Let's just take a second and appreciate how far the Seattle Sounders have come. Back in April, this team was 0-3-2 and off to a start that seemed absolutely disastrous. I don't know if panic was entirely setting in, but you could feel the tension.
Fast forward to where they stand now after the 2-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday: two points shy of Supporters' Shield leading Real Salt Lake. Dating back to that start, the Sounders have gone 14-5-2 for a points per game of 2.10. More recently, they've won four straight and 7 of 8. They aren't just the hottest team in MLS, they might well be the best.
As for this game, they showed a lot of what has gotten them to this point. Despite missing several key pieces, falling behind early and missing a potentially equalizing penalty, the Sounders fought their way back and picked the win. Sure, the actual game-winner was on an own-goal, but it came from them forcing the action. The Sounders were the better team in this game, and while they were absolutely fortunate in the manner it went down, it's hardly unfair to say they "deserved" to win.
A big part of that was, once again, the play of Lamar Neagle. The Federal Way native now has seven goals, tied for the team lead along with Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins. He probably could have had one or two more and really should have had an assist, as well.
It should also be said that Marc Burch had another solid performance as a left midfielder. Burch picked up an assist in his second straight game, this time getting one from the run of play with his RIGHT foot. Burch will almost certainly go to the bench now, but he's a great tool to have in the arsenal.
What will be interesting is how the Sounders use all these pieces once they are all healthy. The amount of attacking talent available is almost daunting. Of course, this is a great problem to have, especially ahead of one of the biggest regular-season matches in team history.
SEA - Lamar Neagle (Marc Burch) 40'
SEA - Own Goal (Gonzalo Segares) 89'
Seattle Sounders FC - Michael Gspurning, DeAndre Yedlin, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Djimi Traore, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales (David Estrada 80), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Marc Burch (Zach Scott 82), Lamar Neagle, Obafemi Martins.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Martins, Neagle 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Alonso, Martins 2); FOULS: 15 (Neagle 4); OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 5 (Burch 3); SAVES: 2 (Gspurning 2).
Chicago Fire - Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare, Gonzalo Segares, Alex, Logan Pause, Jeff Larentowicz, Dilly Duka (Patrick Nyarko 67), Mike Magee (Juan Luis Anangono 46), Chris Rolfe (Daniel Paladini 84).
Substitutes Not Used: Paolo Tornaghi, Quincy Amarikwa, Hunter Jumper, Wells Thompson.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Duka, Rolfe 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Rolfe 2); FOULS: 12 (Segares 4); OFFSIDE: 1 (Anangono 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Magee 3); SAVES: 4 (Johnson 4).
CHI - Bakary Soumare (caution) 29'
CHI - Dilly Duka (caution) 42'
SEA - Mauro Rosales (caution) 49'
SEA - Leo Gonzalez (caution) 70'
CHI - Daniel Paladini (caution) 87'
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: Kermit Quisenberry, Mike Rottersman
4th Official: Edvin Jurisevic
Time of Game: 1:52
Weather: Partly cloudy and 70 degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial
* Sounders FC extended its club record home unbeaten streak to 12 games (9-0-3), matching the San Jose Earthquakes for the longest home unbeaten streak this season.
* Seattle has won its past four outings and has seven wins in the past eight games.
* Sounders FC is unbeaten in eight all-time meetings (5-0-3) with the Chicago Fire in MLS.
* The match marked the third game in eight days for Sounders FC, going 3-0-0. It marked the fifth time in 11 all-time attempts that Seattle went unbeaten in a stretch of three games in eight days, and the third time they have come away with three wins.
* After beginning the season 0-7-0 when conceding first, Sounders FC has gone 2-1-1 in the past four games when allowing the first goal.
* Lamar Neagle and Marc Burch connected for a goal in the second straight game. Burch also assisted on Neagle's game-winner against Chivas USA on September 4.
* Lamar Neagle scored his career-high seventh goal of the season, matching Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins for the team-lead. Neagle has scored in back-to-back games for the second time this season and his 12 career goals for Sounders FC ranks sixth in club history.
* Marc Burch matched his career-high with his third assist of the season, with all three assists in his past four games. Burch recorded assists in back-to-back games for the second time in his eight-year career and first time since 2007. He now has 16 career assists in regular-season play.
* The goal ended Seattle's shutout streak at 311 minutes, which is the sixth-longest shutout streak in MLS this season. The streak was the team's longest of the season and fifth-longest in club history.
