Tyrone Mears' offseason signing was greeted with virtually no fanfare. But that hasn't stopped him from establishing himself as the best right back in MLS.
And just in case his breakout status needed a breakout moment, he got it on Friday. Facing Supporters' Shield-leading D.C. United, and looking all the world like they were going to be forced to settle for a scoreless tie despite playing most of the match up a man, Mears delivered an absolutely beautiful goal to give the Sounders a well-deserved 1-0 win. The goal was Mears' first since Nov. 27, 2010 and, more importantly, allowed the Sounders to snap their three-game losing streak.
Mears' goal came in the 88th minute after United failed to clear a Dylan Remick cross. The fell to the feet of Mears, who calmly stepped up and hit it first time through two United defenders and into the upper 90 of the far post.
Until then, the Sounders had been struggling to do much with their 70-30 possession advantage. Although they out shot United 16-10, they put just five shots on frame and were struggling to get good looks. Fabian Espindola had been shown a straight red card for swinging his elbow at Zach Scott in the 27th minute, and United seemed perfectly happy to give the Sounders possession.
Mears' thunderbolt made all of that irrelevant. No, it wasn't any kind of masterclass performance, but give the Sounders credit for finding a way to win despite missing Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Brad Evans and Marco Pappa. They are now even on points with the Vancouver Whitecaps at the top of the Western Conference and three points behind United in the Shield race with two games in hand.
- Osvaldo Alonso made his return. That alone is worth being happy about. Alonso didn't quite look like his vintage self, but after missing five league games, that's hardly surprising. He did, however, provide some good cover and had some moments that reminded you why the Sounders rely so much upon "El Corazon."
- Stefan Frei was forced to leave the match shortly before halftime after a collision with Steven Birnbaum left his left arm effectively useless. Frei was able to remain in the match for about 20 minutes, but his arm was in a sling after halftime and it remains unclear how long he'll be out. Troy Perkins replaced Frei and aside one shaky clearance looked fine, albeit with little to do.
- Chad Barrett started up top all by himself and didn't exactly turn in the kind of performance that should make anyone enthusiastic about the next month. He did put Lamar Neagle in for a good look on goal, but struggled to really do much either as a hold-up option or a scoring threat. His best chance was on a header that he couldn't put on frame. One way or another, the Sounders need someone to step up as a viable scoring and holdup threat at forward while Martins and Dempsey are out.