Blustery conditions surrounding Toyota Park did not stop Seattle Sounders FC from extinguishing the Chicago Fire, 2-1 Saturday evening.
Goals from new Sounders striker Eddie Johnson and a Fire own goal which came off a David Estrada shot, were enough to give Seattle (4-1-1) their hardest-fought three points so far into the young season.
The big news throughout the match for Seattle was the return of their right-sided starting partnership of Adam Johansson and Mauro Rosales. Although no goals were created directly through the right side, both players showed that they have barely missed a beat after sitting out the last four games. Johansson went the full 90 for the rave green, where Rosales was replaced in the 60th minute by converted left back, Marc Burch.
The opening 15 minutes were sloppy for both sides, and saw Chicago hold most of the possession and scoring opportunities. The speedy forward duo of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko exposed holes in the Sounders back four, but the wall of Johansson, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Leo Gonzalez kept the Chicago attack from scoring during the run of play.
The first scoring chance of the match for either side came in the 14th minute as Oduro was able to sprint by a flat-footed Gonzalez and skip a low cross to the foot of Daniel Paladini whose shot from 10 yards out was bravely blocked by the left side of Seattle Midfielder Ozzie Alonso’s face.
Just nine minutes later, Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning was called on for his first action of the match punching away a free header from Chicago’s Pavel Pardo.
The sides continued to battle back and forward for the remainder of the first half, with scoring chances from Seattle’s Fredy Montero and Parke falling to the wayside.
The Sounders were not done attacking the Fire net though.
On the stroke of the 39th minute, Johnson ran on to a ball deep in the Chicago box and fed it back to an unmarked Estrada. After hesitating for a quick second, Estrada let a shot/cross rip from the left side of the box which then deflected off the knee of Chicago’s Arne Friedrich and past a flailing Sean Johnson for the first goal of the match.
Going into half, the Sounders lead 1-0.
Seattle then had the first real opportunity in the second 45, as Eddie Johnson gathered a loose ball from 30 yards out, held possession with precision touches and then found a streaking Burch down the left side whose cross was semi-flicked on by Montero back to Johnson who careened the ball off the woodwork.
Eddie Johnson would not stay goalless as a Sounder for long though.
As the clock showed 67 minutes, Montero struck a swirling free kick from around 32 yards out into the body of Sean Johnson who could only watch the ball bounce off his chest to the outstretched leg of Hurtado who got just enough on the ball to cushion it to Eddie who knocked the ball into the open net from three yards away giving Seattle the 2-0 lead.
The next 20 minutes were filled with midfield battles and slight Chicago chances, but as they have done all season, the Seattle back line lead by Gspurning in goal kept the Fire from scoring.
Unfortunately Seattle wouldn’t keep the clean sheet on the night as the Fire ignited in the 89th minute.
In one of rarest sights soccer fans will ever see, the hellacious winds in the park did just enough to send a Marco Pappa in-swinging corner kick into the back of Gspurning’s net. The “olympico” goal trimmed the Seattle advantage in half, but the rave green were able to hold off Chicago for the 2-1 victory and all three points.
The Sounders now return home for two matches this week, as they face the LA Galaxy Wednesday and the Philadelphia Union Saturday.
Seattle has earned 13 points in six games and sits in fourth place in the Western Conference with two games in hand against conference leader San Jose.