After a seven-goal, two-assist month, Clint Dempsey was finally kept off the scoresheet on Saturday, a type of moral victory for Philadelphia. But just as they have in each of their last three games, the Sounders climbed the actual victory, with second half goals from Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall reversing Brad Evans’ 13th minute own goal, giving Seattle its sixth win of the season.
The Sounders, who didn’t claim their first lead until the 84th minute, finished the match having outshot their guests 6-1, a testament to the game state as well as the run of play. Up for 48 minutes after Evans’ inadvertent open, the Union tried 15 shots – two more than Seattle. Yet true to type, they were to generate quality chances, leaving Sounders’ goalkeeper Stefan Frei relatively untested.
Even the Union’s opener was more of a surprise than a true examination of Frei. On a 13th minute restart by Christian Maidana, a ball targeting Amobi Okugo went off Evans’ head and into goal, giving Philadelphia an unlikely lead.
The advantage allowed Philadelphia to keep the game from getting out of hand. Though the Union maintained their share of possession (particularly in the first half), Seattle was the only team threatening, with missed first half chances by Lamar Neagle (crossbar), Martins (stopped near goal), and Osvaldo Alonso (penalty) giving the impression Philadelphia might pull off the smash and grab.
It wasn’t meant to be. It took Seattle until the 61st minute to break through, but that break through always felt inevitable. When, in the 84th minute, Chad Marshall beat multiple defenders to a Marco Pappa corner, the ball carried a sense of justice into the back of net, with the Sounders’ 2-1 lead reflecting how the game had been played since Evans’ goal.
It was the third time this year that Seattle’s comeback to to get points, but unlike matches at Portland and FC Dallas, there was a sense of destiny in the result. The feeling was more like the Sounders’ earning full points at Chivas USA after conceding an early penalty than the emotion that accompanied Dempsey’s two late goals in Portland. Whereas there was genuine elation after pulling back the Timbers, there was a confident relief after Marshall beat the Union.
It’s a feeling that serves as a huge indictment of a Union team that had such a promising start. Instead of the deficit against feeling like a threat, the early goal became a Chivas USA-esque road bump.
As with Chicago and Portland, Philadelphia seems a tweak or two away from being dangerous. But they remain highly flawed, and unlike the Fire and Timbers, the Union are unquestionably trending in the wrong direction.