Sounders pick up scoring pace

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comMay 20, 2013 

After losing a two-goal lead Saturday, Seattle Sounders FC just went out and built another, turning that into a two-goal victory over the top-ranked team in Major League Soccer.

Goals are suddenly plentiful for a club that was held to two goals in its first five MLS matches (0-3-2, two points).

However, the Sounders scored and won their final April match (1-0 over Colorado Rapids) and have erupted for 11 goals in four games so far in May — including a club-record-tying eight over their past two matches.

The most recent outburst came in a 4-2 home victory against FC Dallas on Saturday, when the Sounders also set a club record with 11 on-target shots.

Ten of Seattle’s 14 league goals have come from three players: Eddie Johnson (four), Obafemi Martins (three) and Lamar Neagle (three). That trio combined for all four goals Saturday, with Johnson providing two.

“With the emergence of Lamar right now, with Eddie playing as he’s playing right now, with Obafemi coming in — that’s three goals in three games for him — we’re a handful up front,” coach Sigi Schmid said after Saturday’s match. “If you’re center backs and you lose sight of our forwards for a second, they’re going to be running behind you. That’s what we expected when we signed Obafemi.”

Martins was signed one game into the season as the club’s third designated player. And while international duty and injuries have limited his minutes on the pitch, he’s made the most of that time: His average of 1.32 goals per 90 minutes is tops among MLS regulars.

“When I first came I said I wanted to score a lot of goals, and it’s happening now,” Martins said. “I hope it continues to be like this.”

The production of Martins and Johnson was expected when the front office was assembling this roster. Both are forwards with experience on their national teams and with club teams in Europe. Last season, Martins had seven goals for Levante in 21 La Liga matches, while Johnson led the Sounders with a club-record 14 goals, sixth most in MLS.

Meanwhile, Neagle has exceeded most expectations in his third season as an MLS regular. Given a chance at playing time because of injuries and international duties among the projected starters, Neagle seems to have earned a spot on Schmid’s first-choice lineup, whether at forward or dropping back to midfield when Johnson and Martins are available.

“He’s done well everywhere we’ve put him,” Schmid said. “… He’s played on the flank for us before, that’s where he’s done it, but he’s done well for us up front. As the season goes on, we know there’s time we’re going to miss Eddie (to duty with the U.S. national team), so he’s definitely a major alternative for us up front.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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