* The missed penalty kick marked Seattle's first unsuccessful attempt since Mauro Rosales put his shot wide left in a 2-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on September 10, 2011. Seattle has converted its past five attempts in league play. The miss was Osvaldo Alonso's first missed penalty kick in MLS after converting his previous attempt in 2011. Alonso has converted four of six penalty attempts across all competitions for Sounders FC.
* Andy Rose made his sixth start of the MLS season and first start since a 2-0 home win against D.C. United on July 3, 2013.
* Lamar Neagle has made the most consecutive starts (11) for Sounders FC, dating back to July 6.
* It was the third own-goal received of the season for Seattle. The last two-tonight and August 10 at Toronto-were game-winning goals for Sounders FC.
* Leo Gonzalez now has four yellow cards and is one caution from receiving an automatic one-game suspension for accumulation. Gonzalez has three games remaining to receive the good behavior incentive. Djimi Traore also has four yellow cards but can no longer use the good behavior incentive.
* Sounders FC hosted its 82nd consecutive sellout with 38,503 in attendance.
Sigi Schmid - Sounders FC Head Coach
(On the game...) "Obviously we're happy to win the game. I thought in the first half we created a number of chances, missing a PK, Oba [Martins] had a really good look, and I think it was a little disappointing we weren't up at halftime, so it was one of those games. In the second half, it became more of a midfield battle, per se. We didn't create as many clear chances, but we kept playing awake, kept battling away. Zach [Scott] makes a great run at the end, puts a ball into a dangerous position. We always talk about hitting those balls low across the box behind the defenders and you'll never know what happens-it goes in off the defender, it goes in off one of our guys, who knows? Obviously that's what he did and we got the 2-1 victory, so we're very pleased."
(On subbing Zach Scott on late...) "I thought [Marc] Burch was running out of gas a little bit, so we wanted to push Leo [Gonzalez] up the line. He still looked fresh to me, it looked like he could get in behind. Zach can play left fullback, he can play help us there on some of the set pieces, but when they took [Mike] Magee out they brought in the [Juan Luis Anangono], so it was a good matchup for him defensively on set pieces. So it was really two things that it helped us with."
(On Chicago scoring after a number of Seattle chances...) "Invariably in our sport that seems to happen when you negate a few chances or you don't take advantage of the chances you get. Usually right after you have a good chance they come down and score. That happened to us a little bit in the first half. I thought Oba was really energetic and bright in that first half. He got behind them-you look at the first 10 minutes of the game and he was goal-dangerous three-four times. Obviously when he gets back into rhythm with training he'll feel a little more comfortable with some of those things."
(On Obafemi Martins getting a number of opportunities early...) "It helps our team anytime anybody is able to get opportunities-whether it's him or Lamar [Neagle] or whomever. I thought the team felt good about how they played. They were disappointed to be down 1-0 at the time, and then we finally got the equalizer and then we had the penalty, so we thought we were going to go up for sure at that point, but everybody sometimes discounts penalties because sometimes you make them and sometimes you miss them. It was just one of those things. What I like is our character. We kept plugging away, we kept battling, and we fought to the end of the game."
(On the possession play of his team...) "We didn't do a good job of holding on to the ball and connecting passes early in the second half. It also seemed like when we played balls into our front runners they were being handled physically and that was allowed to go on. I think that created some turnovers, where in the first half we were getting some of those calls. That allows [Martins] to put possession into their end of the field. Once we settled a little bit in maybe the last 15-20 minutes of the game, I think we did a better job of holding on to the ball and that created more chances for us."
(On Martins' injury progress leading up to the game...) "He made it through yesterday today. He felt alright this morning, so we felt it was going to be pretty good. I checked with him and he felt fitness-wise, as well, he felt okay. I think he tired a little probably 70th or 75th minute in, but he's still dangerous and the other team is still worried about him, so that's why we left him on. He came through two days of practice well."
(On Lamar Neagle...) "He's certainly been a consistent goal-scorer for us when he's had the opportunities up front and you can't take that away from him. He gives you a lot of hard work, a lot of effort, and sometimes, as with everyone, we want a little more at times. But he's there, he's around the box, he's looking to pounce on things that fall free. The thing about him too is he can hit a ball left or right footed, so that's a good thing to have, as well."
(On the depth of the team...) "It's fantastic. Obviously different people stepped up. Andy Rose hasn't started in a long time, he came through tonight. He played really well, helped us as well in the air, helped us defensively. We rotated center backs a little bit, so our depth there-being able to stay fresh-I think helped us also. Getting Oba [Martins] back onto the team was another fresh set of legs, so I think the depth of our team has been good and guys have been called upon have stepped up and played."
