Clint Dempsey scores two goals, Obafemi Martins one as Sounders blank New England 3-0 at CenturyLink Field.
Clint Dempsey’s combinations with fellow forward Obafemi Martins took the 39,782 onlookers at CenturyLink Field on Sunday back to last season.
Barely three months passed from the time the Sounders trudged off the CenturyLink turf in disappointment at the end of last November and when they came back out of that tunnel Sunday for their 2015 opener against the New England Revolution.
With such little turnover this offseason – 10 of Seattle’s 11 regular starters from the end of last season return – 2014 has bled seamlessly into the optimistic glow of a new year.
Sounders’ record in their MLS season openers (all at home)
Winter had turned into an uncommonly early spring, but there Dempsey and Martins were once again, springing eternal behind the New England back line.
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“It’s right where we left off,” Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “Those two didn’t miss a beat.”
Dempsey’s interplay with his strike partner, the no-look passes and the instinctive runs, took the Sounders star back even further.
“It reminds me of being a kid, of playing pickup style,” Dempsey said. “(We) think alike, know that if you make the right move, he’s going to find you.
“He’s one of the players I’ve most enjoyed playing with in my career.”
The feeling was infectious on Sunday night, spreading from the forward line outward into the stands.
Dempsey opened his 2015 scoring tally just 25 minutes in with a move right out of the pickup games he referenced.
A corner kick bounced Dempsey’s way with his back toward goal, and he feinted a shot as a pair of New England defenders rushed toward him before spinning between them.
The amount of contact he actually drew from the Revolution players flanking him was questionable, but there was no doubting the skill required to split them in the first place. The whistle blew, referee Juan Guzman pointed to the penalty spot and Dempsey hammered the ball into the back of the net.
The opening 20 minutes had been evenly split between the two teams, but the goal sent the Revs rocking back onto their heels.
Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda pushed forward, encouraging his teammates to defend higher and higher up the field.
“He really sensed that, ‘Hey, we can push here a little bit and step on their throat a little bit,’” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s really important to us in those moments.”
The pressure paid off, when a turnover found its way to right back Tyrone Mears, who curled in a pinpoint cross toward the penalty spot.
Martins pounced, leaping to beat a defender to the ball, flicking it over goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth and into the net.
“He’s got the biggest quads and thighs on the team,” Schmid said. “He doesn’t play like a guy his size.”
Added Mears: “Yeah, he’s got a leap. He’s done it all through his career so I knew when that ball came in and Oba was jumping I knew it was going in.”
New England was playing without star midfielders Jermaine Jones and Lee Nguyen, and even though Seattle was missing its own linchpin in Osvaldo Alonso, the Revs were overrun.
“It could’ve even been more,” Neagle said.
The clincher – and the best team goal of the night – came with 23 minutes to go.
Midfielder Marco Pappa danced inward to the wing and released Martins behind the New England defense just as the forward darted in clear.
“That was a good pass,” Martins said. “He saw me as soon as he took the ball.”
Martins could’ve finished the move himself, but instead, he rolled the ball into Dempsey’s path for a tap-in – just like old times.
“Some of the things they pull off are unique and special,” Schmid said. “I think our fans are seeing something very unique and special when they see them play together.”