The big concern about D.C. United's temporary life without offensive nucleus Fabian Espindola was what the team would do for firepower. While United had some chances, the answer lived up to most of the presumptions as the Seattle Sounders scored a first-half goal that a vaunted defense made sure stood en route to a 1-0 win in front of 16,922 at RFK Stadium.
The first half started as other post-World Cup MLS games have in that they were somewhat sluggish. At least Seattle's midweek, 120-minute US Open Cup match against the San Jose Earthquakes was their excuse. Both teams eventually found their footing, with the best early chance being a ball from Lewis Neal that Luis Silva dummied nicely. Eddie Johnson (facing his old team for the first time) shanked his shot opportunity, though it fortunately went straight to Chris Rolfe, who hit the far post in the 24th minute. However, business picked up in the 39th minute, as a ball from Gonzalo Pineda was headed by Chad Barrett, who beat both Bobby Boswell and an out of position Bill Hamid for the lead.
The second half saw the entrance of Jared Jeffrey for Neal, but in a match where they possessed the ball for essentially two thirds of the match, their passing accuracy, while a robust 87%, was only 72% in the final third further illustrated Espindola's absence. And while the Sounders missed Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin to World Cup duty, along with Obafemi Martins to a red card suspension, they still had Chad Marshall and Jalil Anibaba to control any notable problems United's offense presented. Separate chances late by Johnson and rookie Steven Birnbaum were saved by Stefan Frei and headed just wide, respectively.
"I thought it was a good night and it's just a tough game sometimes when the final product isn't good enough on the night," Ben Olsen said. "Have we relied to heavily on (Espindola)? Yeah, but we'll be OK, we'll score goals." On the surprise absence of defender Cristian Fernandez, Olsen said it was due to "personal reasons."
"Anytime we play at home we play to win and to lose in my opinion is a bit unacceptable," Boswell said. "We kinda know that, that's why you see a lot of guys changing quickly, they're pissed off and we should be."
"I probably should have had one or two tonight, I'm a little disappointed by that," Birnbaum said. "I got in good spots and there was great delivery tonight, hopefully I can get my head on the next one."
D.C. (7-5-4) does retain first place in the East, though they share in with Sporting Kansas City. They go to Toronto next Saturday. With the win, Seattle moves to 11-3-2, ten points clear of D.C., SKC and Real Salt Lake (pending the latter's game as of this writing), and play a match with Cascadia rivals Vancouver next Saturday.