By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
WASHINGTON — The Seattle Sounders picked up where they left off, returning from Major League Soccer’s World Cup break on Saturday with a 1-0 victory, beating D.C. United on the road.
The result extended the Sounders’ unbeaten streak to five games — the first four of those came leading up to the three-week break in their regular-season schedule. The victory moved Seattle’s record to a league-leading 11-3-2 and 5-1-2 on the road. The Sounders have won nine of their past 11 games.
Eastern Conference co-leader D.C. fell to 7-5-4 and suffered its first loss at RFK Stadium since March 8.
“I thought our performance was one of those where we bent a little bit but we didn’t break,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought our defense held together well. We got a great goal from Chad Barrett, a great header. We’re pleased with the end result, and I think our defending was solid.”
The lone goal came in the 39th minute, with Barrett heading in a cross from Gonzalo Pineda. That stood up through the efforts of goalkeeper Stefan Frei and a Seattle defense that has held United scoreless for the past 398 minutes of the series.
Barrett had been just wide with another header, in the 27th minute. And three minutes before that, United’s Chris Rolfe almost opened the scoring, but his shot bounced away off the post.
But for the most part, dangerous chances were rare. United outshot Seattle, 14-3, but the Sounders put three on goal to D.C.’s two.
Both teams played with weakened lineups. Seattle was without Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin due to international duty and Obafemi Martins due to red-card suspension. United was without goals/assists leader Fabian Espindola and former Seattle defender Jeff Parke due to injury.
Schmid started Barrett and Kenny Cooper at forward, and moved Jalil Anibaba and Brad Evans to the back line.
“I feel like I’m doing something productive for the team,” Barrett said. “That’s pretty much all I was trying to do. I wasn’t trying to replace Clint, I was just trying to fill a void. Sigi gave me the opportunity and I’ve had some great service and teammates have really helped out along the way. I’m happy to put the goals in for them.”
In the second half, Schmid sent in reserves Micheal Azira, Aaron Kovar and David Estrada. It marked the season debut for Estrada, and the MLS debut for Kovar, a homegrown player from Seattle and Garfield High School who also played in the Sounders Academy and with Pierce County-based Sounders U-23 and Stanford.
“That’s who deserves the credit, our back line today,” Barrett told JOEtv. “… They did a great job — the back line, all of them. Stefan made some great saves. All the guys who came in — Azira, Kovar and Estrada — all did great jobs.”
The Sounders’ depth will continue to be tested when they return to MLS play Saturday at Vancouver because midfielders Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso will be lost due to yellow-card accumulation. Pineda was shown his card in the 87th minute Saturday, for time-wasting. Alonso’s came in the 20th minute for a hard tackle on former Seattle teammate Eddie Johnson.
In his first appearance against the team that traded him away during the offseason, Johnson fired three shots, putting one on goal. That one came in the 89th minute, with Frei diving to push the would-be equalizing shot off frame.
“I thought that was Eddie’s best game,” United coach Ben Olsen said. “I thought it was a good night and it’s a tough game sometimes when a final product isn’t good enough on the night and they sneak a goal.”