Three Seattle Sounders came off the bench and changed the game Saturday, all contributing to the three second-half goals that produced a 3-0 win over FC Dallas.
Brad Evans began the game on the bench after flying home from Germany, where he played with the U.S. national team. On the bench with him was Obafemi Martins, who had undergone nose surgery last week. Also there was veteran defender Leo Gonzalez, who has spent most of this season on the bench after losing his starting spot to third-year man Dylan Remick.
Yet in roles of 45 minutes or less, Martins contributed a goal and an assist, Evans assisted on the game-changing first goal, and Gonzalez nailed the game-capping goal in stoppage time.
“It was basically a game of two halves,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought in the first half (Dallas was) the much better side. We gave them way too much space in midfield to play, and as a result they caused a lot of danger to us. … In the second half we were much better. We got tighter to people. We created more turnovers. As a result we moved the ball quicker … and we ended up with three goals.”
The first goal followed a steal by Evans, who had subbed on at the start of the second half, replacing Gonzalo Pineda, who hyperextended a knee.
Ten minutes later, Evans fought for a steal and touched a ball on to Lamar Neagle, who fired it in from 23 yards.
“Certain moments in certain games, they swing — and that was one of them,” Evans said. “… Come out and make a statement with a good hard tackle, and kind of set the tone. So even if Lamar doesn’t score that, we keep pressing, keep pressing, and maybe the guys get a little energy. But luckily just a fantastic finish, and things changed from there.”
Martins came on in the 61st minute, and 12 minutes later he muscled for possession in front of the Dallas net and turned and fired in his seventh goal of the season, matching Clint Dempsey for the team lead.
Gonzalez came on in the 89th minute, and two minutes into stoppage time knocked in his first goal since June 5, 2010, at New England. When the final whistle blew a few seconds later, Gonzalez — a Sounder since their 2009 expansion season — was swarmed by his teammates.
“I’m so happy because this was my first goal, and we can finish the game with three goals,” Gonzalez said. “… It was funny because it was my first touch, you know? I told the referee he didn’t finish the game until I touched the ball. My first goal was 2009. Now it’s 2015. So long. But I’m happy with that.”
The result returned Seattle (9-4-2) to the top of the Major League Soccer standings, one point ahead of D.C. United. In the Western Conference, the Sounders moved three points ahead of Vancouver with a game in hand. Dallas (6-5-4) failed to win for the fifth straight match.
Both teams started altered lineups due to a combination of injuries and international duties.
The absences also opened the gates for the first MLS start by Thomás, the Brazilian midfielder signed last month and who made his MLS debut last week in a 10-minute reserve role. He played 60 minutes Saturday before being replaced by Martins.
“I believe I played well,” Thomás said, translated from the Portuguese. “It’s just the first game. There’s a lot to do and to adapt. But for my first game, I believe I played well.”
Next, the Sounders turn their attention to a U.S. Open Cup match at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against Portland. The fourth-round match will be played at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
The Sounders will return to MLS play next Saturday when San Jose visits CenturyLink.