Arrow-right Camera

Sounders ready for playoff push

The Seattle Sounders are getting healthier, and so is their position in the Major League Soccer standings.

The 1-0 win over Portland on Sunday drew the Sounders (11-8-4) into a tie for the fifth and final Western Conference playoff spot with 37 points. However, the Sounders have played from two to four fewer games than everyone above them. In terms of points per game, Seattle is second in the conference and third in the league.

“It’s the three points, it’s winning against our rival – those things are important,” coach Sigi Schmid said Sunday. “We still have games in hand on people, so we continue to gain. But it’s also just the team, the confidence; it’s the first time we had Clint (Dempsey) with Eddie (Johnson) up front.”

Just one key regular was unavailable Sunday, and Schmid held out hope that forward Obafemi Martins could return from his ankle injury in time for the Sounders’ match Saturday at Columbus.

“(Midfielder Lamar Neagle) played well on the left,” Schmid said. “So we are starting to see how it’s going to work and fit together when they are all on the field.”

Johnson scored the lone goal, assisted by midfielder Mauro Rosales. Meanwhile, Dempsey got the fans’ attention in other ways during his home debut.

“I know there were a couple ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhhs’ from the crowd on a couple of moves that he made,” Schmid said. “For him to know our guys and for our guys to know him, it’s going to take a few games. Sometimes I watch him in warm-ups or watch him in practice, and he does stuff that many people can’t do.”

One thing Dempsey hasn’t done yet is register a goal or assist over his first three games as MLS’s highest-paid player.