With a left-footed strike in stoppage time, Chicago’s Jason Johnson delivered the decisive blow in a match filled with close calls to give the Fire its first franchise victory over the Sounders, 1-0, Saturday night.
Chicago (5-9-3) entered the contest at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, while Seattle (10-8-2) stood tied with Vancouver atop the West.
The goal came in the 92nd minute when a Seattle free kick was blocked. Chicago’s Michael Stephens sprung a counterattack, carrying the ball the length of the field. Stephens dished the ball off to Johnson, who cut back to the inside and fired a shot curling into the left side of the net.
“It’s very frustrating, at that point in the game we’ve got to make sure we don’t get countered,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who forecasted a “dog fight” against the Fire. “They were the better team, they were sharper. I thought that they were on the front foot for most of the game.”
Schmid’s appraisal of his own team’s performance was stark: “There’s no real positives to take away from this. We should have gotten out of here with a tie.”
Missing leading scorers Clint Dempsey (USMNT callup) and Obafemi Martins (injury), Seattle generated a few promising offensive chances, but none managed to seriously challenge Chicago keeper Sean Johnson. Cristian Roldan managed to direct a dangerous shot towards net from 24 yards out in the 44th minute, but it struck the crossbar and sailed out of play.
Sounders keeper Troy Perkins, starting in goal for injured Stefan Frei, made five saves in the loss.
“We’ve got to hold ourselves accountable for it and move on,” said Perkins. “We’ve got to learn from our mistakes and just keep plugging away. It’s a tough loss to swallow, but it is what it is.”
Seattle has lost four of its last five league matches. The Sounders will look to turn around their midseason slump Saturday at home against the Colorado Rapids.