Turning the calendar did nothing to slow Seattle forward Obafemi Martins, who scored two more goals Sunday and led Sounders FC to a 4-1 win over the Colorado Rapids.
Martins, who was named Major League Soccer’s player of the month in September, built on his single-goal club scoring record with his 16th and 17th goals of the season.
The result moved Seattle (19-9-3) back to the top of the MLS standings: even with Los Angeles in the points race, but ahead by two in wins — the first tie-breaker.
“We’ve been in first place for a while now,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We don’t want to give it up.”
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Clint Dempsey also extended his run of eight consecutive games with a goal or an assist. In this case, he recorded one of each, including the game’s first goal.
That came on a penalty kick in the 11th minute, after Chad Marshall headed a ball that struck the hand of Colorado’s Marvell Wynne.
Martins doubled the lead in the 28th minute, taking a pass from Marco Pappa behind the Colorado defense, then faking goalkeeper Clint Irwin out of the way and finishing.
Pappa and Dempsey combined to make it 3-0 in the 33rd minute. The play began with a Pappa pass to Dempsey, which he back-heeled back to Pappa. Pappa then used his own heel to touch the ball into position before lifting a little chip over the onrushing Irwin.
“It’s difficult when you’re traveling and you have an early kickoff, and you’re trying to get everybody ready and trying to shore things up in the back, and I think we did that today,” Dempsey told JoeTV. “Not only did we keep moving forward and creating chances and scored goals, but I think also the defense played well today and we only kept them to one.”
That one came just before halftime, when Deshorn Brown got to a ball the Seattle defense couldn’t quite clear and knocking it past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Martins settled the issue in the 70th minute, taking a pass from Lamar Neagle and finishing from close range.
“We scored our goals, we had some other chances along the way,” Schmid said. “I thought the last six seven minutes of the first half, we gave the game back to them a little bit. But then the second half I thought we were really professional about what we needed to do.”
Official attendance was listed as a 17,609 sellout. But there were plenty of empty seats at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park as the Rapids’ winless streak stretched to 11 games, eliminating Colorado (8-15-8) from playoff contention.
“You can’t deny human nature,” coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “These guys aren’t playing with the most confidence. How can you when you haven’t won a game in two months?”
The Sounders return to action at 7 p.m. Friday when the Vancouver Whitecaps visit CenturyLink Field, which will be open to its full capacity.
Beyond its importance in the MLS standings, that game also will determine the winner of the 2014 Cascadia Cup. Vancouver needs a win to retain the cup, while any other result would return it to Seattle.
After that, the Sounders end the regular season with back-to-back games against the Galaxy: Oct. 19 at LA and Oct. 25 in Seattle.
“It truly is going to be a battle until the end,” captain Brad Evans said. “Thinking about earlier in the season — we had a 10-point cushion — we knew that wasn’t going to be that easy. It’s never going to be that easy. So we came in today, put in a real workman-like performance and did what we needed to do.”