Martins bags first goal, lifts Sounders FC to first MLS win
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – First came the goal. Then came the flip. Finally, and most important, came the win. Sounders FC got a first-half goal from forward Obafemi Martins – followed by his trademark back-flip celebration – and just barely held on Saturday to beat the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in front of 12,063 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
Seattle (1-3-2) had been the only team in MLS without a win. And while the Sounders are still off to a franchise-worst start and remain in last place in the Western Conference, the team will have momentum going into a bye week.
Victory, at last. So what were coach Sigi Schmid’s emotions when the final whistle blew? “Happiness. Relief. A little bit of both,” he said. “It’s just good to get it behind us, and now we can move on. We’ve got that off our backs.”
The Sounders have gone 26-0-7 since the end of 2010 when scoring the game’s first goal, the longest active unbeaten streak in MLS. They have also won seven in a row against Colorado.
But this win didn’t come easily as the Rapids (2-4-2) swarmed in search of an equalizer in the second half. Rookie midfielderDillon Powers ignited the hosts’ comeback efforts in the 57th minute, but missed just wide with a left-footed shot from the top of the penalty area. Three minutes later, a deflected header by forward Atiba Harris hit the cross bar, and then forward Danny Mwanga headed the rebound into the hands of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.
Colorado substitute Kamani Hill had an open chance off an 85th-minute cross, but slammed a volley off the post. Lastly, a header by defender Drew Moor forced a heart-stopping save by Gspurning in the closing moments.
Seattle midfielder Brad Evans, who had vowed he wouldn’t shave his beard until his team won an MLS game, said the Sounders were too cautious in protecting what was just their second lead of the season.
“It was in the backs of everyone’s minds that we really want to get this, so let’s not blow it,” said Evans, who celebrated his 28th birthday Saturday.
However ugly as it was in the end, Seattle has earned back-to-back shutouts after going without one in its first eight games of the year, including CONCACAF Champions League.
The Sounders scored in the 27th minute when Martins, making just his second MLS start, fired home a rebound past goalkeeper Clint Irwin. The play was set up when a blistering shot by midfielder Shalrie Joseph was saved in front of the goal.
Martins, who has been recovering from a knee injury, was pushed into the starting lineup late when forward Eddie Johnson didn’t travel because of a hamstring injury.
“He was a real trouper,” Schmid said of Martins. “He gave everything he had for as long as he could and obviously scored a great goal.”