WASHINGTON — Seattle Sounders FC picked up where it left off, returning from Major League Soccer’s World Cup break Saturday with a 1-0 win at D.C. United.
The result extended the Sounders’ unbeaten streak to five games – the first four of those before the three-week break in their regular-season schedule. Seattle improved to a league-leading 11-3-2 overall and 5-1-2 on the road.
The Sounders have won nine of their past 11 games.
Eastern Conference co-leader D.C. fell to 7-5-4 and suffered its first loss at RFK Stadium since March 8.
“I thought our performance was one of those where we bent a little bit, but we didn’t break,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought our defense held together well. We got a great goal from Chad Barrett – a great header. We’re pleased with the end result, and I think our defending was solid.”
The lone goal came in the 39th minute, with Barrett heading in a cross from Gonzalo Pineda. That stood up through the efforts of goalkeeper Stefan Frei and a Seattle defense that has held United scoreless for the past 398 minutes of the series.
Barrett had been just wide with another header in the 27th minute. Three minutes before that, United’s Chris Rolfe almost opened the scoring, but his shot bounced away off the post.
But for the most part, dangerous chances were rare. United outshot Seattle, 14-3, but the Sounders put three on goal to D.C.’s two.
Both teams played with weakened lineups. Seattle was without Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin because of World Cup duty with the U.S. team and Obafemi Martins because of red-card suspension. United was without goals/assists leader Fabian Espindola and former Seattle defender Jeff Parke because of injury.
Schmid started Barrett and Kenny Cooper at forward, and he moved Jalil Anibaba and Brad Evans to the back line.
“I feel like I’m doing something productive for the team,” Barrett said. “That’s pretty much all I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to replace Clint. I was just trying to fill a void. Sigi gave me the opportunity, and I’ve had some great service, and teammates have really helped out along the way. I’m happy to put the goals in for them.”
In the second half, Schmid sent in reserves Micheal Azira, Aaron Kovar and David Estrada, who made his season debut.
It was the MLS debut for Kovar, a homegrown player who starred at Seattle’s Garfield High School. He also played with the Sounders Academy, the Pierce County-based Sounders U-23 and Stanford.
“That’s who deserves the credit: our back line today,” Barrett told JOEtv. “ … They did a great job, the back line, all of them. Stefan made some great saves. All the guys who came in – Azira, Kovar and Estrada – all did great jobs.”
The Sounders’ depth will continue to be tested Saturday at Vancouver. Midfielders Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso will be lost because of yellow-card accumulation. Pineda was shown his card in the 87th minute Saturday for time-wasting. Alonso’s came in the 20th minute for a hard tackle on former Seattle teammate Eddie Johnson.
In his first appearance against the team that traded him away during the offseason, Johnson fired three shots, putting one on goal. That one came in the 89th minute, with Frei diving to push the would-be equalizing shot off frame.
“I thought that was Eddie’s best game,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “I thought it was a good night, and it’s a tough game sometimes when a final product isn’t good enough on the night and they sneak a goal.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt