I imagine Obafemi Martins, tablet between outstretched arms, preparing for each match while barricaded between his Beats. Swiping at pictures of the day’s opponent — a slide show of tendencies the coaches prepared — he begins to become impatient before a hand falls flat on the screen.
“Hey,” Clint Dempsey says, looking down at a partner buried against the back of his locker. “You don’t need any of this.
“Last 10 minutes, we’re just gonna outplay them. That’s all you need to know about MLS.”
It worked two weeks ago against Portland, where two late Dempsey goals took a point out of Providence Park. It also worked in Frisco, where Dempsey’s late goal gave Dallas its first loss. And tonight in Carson, against a 10-man Chivas USA, it worked again, with Martins’ late chip over an onrushing Dan Kennedy giving Seattle a 2-1 win.
The teams had traded first half goals, with mistakes by Osvaldo Alonso and Kennedy gifting each side a goal. But for nearly an hour after Lamar Neagle pulled back Erick Torres’s opener, the teams looked on track for a draw. Chivas USA, out-fouling Seattle 26-7, frustrated its high-powered guests, leaving Seattle with only two shots on target. Even after Marco Delgado’s 73rd minute red card, Wilmer Cabrera’s team looked capable of preserving a draw.
Then came that 80th minute, when Dempsey and Martins added to a growing feeling the duo may be unstoppable. With his back to goal 30 yards out, Martins played a one-touch pass to a nearby Dempsey, who began carrying the ball toward the Chivas penalty area. As he moved toward goal, his partner made a run through the defense, eventually creating a foot race with Bobby Burling. As three Chivas players collapsed on Dempsey, “Deuce” let go of a pass, releasing “Oba” on goal. Having pulled away from Burling, Martins beat Kennedy to a ball in the middle of the area, chipping the Chivas keeper for the game-winning goal.
It was Seattle’s best chance of the might, producing the only goal that wasn’t gifted, but as they’ve done throughout the month, Martins and Dempsey showed the game’s opening 80 minutes may only matter so much. When the duo turns it on (which, over the last three weeks, has been the game’s closing moments), MLS has yet to show they can be stopped.
With one leading the league in goals (Dempsey, six), the other in assists (Martins, four), Seattle’s getting a return on its considerable investment. That striker tandem the team’s paying $8.4 million-per-year? It’s produced the most dangerous attack in Major League Soccer.