No Clint Dempsey. No DeAndre Yedlin. No Obafemi Martins. No big deal.
As MLS regular-season play resumed after a three-week hiatus for World Cup group play, the Sounders saw no diminution of form that led them the league’s best record, now 11-3-2 after a 1-0 win in Washington’s RFK Stadium over D.C. United. Chad Barrett’s 39th-minute header, his fourth goal of the season, was the difference.
Dempsey and Yedlin are, of course, with the U.S. national team in Brazil preparing for Tuesday’s knockout-round game against Belgium. Martins was serving a red-card suspension after a dubious ejection in the last MLS game June 11 in Chicago. And the last time the Sounders crossed three time zones for a game, they lost 5-0 at New England May 11.
They also faced an inspired opponent, Eddie Johnson, their scoring leader before his off-season trade to D.C., where he received his desired pay raise as a designated player — $613,000, up from $156,000 in Seattle.
But Johnson, a candidate for USMNT who didn’t make the final cut, found himself well-shadowed for most of the game by Jalil Anibaba. Johnson had a couple of good looks, but was denied his second goal of the season.
Barrett’s header was set up by a long, accurate cross from Marco Pappa, who dropped the ball about eight yards out, where Bennett outleaped a defender to pop a shot over the goalie just under the crossbar.
The rest of the game was about preservation. During the hiatus, the Sounders won two games in U.S. Open Cup play, but the game Tuesday at Starfire against San Jose went 120 minutes. Their depth did much to hold the fort. The clean sheet extended DCU’s scoreless streak against Seattle to 398 minutes and made for Seattle’s ninth win in the past 11 games.
D.C. United fell to 7-5-4 and lost its Eastern Conference lead, a remarkable turnaround for a team that finished 3-24-7 last season, the second-lowest win percentage in MLS history . . . Gonzalo Pineda and Osvaldo Alonso received yellow cards Saturday, meaning they will miss the next game, at 7 p.m. Saturday in Vancouver. Coach Sigi Schmid indicated that even if the U.S. loses Tuesday, he isn’t counting on having Dempsey and Yedlin . . . Seattle native Aaron Kovar, 20, made his MLS debut. A Garfield High and Sounders Academy graduate, he came in the 72nd minute. Another sub, David Estrada, saw his first MLS action this season after being on loan.