Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins reunited Saturday, playing together for the first time since June 16.
They picked up where they left off, contributing one goal each as the Seattle Sounders rallied for a 2-1 win over Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field.
“It feels good to help the team out,” Dempsey said. “It’s been frustrating for me to be out for as many weeks as I was. … We want to do great things.”
It took the forwards less than six minutes to connect as Dempsey lofted a pass above the Toronto defense, and Martins sped to it and finished. After the ball hit the back of the net, Martins ran to Dempsey and jumped into his arms.
After Toronto drew even on a header by Eriq Zavaleta, the pair combined again for the winner in the 77th minute. This time it was Dempsey finishing from in front of the goal after Toronto goalkeeper Chris Konopka had stopped a shot by Martins.
“We’ve kind of always had that pickup-style understanding with each other with our movements, knowing where we want the ball,” Dempsey said. “We’re able to play give-and-goes and just make stuff happen. It seems like something you can’t really teach: We just have it.”
The Sounders (13-13-2) played under assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, filling in for head coach Sigi Schmid, who missed the game due to what the club described as “a health-related issue.” The news release also said Schmid is expected to resume his regular duties this week, but that no other information was available.
“My very good boss over there, Mr. (Adrian) Hanauer, called me at 8 o’clock this morning as I was having my coffee and reading the newspaper and he gave me the heads up that I might be coaching tonight,” Schmetzer said after the match.
It was Schmid’s fourth game absence since the 2009 expansion season. Two of the previous misses were due to family weddings and one due to suspension.
Dempsey and Martins had last played together in the U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland. Martins was injured late in that game and missed nine league matches before returning Aug. 16 against Orlando. Over a largely coinciding stretch, Dempsey missed games due to suspension, injury and duty with the United States national team.
Without their top two goal scorers, the Sounders fell from the top of the MLS standings to their ongoing struggle for playoff position. The club expressed hope that their return will mark another turning point.
“There was no doubt we was very good the way we started the season,” defender Tyrone Mears said. “Then we got very comfortable at the top of the league. Then we got hit by injuries and a little bit of loss of form as well. But certainly now with the short amount of games left … we’ve got a strong squad.”
Seattle’s three designated players were united for the first time in the 61st minute, when Nelson Valdez substituted on for Lamar Neagle at left wing.
The Sounders played without midfielder Marco Pappa and central defender Roman Torres, who are away on international duty.
And Dempsey has been named to join the U.S. national team again for its Tuesday friendly with Brazil in Massachusetts. Schmid had said he would speak with coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the wisdom of having Dempsey play two games in four days on separate coast so soon after an injury.
Dempsey said he expected to discuss the matter with Klinsmann by phone later Saturday.
Toronto (11-11-4) played without MVP candidate Sebastian Giovinco (adductor) and forward Jozy Altidore (U.S. national team).
Seattle returns to action Saturday at San Jose, which fell three points behind the Sounders with a 2-1 home loss to Philadelphia. Torres and Pappa are expected back, but midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will be serving a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808