(On Chicago's goal...) "I thought we did all right. I thought the goal was against the run of play. It was a really touch-and-go play whether he was offside or not. It looked like he slipped in. The time of his run was good and he obviously he finished it well. You're not going to shut everyone out down the line, but what's really encouraging and has been nice is our ability to go down and come back. Obviously it's a big stat that when we score first we continue on to win, but I think now in our last four games we're 2-1-1 when we go down. It's good to be able to come back and win those games or ties those games up. So tonight was really pleasing from that point."
(On Gspurning allowing the goal...) "I thought he did all right [...] It was a really touchy go play, whether he was offside or not it looked like he slipped in. His run was good, obviously he finished it well. You're not going to shut everyone out down the line, but what was really encouraging and nice is our ability and get it back."
(On the rhythm of the team...)"I think we're in a much different place [in terms] of confidence, much different place in the standings, and much different place as far as our cohesion as a team. We got some guys returning, so who makes sense changing it up and certainly next Friday for our fans is going to be an absolutely massive game [...] It's really when you look at it right now, a game for first place. At this point we're only two points behind them, so it's a massive game next week from that standpoint, a massive game from the standpoint of the standings, and hopefully we can do what did against Portland. Let's fill it up because it's a game you don't want to miss."
(On USMNT players returning...) "We'll get Johnson and Dempsey back. We'll see how many minutes they get on Tuesday against Mexico, what type of game it is, how physical it is, et cetera. They're going to be flying across country on Wednesday, so we got to measure all of that as well. Certainly figuring that and maybe, keeping our fingers crossed, there's an outside chance Brad (Evans) might get back on the field."
(On playing Salt Lake at home...) "We always like playing at home, so playing home is certainly an important part for us. We have won in Salt Lake. We won in Salt Lake last year in the playoffs. We won there once in their undefeated home streak as well, so we know we can win there. The two times we've played there this year we haven't played there up to our standards, so we're going to be playing with our standards."
(On the challenge Salt Lake brings...) "If you don't look forward to these kind of games, why are we doing all of this? These are the games that you want. Somebody told me once when I left college coaching [...] 'Sigi, if you haven't accepted the challenges that life brings with it, then life isn't worth living.' This game on Friday is one of those challenges and that's what makes the difference. That's what gets the blood going and it's exciting and makes things happen. It's such a massive game for our fans to come out and see. This is what you live for; this is why you do sports. This is why we try to strive to do well, so you get opportunities like this."
Lamar Neagle - Sounders FC Forward
(On his goal...) "We had a good cross from the right side. The goalie came out and got a touch to it. Then I saw Burch wrapping back around and just stayed in the mix of things. As soon as I saw him touch it, I darted in front of the defender and just barely got a touch to it."
(On how the game went...) "We had a lot more chances that we definitely should have finished, me and Oba [Obafemi Martins], but we all came out."
(On Chicago Fire being a physical team...) "I think we kind of knew that it was going to be a battle from the start. We were ready for a fight and we always are and we will never back down from anybody. So if the game gets a little bit chippy, that's fine with us."
(On pulling off the win in the end...) "Yeah I think that we are confident enough to know that we are going to get a lot of chances. Like I said before, we definitely should have finished a couple of more and made it a more comfortable of a game from the start. But you know, we had confidence from the start, we've been having good service for the last, who knows how many games. So, we knew that it was going to keep coming as long as we were going to keep getting balls in the box, we were pretty confident that we were going to get one."
Michael Gspurning - Sounders FC Goalkeeper
(On five straight wins at home...) "We had the chances in the beginning of the game, we missed the chances, then Chicago made it 1-0. It was tougher than it should have been, but Chicago is a good team and they would have deserved it to be 1-1. But after all we made the second goal and took the win. It's great for us."
(On Chicago's goal...) "It was awkward. The ball comes from one side to the other. The ball bounces all over place to the other side and then we were open to this side and Magee was cool and clever and didn't let me in on his chance to score."
(On being ready for the next game...) "Absolutely, it's not too quick. It's good to have a normal schedule this week because everyone is tired. We pedaled through it mentally, and that's a good feeling. You're ready in your mind and that's always a good sign."
(On getting into a rhythm as a team...) "There's always room to grow. The best is when you have the best performance in the end, so we will see."
Marc Burch - Sounders FC Midfielder
(On another home victory...) "We're coming in with good energy. I thought we had great energy at the beginning of the game, but we missed a few chances and kind of let down for a while. But when you're playing in front of this crowd, it's pretty easy to get pumped up for it."
