Seattle Sounders FC remain on course for their first Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield following a 1-0 success away to title-rivals DC United.
Chad Barrett converted from a Gonzalo Pineda’s cross in the first half, and the Sounders were able to hold on for their ninth win in their last 11 matches.
Heading into the weekend the team from the capital were the Rave Green’s nearest challengers at the top of the table, and so without World Cup star Clint Dempsey and the suspended Obafemi Martins this was expected to be a tough ask.
Only the visitors hold a better home record in 2014 than United, but Seattle’s road form is equally impressive and they managed to hold their own with ease in the opening stages.
Chris Rolfe and Luis Silva both tried their luck from range within the first four minutes, but it was Bill Hamid in the Black-and-Red goal that was the busier of the two goalkeepers.
The 23-year-old had to turn a looping Kenny Cooper header over the cross-bar, and then fumbled Barrett’s low shot behind after the Californian had profited on a Bobby Boswell error.
United almost nicked the opening goal though, as a wild swipe from ex-Sounder Eddie Johnson sat up nicely for Rolfe, who dispatched a lovely first-time effort that flew past Stefan Frei but bounced away off the upright.
While some teams have struggled in recent weeks with their key men away in Brazil, DC have benefited from a weakened division and managed to put a run of results together. They remain an unremarkable outfit, however, and they looked particularly nervy from a succession of Pineda set-pieces.
When the goal did come though, it was a deep cross from the Mexico international that was flicked beyond Hamid by Barrett, who had nodded wide ten minutes earlier. Oguchi Onyewu has been training with the Black-and-Red, and his height and experience would certainly come in handy in the centre of defence on this evidence.
Content with a one-goal lead, the Sounders retreated into their shell after half-time but their hosts still looked toothless in attack – their best opportunity a wayward attempt from Steve Birnbaum.
With 25 minutes left though, United finally found some invention with both Silva and Chris Korb denied by crucial last-ditch interceptions after some neat build-up play.
But as the Eastern Conference outfit looked to force the issue, a Seattle side hailed more for their offensive play continued to defend resolutely.
Sigi Schmid’s men contained DC comfortably as the match reached its conclusion, but one minute from time Johnson had a chance to save the game. The United States international got in behind the visiting back-line and lashed at goal from a tight angle, but Frei stood tall to block.
That proved to be the final act before referee Silviu Petrescu blew his final whistle, and the league-leaders can now focus on next week’s Cascadia Cup clash against the Vancouver Whitecaps .
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