By Don Ruiz The News Tribune Staff writer
Four times this season, Seattle Sounders FC has conceded the first goal and then rallied back for points.
The latest comeback played out Saturday at rainy CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders fell behind the Philadelphia Union in the 13th minute before surging to a 2-1 win behind second-half goals from Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall.
“I’d love a two-nothing or a three-nothing,” Marshall said. “But we’ve made it interesting for the fans, and I’m glad we got three points.”
While the Sounders have come from behind before, they threw in a few new wrinkles this time. Among them: Brad Evans returned to the starting lineup after recovering from a calf injury, and surrendered the Sounders first own goal since 2011. Then Evans came back to assist Seattle’s equalizer. Then midfielder Osvaldo Alonso missed what would have been a tying penalty kick – a kick he was selected to take in honor of a couple of family occasions. And then finally, Marshall headed in the game-winner, his first goal as a Sounder.
“We made it a little bit hard for ourselves,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “… (But) I’m proud of our team, our character, our willingness to fight back again.”
Philadelphia (1-4-5) took its lead as a free kick from about 35 yards sailed into heavy traffic in front of the Seattle goal and skimmed off of Evans and into the goal.
“I was marking (Maurice) Adu, and he didn’t really even go up for the header,” Evans said. “He was standing offside, so I checked my run and got in behind him and it just skipped off my head. It’s the first time I ever had one of those. But it definitely feels better helping the team tie the game.”
That equalizer came in the 61st minute, when Evans fought for a high ball in the box and nodded it down to Martins, who scored from 6 yards out. Martins has four goals on the season and his third straight game with a goal.
“It’s a difficult when you’re losing to come up again to win the game,” Martins said. “That’s not the way we want it, but at the end we won.”
The game-winner came in the 84th minute, when Marshall got his head on a Marco Pappa corner kick and knocked it into the net.
“I felt like we’ve been close all season to getting one,” Marshall said. “… He served in a good ball, I made a good run and was able to put it on frame. Felt good.”
Seattle had had other solid chances. In the seventh minute, Lamar Neagle banged a shot off of the crossbar. And in the 40th minute, the Sounders were awarded a penalty kick after a Philadelphia hand ball in the box. Alonso knocked the kick low and to the right corner, but Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath nudged it off frame.
Afterward it was explained that Alonso was allowed to take the kick for personal reasons: His wife is pregnant with their third child, and his daughter’s birthday is Sunday.
“He wanted to take it for his family, and that was it,” Evans said. “So we said, ‘You know what? If we get a PK you’re going to take it.’ We all stuck by him, and we all gutted out the victory together.”
Seattle (6-2-1) remained atop Major League Soccer by winning for the fourth straight time and extending its unbeaten streak to five games.
However, the result ended a league-high streak of six straight games in which Clint Dempsey figured in the scoring.
“Sometimes people get all hung up on goals and assists, and that’s the key whether or not he has a good game or not,” Schmid said. “… Clint is certainly very involved in our offensive attack. Even if there are no goals and assists he is still playing a very important role on our team.”
The Sounders return to action at 7 p.m. Wednesday, when FC Dallas visits CenturyLink.