(On his assist...) "I made a run into the box in case (Johnson) missed the punch and he got a piece of it, I saw that he was down and out of the box a little bit. I looked over my shoulder and saw Neagle waiting for it, so I just tried to get it back into him."
(On continuing to improve overall record...) "Absolutely, this is where we want to be. We're missing our two best players and we just won three in a row in seven days. It's good, we're in a good spot, but we can't stop now. We got a big one next week-it's a chance to take first place, not just in the Western Conference, but in the entire league."
Obafemi Martins - Sounders FC Forward
(On being prepared for the game...) "It was very difficult for me because I didn't train for three weeks. But it's all good. I just want to play on the team as usual and I'm glad that we won today."
(On being frustrated on having a couple of chances to score early...) "I wasn't expecting anything anyway because I wasn't ready. I wasn't ready at all. But it's all good. I have to continue to work for the next game."
(On being prepared to play 90 minutes...) "I wasn't expecting to play 90 minutes at all because I wasn't playing that good. But I'm all good now. I have to start doing well and do everything that they say."
Frank Klopas - Chicago Fire Head Coach
(On the outcome of the game...) "I felt the team played well - played really well - and definitely deserved to walk away with points from here but that's not how it goes sometimes, so we have to regroup. I think [we can] learn from some little things that we could do better and just regroup fast because we have to move on to the next game in Toronto. There's a lot of games coming up and we just have to move on."
(On the own goal...) "It happens.You're running behind sometimes, the ball comes [...] those things happen. I just felt, I think, that the team put a lot into the game. We had some very good moments, created chances, and it's a little disappointing right now not to walk away with points, but that's how it is. We have to regroup and like I said just get ready for the next game now."
(On why Mike Magee didn't play in the second half...) "He had a groin situation, you know. With the amount of games coming up, and being on turf this game and stuff [...] He tweaked it a little [...] It could have been worse. He came out, hopefully we got it in time and hopefully he'll be ready forWednesday."
(On his game plan for the second half...) "Obviously we talked about that in transition and just trying to be positive. We wanted the ball back, looked to play forward, even after dribble, look to go at them right away. We wanted to make sure we switched the point of attack always because they're pretty compact and they over-rotate and spaces would be out wide. And when it wasn't on, just making sure that we were good with the ball, just keeping it and making sure that the guys were moving off the ball and giving options for the guy with it. So, basically that's it. Being on the road, and in a place like this, it's never easy. I thought they played well. You feel for the group because they put a lot into the game but I think it's going to make us better for the next one. We just have to move on and be ready for Wednesday now."
(On the goal scored by Mike Magee in the first half...) "The whole combo, the play was fantastic. Dilly [Duka] coming inside, playing the through ball. We had some very good moments where we were able to combine and play. I think when we started the game and we played to feet and we had good movement off the ball, we were very dangerous. And we scored a great goal."
(On why he subbed Daniel Paladini in for Chris Rolfe late in the game...) "I just think Chris ran hard and we needed some fresh legs at that point. Danny coming in, I think provided that, because I just felt we needed some fresh legs late in the game, with seven minutes left."
(On Lamar Neagle's goal and whether it was a mistake for Chicago...) "I think with that, anything that comes in the box [...] I think the position was good. I think it's more from the baseline. I think you have to be aware of where the ball is, both references and see the movement of the players. Sometimes the ball just pops right there, the guy was in a good position and he scored. It's going to happen, you know?"
(On whether he's frustrated by his team's tendency to give up late goals...) "It comes down to little things, details. I think if we score the second goal, it's different. Maybe we walk away. We had the chances, we didn't. I feel like sometimes things will happen in a game like that."
Sean Johnson - Chicago Fire Goalkeeper
(On the game...) "I thought it was hard fought. I thought we played actually a really good game. I was proud of the guys, we really battled. I thought over the course of 90 minutes-Seattle's not an easy place to play-we made it difficult for them. I think they were fortunate to come away with a victory at the end. I think we deserved at least a point out of that game. It's a bit unfortunate for us given the way that we played on the night but it's just one of those things. We have to regroup and refocus and get ready for Toronto on Wednesday. It's going to be a short week for us so the good thing is we get back on the training pitch and we have another game in a few days and we're able to get back to it."
(On the penalty...) "I was just trying to make a play and save it. It's just one of those things where you get in there and you try to react and make a good decision. I think you can do one of two things-you can make your mind up or try to read and react and I just did the best I could to save a PK."
(On the own goal...) "It just happened in the course of the game."