By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Over the seasons, the Seattle Sounders have made a habit of snuffing some long streaks by their opponents.
They did it again Saturday, handing Real Salt Lake its first loss of the season, 4-0, at CenturyLink Field.
“People have had streaks before, and that’s what we want to do,” midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “If somebody’s on a streak, obviously we don’t want them to extend it on us. You want to stop other people’s streaks and extend your own. “
Salt Lake came into the match as Major League Soccer’s only unbeaten team, and a win or draw Saturday would have set a league record of going 13 games into a season without a loss.
The Sounders stopped that — just as in 2009, they ended the Columbus Crew’s 22-match home unbeaten streak. In 2011, they did the same to RSL’s 29-match home unbeaten run. That same season they ended Sporting Kansas City’s club-record 14-game unbeaten streak while also ending their eight-game unbeaten opening to their new stadium.
“We talked about it before the game that we wanted to break the streak,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “(But) mainly we talked about No. 1 vs. No. 2. …We talked about creating some separation there.”
With the win, Seattle (9-3-2) extended its seven-week run at the top of the MLS standings, and opened a five-point margin over Salt Lake (6-1-6) in the Western Conference. Seattle also extended a streak of its own with its fifth consecutive home win, the longest such streak in MLS this season.
The clubs showed little indication of being the best in the league through most of a first half that included three shots and 23 fouls.
However, one of those fouls led the game’s first goal, as Neagle hustled after a loose ball in the penalty area before finally being knocked down by Aaron Maund, drawing a whistle from referee Ricardo Salazar.
Gonzalo Pineda nailed the penalty kick — hard, high and left — putting the Sounders up 1-0. It was his second goal as a Sounder, and his second penalty kick in as many matches.
Seattle doubled its lead in the 55th minute, when Marco Pappa sent a free kick curling over and around the RSL defensive wall and into the net for his first goal as a Sounder.
“When I shoot it I want to put it in the net for sure,” Pappa said. “Scoring my first goal, I felt a lot of confidence, which is a good thing. And I think it’s also because of Fridays before game we were train for free kicks.”
With the margin up to two goals, the game opened. Goals by Chad Barrett in the 62nd minute and Obafemi Martins in the 90th minute inflated it to Seattle’s largest margin of victory this season.
“I just told the guys to discount the third and fourth goals because we were pushing and we knew we were going to be exposed at the back,” Jeff Cassar said of his first loss as RSL’s coach. “… The PK and the free kick; then the rest was just breaks on counters. It’s a tough place to play, and we don’t have a full arsenal.”
Neither team was at full strength, as Seattle’s Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, and RSL’s Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando and Alvaro Saborio all were away on international duty.
The Sounders return to action at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Chicago for what will be their final league match before the three-week World Cup break.
Martin’ late goal was his sixth of the season, good for second on team behind Dempsey. … Neagle matched his career high with his fourth assist. … Kenny Cooper recorded his third assist of the season on Barrett’s goal. … The Sounders moved ahead of RSL, 7-6-5, in the all-time series across all competitions. … The Sounders meet LA Galaxy II in an MLS Reserve League match at 1 p.m. today at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.