SEATTLE – Not long ago, the Seattle Sounders found themselves needing to pick up as many points as possible just to get back into playoff positioning.
Very quickly, the Sounders made up the ground and find themselves as the points leaders in Major League Soccer.
“We’ve kept climbing, kept climbing and now we’re in first place. Now we’ve got to make sure we stay there and enjoy the view a little bit,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said.
Obafemi Martins scored just three minutes into the match to give Seattle an early lead, Lamar Neagle added a second goal in the 38th minute, and the Sounders took over the MLS points lead with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Friday night.
The Sounders (15-8-4) vaulted past Salt Lake in the Western Conference standings and sit atop the entire league with 49 points after their fifth straight victory. The Sounders are one-point ahead of RSL (14-9-6) and four ahead of the Eastern Conference trio of Montreal, New York and Sporting Kansas City with about six weeks remaining in the regular season – and have played two fewer games than RSL.
“It’s tremendous, especially with what we’ve had to go through to get here,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said.
Seattle earned just two points from its first five games.
Neagle scored in his third straight match and Seattle dominated the first half with U.S. national team stars Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey sitting on the bench as reserves.
Friday’s game was played before 55,107, the second-largest home crowd this season.
Both teams were at nearly full strength following World Cup qualifying. Midfielder Kyle Beckerman and Rimando started for Salt Lake, even with Beckerman playing 90 minutes against Mexico on Tuesday. Seattle chose to bring Dempsey and Johnson off the bench after the pair played extensive minutes against both Costa Rica and Mexico.
Dempsey came on in the 61st minute. Within 90 seconds of being on the field, Dempsey was chopped down by Ned Grabavoy, drawing a yellow card for the reckless tackle. Johnson came on in the 75th minute.
“It’s obviously a very scary situation. We’re down two goals, and he brings on Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey,” Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said.