Obafemi Martins helps Sounders clip San Jose

Staff writerMay 18, 2014 

Seattle Sounders FC forward Obafemi Martins, left, and San Jose Earthquakes defender Shaun Francis battle for the ball during the second half. Martins has five goals, six assists on the season.

JOE NICHOLSON/USA TODAY SPORTS

Around the middle of last week, forward Obafemi Martins acknowledged that he might have to take on more goal-scoring responsibility for Seattle Sounders FC.

On Saturday, he came through quickly and spectacularly, chipping in a tight-angled goal that carried the Sounders (8-3-1) to a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes (2-4-4) at CenturyLink Field and kept his teammates buzzing long afterward.

“That was beautiful, huh? I couldn’t believe it,” Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “It’s one of those you just throw your hands up and think about it and look in awe.”

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid called it “definitely as good a goal as has been scored here.”

The score came in the eighth minute, after Gonzalo Pineda lifted a pass that Martins received about 5 yards from the end line and outside the near post. There he one-touched it with his left foot over goalkeeper Jon Busch and into the side netting of the far post.

“You tip your cap to him,” Busch said. “That’s a big-time finish from that angle. The only place you expect him to put it is at the near post. That’s the only angle he’s got, and he finds the back post ... there’s nothing you can do. Doesn’t matter who you are or where you play: That’s a good goal.”

Earthquakes coach Mark Watson also raised the possibility that Martins might have been a little lucky, perhaps having what was intended as a cross simply land in the goal.

When asked, Martins didn’t clarify much.

“I just want to score,” he said. “It went in, so I’m glad.”

It was Martins’ fifth goal on the season, and he also has six assists.

Earlier in the week, Martins said he might need to add to his scoring now that club goals-leader Clint Dempsey, midfielder Brad Evans and defender DeAndre Yedlin are away with the United States national team.

Schmid adjusted his lineup by moving Kenny Cooper up front alongside Martins at forward. He also reworked three-fourths of the back line that had given up five goals the previous weekend at New England, keeping Chad Marshall in the middle surrounded by Leo Gonzalez, Jalil Anibaba and Zach Scott, who wore the captain’s armband.

“They like to play long balls, they like to have big target players — so we thought Zach Scott into the lineup today was a good choice because he’s one of our better players in the air, along with Chad Marshall,” Schmid said. “Leo was healthy to come back.”

The changes were even more extensive for the Earthquakes, who were without Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson due to international duty, Victor Bernardez and Shea Salinas due to disciplinary suspension, and Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart due to injury. San Jose’s 11 starters had a combined season total of one goal (former Sounder Cordell Cato) and no assists.

They did not add to that total Saturday, as the Sounders recorded their first clean sheet in nine games dating back to March.

“Especially after last week, it feels really nice to get a shutout in front of the home fans,” Marshall said. “We’re happy.”

The game was played before a crowd of 49,746, the largest in Major League Soccer this season and ninth largest in Sounders history. The Sounders moved their record to 9-0-3 when playing before home crowds at CenturyLink Field of 40,000 or more.

“You can definitely sense it’s a little bit louder for sure when we step out onto the field,” Schmid said. “There was a great energy at the very beginning of the game.”

The result kept Seattle atop the MLS standings. The Sounders also ran their home winning streak to four games, the longest in the league this season.

The Sounders return to action at 4 p.m. Saturday when they visit the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808
don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com
blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
@donruiztnt

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