FC Dallas was the better team in the first half, but Seattle came roaring back.

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At halftime, if you’d have told most of the 41,108 spectators in CenturyLink Field on Saturday night the margin of the final score, they’d have looked as pleasantly surprised as Leo Gonzalez did as he wheeled away to celebrate the Sounders’ third goal.

FC Dallas was the better team in the opening 45 minutes, with Fabian Castillo’s shot off the right post the closest either team came to scoring.

Seattle’s trio of substitutions, though, changed the game. And Lamar Neagle and Obafemi Martins had already given the Sounders a comfortable cushion by the time Gonzalez charged into the box in stoppage time.

Gonzalez has struggled for minutes this year, having lost his starting left-back spot to Dylan Remick. He hadn’t scored an MLS goal since June 6, 2010, and he’d only entered the game minutes earlier.

But he took his chance like a striker, firing past Dallas ’keeper Dan Kennedy to cap the Sounders’ 3-0 win that returned Seattle to first place in the Major League Soccer standings.

“It was funny because it was my first touch,” Gonzalez said. “I told the referee, ‘We can’t finish the game until I touch the ball.’ It was funny and I was happy because I don’t usually score. It had been so long.”

In a sense, Gonzalez had an impact on Saturday night’s game long before he entered it as an 89th-minute substitute. Both Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and Remick himself have credited the veteran for mentoring the player who took his job. Remick played perhaps his most complete game of the season on Saturday, both defending Castillo one-on-one and adding width into the attack.

“Dylan has played so good so far,” Gonzalez said. “All the games he’s played, he’s played amazing. You have to be patient. We are the best defense in MLS right now. All the guys are doing a good job. We have a competitive team, and all the players who have played so far have done a good job.”

Neagle, too, praised the value of in-house competition following the win even if he, too, has occasionally been squeezed out and left on the bench because of it.

Saturday night displayed the full spectrum of Neagle’s game — the reasons why he can’t seem to lock up a starting spot but also why he keeps getting chances to do so.

“He was like the team,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “The first half wasn’t as good, the second half was much better.”

In a flashback to the second leg of last year’s Western Conference semifinal, Dallas’ game plan was fairly straightforward in the first half: Get the ball to Castillo on the right wing and let him go to work. Early on, it worked, as Dallas outshot Seattle 6-2 in the first half.

“We gave them way too much in the midfield to play, and as a result, they created a lot of problems, a lot of danger for us,” Schmid said. “A lot of guys could pick up their heads, pick up Castillo making runs. We were just way too loose.”

Schmid made an unorthodox halftime sub, pulling Gonzalo Pineda for Brad Evans — even though his captain has almost exclusively played as a defender this season. The move paid off 10 minutes into the second half, when Evans’ tackle deep in Dallas’ half pushed the ball toward Neagle’s feet.

At one point in the second half, Neagle ended a lengthy spell of possession by jogging the ball out of bounds under very little pressure from the Dallas defense.

His 55th-minute strike, though, was well-taken, a curling blast from outside of the box that looped past Dallas ’keeper Dan Kennedy and into the net.

Martins doubled the lead with a nifty turn and near-post finish in the 73rd minute. Neagle and Gonzalez combined on the team’s third, the midfielder dragging a low pass back for the onrushing defender-turned-forward.

Gonzalez smashed the ball through an overwhelmed defense and sprinted toward the corner flag with a look of a bewilderment and joy.