This time, a defender was the hero.
A run of four consecutive victories for first-place Sounders FC has been mostly highlighted by star forwards Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, but on a rainy Saturday at CenturyLink Field, it was Chad Marshall who provided the late drama.
Marshall, a towering center back, slammed home a header off a corner kick in the 84th minute to give Seattle a thrilling 2-1 triumph over Philadelphia in front of 38,516 soaked spectators.
The Sounders (6-2-1) are unbeaten in five games, four of which involved coming from behind with time winding down, and coach Sigi Schmid said the team drew inspiration in this one from a stadium full of drenched fans cheering nonstop.
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“When it’s raining, and they’re still singing and chanting and jumping up and down, we deserve to keep working for them,” Schmid said.
Trailing 1-0 in the second half, the Sounders got the equalizer in the 61st minute when the speedy Martins was first to a ball headed into the penalty box by Brad Evans. Martins calmly finished the open chance for his fourth goal of the season, and third in as many games.
The hosts pressed vehemently for the go-ahead goal, and it came when Marshall was able to nod home a corner kick from second-half substitute Marco Pappa for his first goal of the year.
“I’ve been close a couple times this year, so it was nice to get one, especially at home and for it to be a game-winner,” said Marshall. “It was pretty sweet.”
Eight of the Sounders’ MLS-leading 20 goals this season have come in the 75th minute or later. Marshall has factored in a scoring play in three consecutive weeks, coming off back-to-back games with assists.
Of Marshall’s aerial prowess, Schmid said, “That’s one of the reasons we brought him here.”
Evans added: “He should be talked about more, because if he’s not the best defender, he’s probably one of the top two center backs.”
The first half was a series of unfortunate events for the Sounders, starting in the seventh minute when Lamar Neagle had a shot from the top of the penalty box — a clear chance set up by Dempsey — slam off the cross bar.
The miss was compounded in the 13th minute, when Union designated player Cristian Maidana swung in a free kick that last touched Evans into the net for an own goal.
The goal broke Philadelphia’s scoreless streak at 202 minutes, eighth longest in MLS this season. The Sounders have conceded a league-high five goals in the opening 15 minutes of games; the own goal was the team’s first since 2011.
Seattle pressed forward and had a great chance to equalize in the 40th minute, when a passing sequence between Dempsey and midfielder Gonzalo Pineda was stopped by a handball in the penalty box by Union defender Amobi Okugo for a penalty kick.
Dempsey, the league’s leading scorer, had converted the Sounders’ only other spot kick of the year, and while he initially grabbed the ball, he conceded the opportunity to midfielder Osvaldo Alonso. The team agreed to let Alonso take the shot because his daughter was celebrating her first birthday Saturday and because his wife is pregnant.
On the shot, Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath dived to his left and got his fingertips to the attempt, pushing the ball off the post to save his third PK in as many attempts this season.
The Sounders are 13 for 21 in penalty kicks in league games. Alonso has converted one of three tries, while guys like Brad Evans (7 for 7) and Dempsey (1 for 1) haven’t missed.
• Evans made his first start since Week 2, having completed his recovery from a nagging calf injury. He wore the captain’s armband in his return, a responsibility mainly held by Dempsey in his absence.
• Seattle defender Dylan Remick left in the second half with an undisclosed injury.
• Dempsey’s streak with either a goal or assist ended at eight games dating to last season.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.