A rare one-game week allowed Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid to let all of his rested stars on the roster shine on Saturday.
And they did, leading Seattle to a 2-0 win over Cascadia Cup rival Vancouver before a crowd of 55,710 at CenturyLink Field.
The goals came from Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero, their 11th and eighth of the season, respectively. Mauro Rosales notched his 10th assist. Michael Gspurning got his eighth win in his 11th Major League Soccer start, and it was his fifth shutout.
“I always get a special joy when there’s a Montero goal and a Johnson goal,” Schmid said. “I think it substantiates what we’re trying to do with those two guys. And when you start adding it up now, they’re starting to get to a place where they’re probably one of the best three-four combinations in the league in terms of goal production.”
The first goal came from Montero in the 64th minute, less than three minutes after he had checked in.
Rosales sent a free kick into the penalty area, where Jeff Parke chested it down to Montero. The forward nudged the ball into position and sent it back to the far side, past Vancouver keeper Joe Cannon.
Schmid said Montero would have been in the starting lineup except for missing the Friday training session while excused for a family matter.
“It wasn’t a punishment or anything,” Schmid said. “He just missed a practice and we wanted to make sure that his mind was clear when he went into the game – which he was. We’re not going to turn him into Super Sub or the 12th-man of the year or anything like that – even though he does well when he comes off the bench. As we’ve always said, goal-scorers are streaky a little bit.”
Montero’s streak has now reached three consecutive MLS games with a goal.
In the 87th minute, Johnson settled the issue by tapping in a pass from Brad Evans as it rolled across the open goal mouth.
“The easy ones are the hard ones sometimes,” Johnson said. “It can go wide, it can go over the goal, you mis-hit it. I made that run and I was committed to the whole play. All credit to Brad (Evans): I just had to get on the end of it.”
Johnson and Montero, with a combined 19 goals, are tied for the No. 4 scoring tandem in MLS, behind San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart (25), New York’s Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry (24) and Los Angeles’ Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan (20). They are even with D.C. United’s Chris Pontius and Maicon Santos.
“For a forward it’s all about rhythm,” Johnson said. “The more that we can get touches and the more we can play with each other and (grow) in understanding on the field, it was just a matter of time. … The second part of the year (Montero) always finishes strong. It’s good. The more we can get different guys scoring, the team’s going to be better off.”
The outcome gives Seattle an 11-6-7 record and moves the Sounders past the Whitecaps (10-9-7) in the Western Conference standings.
The Sounders also moved to 1-1-1 halfway through this season’s Cascadia Cup competition. Portland is 1-0-1 and Vancouver 0-1-2.
The win helped the Sounders ease the pain of a difficult 1-2 punch last week when they lost the U.S. Open Cup on penalty kicks and a league match at San Jose in stoppage time.
“We showed today a big character in front of our crowd again,” Gspurning said. “We didn’t start well today to be honest. But after 30 minutes we took more and more control of the game. We knew that we had to keep pushing and we would score. And if we keep the zero behind them, and we score one, and then for sure we win.”
Aside from a reserve game today, the Sounders will take three days off from training before returning Wednesday. Their next match is Saturday at Chivas USA.
There aren’t many star-studded games in the MLS Reserve League, but one today might qualify.
Steve Zakuani will be in the starting lineup, and newly acquired midfielder Mario Martinez is expected to debut in a rave green uniform when the Sounders FC reserves meet the Los Angeles Galaxy at 1 p.m. at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
Zakuani went 90 minutes in the last reserve match, his first complete game since he suffered right leg injuries April 22, 2011, in Colorado.
Martinez, who played for the Honduras national team at the London Olympics, joined the Sounders on Friday. He has the No. 15 jersey.
“Definitely, Steve will start in the reserve game,” Schmid said. “And we’re going to give Mario some minutes as well. … He’s excited, and we’re excited to see him play. … He’s physically good. He’s just come from the Olympics. We just want him to get acclimated. We didn’t want to throw him in too early.”
Admission is free, however there is a suggested $5 donation.
The Sounders reserves are 1-4-1 this season.
The crowd of 55,718 that watched the Sounders’ 2-0 win over Vancouver at CenturyLink Field was the second largest of the regular season, topped only by the 60,908 who attended the 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Aug. 5.
The club is expected to top 50,000 again on Oct. 7, when the Portland Timbers visit.