An improved attack created a Clint Dempsey hat trick Sunday as the Sounders dealt Orlando City SC its first home loss in more than a year.
Despite giving up a goal within the first 10 minutes, the Seattle Sounders responded, using a trio of Clint Dempsey tap-ins to earn the club’s second road victory of the season, 3-1, against Orlando City SC at Camping World Stadium Sunday. The hat trick was the second of Dempsey’s Sounders career.
Interim head coach Brian Schmetzer earned his first win.
“I’m very pleased with a couple of different things,” he said. “Going down 1-0 and being able to come back and get the goals we needed to win the game was very important. I think the unselfish play of Jordan Morris was very important. I’m so happy that Clint is going to silence some of his critics with a three-goal performance.”
Orlando City (5-6-11) scored a goal seven minutes in. On the hosts’ first corner kick, Kaká found the head of Seb Hines, who was lost by center back Brad Evans.
Seattle (7-12-3) answered seven minutes later, when Tyrone Mears cut back a cross on the ground from the right alley, finding Dempsey, who dropped behind the back line for a one-touch conversion to the open side of the net.
The Sounders doubled their advantage in the 37th minute, when Cristian Roldan sent a long ball over the middle to an onside Morris, who tracked the ball out of the air, drawing Lions keeper Joe Bendik out of the net. Morris waited for Bendik to go to ground before tapping a short pass inside to a waiting Dempsey who finished into the open goal.
Dempsey bagged his third three minutes into the second half. A Nicolas Lodeiro through ball reached Morris, who stuck with the scoring tradition of dishing the ball to Dempsey, setting him up for another empty-netter.
After the third goal, the Sounders dropped into a more defensive look, sending in Zach Scott to replace Joevin Jones in the back line. Orlando City took advantage of the greater space in the midfield as the Sounders ceded ground, generating a number of threatening chances that failed to result in a goal.
The most dangerous moment came in the 71st minute, when a headed ball went off the crossbar, and Frei had to dive to attempt the initial save. The rebound fell to the head of Hines, who headed the ball on frame, but put it straight into Frei as he sprawled on the ground. The ball took a final bounce off the right post, before Scott smashed it away from the net, allowing the back line to collectively exhale.
Dempsey became winde, causing Schmetzer to remove him in the 59th minute and send in Nelson Valdez, who last scored in league play in his Sounders debut against Orlando City last season.
Valdez’s scoring drought continued when he missed an open net shot on another cross from Morris in the 80th minute.
The Sounders focused on the positives of the match. Dempsey gave credit to his teammates for setting him up.
“I thought Jordan played awesome tonight,” Dempsey said. “He could have had five assists, causing a lot of problems. I thought it was a complete effort from the team. If we have any hopes of making a push, we need it to start now. We need to go on a run.”
Seattle improved to 2-7-2 on the road. It was a 4-0 dismantling of Orlando City last year that signaled the end of Seattle’s summer slump, an seeks a similar run as the Sounders eye the red line for the playoffs with 12 games remaining.
Schmetzer said the win, which dealt Orlando City its first loss at home in over a year, might generate momentum.
“You always hope for (a breakthrough game),” he said. “Every game is difficult in this league, it’s a league filled with parity. Orlando City is a very good team, but I just think we were snake-bit. We couldn’t get the breaks we needed. Tonight it seemed like we got the breaks we needed to open the game up.
“Over the years, we’ve been a very good road team. I wanted to instill that confidence back in the group. We can be a good road team. We’ll need to be.”