Monday, May 20, 2013
SEATTLE — Could this be the best offense in Sounders FC history?
The thought wouldn’t have seemed reasonable after Seattle scored just two goals in its first five games. But the team’s lethal finishers are getting healthier, and production is soaring.
The Sounders have recorded back-to-back four-goal games for the first time in franchise history — 4-2 against FC Dallas on Saturday and 4-0 against San Jose last week. The eight goals over consecutive games matched a team record.
Impressive, yes, but coach Sigi Schmid wouldn’t go so far to say this is the best Seattle attack just yet.
“It’s two games,” Schmid said, “and in these two games it has been the best.”
The Sounders’ production has come mainly from the attacking trio of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle. The three have combined for 10 of Seattle’s 14 league goals (12 of 18 overall, including the CONCACAF Champions League). They accounted for all four on Saturday.
“Our offense is clicking,” said Neagle. “We’ve got so much firepower, it’s hard to stop.”
The leading man the past two seasons has been Johnson, who will leave in a week to serve with the U.S. national team. He has 18 MLS goals for Seattle in 35 games with the latest two coming against Dallas.
Johnson’s 59 career goals are 24th most in league history, and with two more he’ll be tied for 22nd. He leads Seattle with four league goals this year.
“For the first couple games of the season, my body was beat up and it was frustrating,” he said of missing two games while recovering from a hamstring strain.
“It was just getting that rhythm and getting that confidence, and staying true to myself and believing in my teammates. In practice week-in and week-out, just working on what we need to and then putting it out on the field.”
Neagle might be the surprise of the group with three goals this season. The Federal Way native, in his third stint with the Sounders, doesn’t have international pedigree — either for his national team or top European leagues — like Johnson and Martins.
The production has been much the same, though, which could lead to some interesting personnel decisions with a full-strength roster.
“My hat’s off to Lamar Neagle,” Johnson said. “He’s pushed me, he’s pushed Oba, he’s pushed David (Estrada). ... He’s been stepping up.
“It’s good to see different guys scoring goals. We just want to continue pushing each other in training and it’s paying dividends.”
Martins is starting to showcase his unique ability, as well. The international star had a difficult few months since signing in March as a designated player, dealing with a recurring issue with a leg tendon.
Rest and treatment has the ailment under control, as seen in his recent back-flips — a world-renowned goal celebration. Martins has scored three times in his last three games and boasts a goals-per-90-minutes average of 1.32, top in the league among multigoal scorers.
“When I first came, I said I wanted to score a lot of goals, and it’s happening now,” he said. “I hope it continues to be like this, and the important thing is to win.”
A goal directly off a corner kick is known as an ‘olimpico,’ and the Sounders should know. They’ve allowed two in two years — one Saturday to Dallas midfielder Michel and another April 28, 2012, in Chicago by Marco Pappa.