SEATTLE — Obafemi Martins scored his 11th goal of the season in the opening minutes, Clint Dempsey connected off a counter attack in the 77th minute and Seattle beat Toronto FC 2-1 on Saturday night, a crucial victory for the Sounders' playoff hopes.
Martins and Dempsey played together in an MLS game for the first time since May 31 and showed they remain one the more dynamic duos in the league. The pair instigated both goals, Dempsey feeding Martins for the first goal and Dempsey pouncing on a loose ball at the end of Martins long run to put Seattle (13-13-2) in front late.
Eriq Zavaleta scored in the 59th minute for Toronto (11-11-4), but its offensive attack struggled to create consistent pressure with Sebastian Giovinco out with an adductor injury and Jozy Altidore playing for the U.S. on international duty.
The Sounders have 41 points and jumped ahead of both Sporting KC and Portland — at least temporarily — in the Western Conference playoff chase.
Seattle played without coach Sigi Schmid, who missed the game due to an undisclosed health issue. He's expected to rejoin the club next week, but was just the fifth match Schmid has missed in his long coaching career.
A combination of injuries, suspensions and national team duty kept Martins and Dempsey from being on the field at the same time for more than three months. During that stretch, Seattle tumbled from the top of the Western Conference to a spot where its playoff status is far from certain.
The pair was back on the same page quickly. Dempsey chipped the Toronto defence and Martins was barely onside, beating Toronto goalkeeper Chris Konopka with a left-footed shot in the sixth minute. After lax defending allowed Zavaleta an open header to pull even, Dempsey and Martins teamed up once more.
Dempsey sent Martins on a run behind the Toronto defence. Konopka came out to try and slide into Martins' feet and take the ball. Konopka couldn't keep possession and it bounced to Dempsey with an open net in front of him. It was his eight goal of the season.
Dempsey subbed off late, while Toronto's Michael Bradley played the entire game. Both are supposed to join the U.S. for its exhibition against Brazil on Tuesday.
Tim Booth, The Associated Press