Osorio right away in the 46th minute and the Reds stayed on the attack.
TFC nearly equalized in the 60th minute when forward Robert Earnshaw, who leads the team with six goals, slammed a shot off the post just moments after coming in off the bench.
Seattle nearly avoided putting in an own goal in the 66th minute and then Osorio had a near-miss in stoppage time right before Brockie’s chance.
“We (had to) hang on, but we did hang onto it, which was important,” said Schmid, whose team broke a three-game losing streak on the road.
Toronto FC had won its last two games, the team’s first winning streak since July 11-18, 2012.
“On a different night, maybe they leave this game with a point,” said forward Eddie Johnson, “but you know how this league — any team can beat any team on any given day. Sometime the ball doesn’t bounce for you; tonight it did for us. We’re delighted and we’ll take the three points on the road.”
The Sounders had opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Johnson redirected a pass from Brad Evans on front of goal, where Mauro Rosales patiently waited for the ball to drop before slamming it into the net.
The goal ended Seattle’s 342-minute scoreless drought on the road, which dated to June 1.
Rosales and Evans have had either a goal or assist in each of their past three games, and Evans matched a career-high with his fifth assist of the season.
The Sounders doubled the lead in the 40th minute when Lamar Neagle made a darting run down the left flank and crossed a ball that was deflected into the net by Toronto defender Doneil Henry, who was tightly marking Rosales.
Rosales nearly got a touch onto the pass for his second goal but joked: “I need bigger shoes.”
It was Hahnemann’s save later that kept the team in laughing spirits.
• Sounders FC plays continues a road-heavy stretch at Houston on Aug. 17.
• Johnson earned a yellow card in the first half for diving, and his accumulation of cautions means he must sit out against the Dynamo next weekend.
• The Sounders are on a 34-0-8 run when scoring the game’s first goal, the longest active unbeaten streak in the league and 9-0-2 this season. New York holds the record at 58 games.
• Seattle has won five straight against Toronto FC and leads the head-to-head series 6-1-1.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @joshuamayers.