The Seattle Sounders not only moved to the top of the table in Major League Soccer on Friday, but they showed off several of the pieces that got them there.
Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle added to their team-leading goals totals, goalkeeper Michael Gspurning recorded his 10th shutout, and U.S. national team members Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson made late appearances off the bench.
The 2-0 result moved Seattle (15-8-4) ahead of Real Salt Lake (14-9-6) and every other team in the league. And as the game wound down, the CenturyLink Field crowd of 55,107 chanted “Who’s in first place.”
The Sounders jumped ahead in the third minute, when Andy Rose slipped a pass in front of the RSL goal and Martins ran on and finished in a single touch.
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Seattle kept the pressure on with more good chances in the opening minutes before RSL began getting into the flow.
However, in the 38th minute, Seattle doubled its lead on a counter as DeAndre Yedlin was allowed a free run down the right side, once he got into the penalty area he sent the ball to the middle, where Neagle ran on and knocked it home.
The second half played out scorelessly, but the season’s second-largest crowd cheered the appearances of Dempsey in the 61st minute and Johnson in the 75th.
That crowd raised Seattle’s season average to 43,180, moving just ahead of their 2012 MLS-record average of 43,144 with three home games remaining, including one more with the full stadium open.
The Sounders continue play in the upper reaches of the Western Conference next weekend when they visit the third-place Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Sounders and RSL reserve teams meet at noon Saturday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
75': Eddie Johnson on for Mauro Rosales. Osvaldo Alonso takes captain's armband.
61' Clint Dempsey on for Marc Burch.
Second half:... is under way. No changes.
Halftime: Sounders 2, RSL 0.
Shots 6-3 SEA; on goal 4-1 SEA; corners 1-0 SEA; duels won 60.4% SEA; possession 51.1 RSL
38' GOAL Sounders. RSL gives Yedlin acres of space down the right side. Carries into box and crosses to Neagle who finishes. Seattle, 2-0. Neagle matches Martins for team lead with eight.
First 30 minutes: Sounders were just swarming early and got a couple of very good chances after the goal. RSL working its way back into the game since.
3' GOAL Seattle. Andy Rose sends a pass back in front of RSL goal, Obafemi Martins runs through and knocks it in. Sounders, 1-0. Oba moves into team lead with eight goals.
First kick: Has been struck. The battle for first place is under way. Sounders in rave/blue; RSL in red/red.
Lineups: For Sounders: Gspurning; Yedlin, Scott, Hurtado, Gonzalez; Rosales (C), Alonso, Rose, Burch; Martins, Neagle. Bench: Hahnemann,Traore, Caskey, Dempsey, Estrada, Ianni, Johnson.
For RSL: Rimando: Beltran, Salcedo, Borchers, Wigert; Grabavoy, Beckerman, Morales, Gil; Findley, Plata. Reserves: Attinella, Sandoval, Alvarez, Garcia, Grossman, Palmer, Stephenson.
Pregame: It's a cloudy evening at CenturyLink Field a couple of hours before first kick of tonight's battle for first place: Sounders-RSL.
First kick is expected at 7:23 p.m., with NBCSN coverage beginning at 7. Game will be heard on usual radio outlets. We'll also blog it here, with additional updates/comments on Twitter @donruiztnt.I'll be back with lineups or other news as it happens.