Clint Dempsey returned to Major League Soccer on Sunday and picked up right where he left off, scoring the first goal as Seattle Sounders FC defeated the Portland Timbers, 2-0, before a crowd of 64,207 at CenturyLink Field.
Dempsey and defender DeAndre Yedlin had been out of MLS action since May 11 when they left for World Cup duty.
Yedlin returned Wednesday to help the Sounders to a 3-1 win over Portland in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals, and Dempsey followed Sunday to provide the margin of victory in the rematch.
Neither team managed much offense early, but things picked up considerably in the second half, especially when Obafemi Martins’ subbed on for Chad Barrett in the 51st minute.
Goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts kept the Timbers even until the 71st minute, when Dempsey struck. The sequence began with defended shots from Dempsey and a follow by Martins. Finally, Gonzalo Pineda steered the ball back to Dempsey, and this time he finished from about 6 yards.
The goal moved Dempsey alone into the team lead with nine.
Seattle (12-4-2) extended its lead atop MLS, while the Timbers (4-6-9) suffered another blow to their playoff hopes.
The Sounders also gained ground in the Cascadia Cup race, where Vancouver (2-0-1) leads with seven points, followed by Seattle (1-1-2) with five, and Portland (0-1-1) with one.
Seattle also moved its all-time record to 10-0-3 in MLS when playing before crowds of 40,000 or more.
Even with the return of Dempsey and Yedlin from international duty and Martins from hamstring injury, the Sounders were missing key players.
Midfielder/defender Brad Evans wasn’t in uniform due to what the club called a sore knee. Left back Leo Gonzalez also was left off the game-day roster due to an undisclosed injury.
The Sounders return to action Saturday when Tottenham of the English Premier League visits for a friendly. Seattle’s next league match will be July 28, at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
86' GOAL Seattle. Marco Pappa this time. Finishing a break against a very spread and disjointed Timbers defense.
71' GOAL Seattle. Clint Dempsey shot starts a scramble around goal, which ends with Dempsey goal, assisted by Pineda. 1-0.
Through 60: Both offenses picked up considerably from first half. Seattle has had several very good chances. Stills scoreless, however.
51: Oba Martins subs on for Chad Barrett.
47' Sounders best chance -- Pineda header on goal, Rickett's acrobatically knocks it away.
Second half: ... has begun. No changes for either side.
Halftime: Scoreless, and not really any great chances. Game got a little chippy through the middle portion of the half, but settled toward the end. Shots, 5-4 SEA, corners 2-0 SEA, fouls 10-8 SEA.
First 25: Timbers have increased possession recently, but no real chances from either side yet. Portland three shots to Sounders' two.
First 10: Scoreless. Seattle seeming a little more dangerous, but game still finding its way.
First kick: ...has been struck. We're under way. Sounders in rave/blue; Timbers in black with red trim.
Lineups: Sounders starters: Frei; D Yedlin, Marshall, Scott, Anibaba; M Neagle. Alonso, Pineda, Pappa; F Dempsey (c), Barrett. Reserves: Ford, Azira, Cooper, kovar, Martins, Remick, Weaver. Brad Evans is out with a previously unreported sore knee.
For Timbers: Ricketts, Harrington, O'Rourke, McKenzie, Villafaña, Jewsbury, Nagbe, Johnson ©, Valeri, Adi, Zakuani. Reserves: Weber, Paparatto, Ridgewell, Alhassan, Nanchoff, Wallace, Fernández.
Pregame: There's already been on good match today, and another looms tonight when the Sounders renew their MLS/Cascadia rivalry at fully open CenturyLink Field. First kick is scheduled now for 7:30 p.m. The game had been scheduled for 7 p.m., but the club now says it has been moved back half an hour, citing the World Cup going into extra time. The game will be shown on ESPN2 and heard on usual radio outlets. We'll also blog before, during and after the match, with more updates and comments on Twitter @donruiztnt.