It didn’t appear so in the first half, getting out-shot 6-1, but the Sounders treated New York City FC as the expansion team it is, getting brilliant second-half movement to triumph 3-1 in Sunday in the club’s first visit to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.
The Sounders’ fourth win in five matches was keyed by Obafemi Martins, who overwhelmed New York with his speed and ball control. He scored in the 23rd and 67th minutes, the second featuring an astounding 18 passes, per MLS Stats, before breaking down the New York defense for a 3-1 lead.
The goal was a complete team effort. Numerous players patiently touched and moved the ball upfield before Demspey pushed a back-heel pass to Martins, who broke past defenders and had his second one-on-one with goalie Josh Saunders. He beat him left-footed from the top of the box to the far post.
“He is playing extremely well,” coach Sigi Schmid said of Martins. “He’s going into his third year with us, so now our guys have a better understanding of when he’s going to show and go. He was dangerous (tonight). He almost had another (goal). The understanding between him and Dempsey and between him and the rest of the team is getting better and better all of the time.”
Nine minutes earlier, the Sounders (5-2-1) took back the lead for good.
Martins worked the ball near the end line for several seconds before offering a long cross past the goal to Marco Pappa on the right flank. He flicked a short pass to Dempsey, who was not closely marked. The space allowed him to settle the ball and send a soft grounder under a defender as well as Saunders, who had a finger touch the ball, but no more.
Pappa picked up his first assist in the 23rd minute, when he sent a through ball from midfield on the money ahead to Martins, who blew past the defense for a solo play on Saunders. He had come way off his line and had no chance to stop Martins from 15 yards.
NYCFC (1-5-3), winless in its past seven matches, enlivened a crowd of 25,384 at the ballpark — the Yankees are minority owners in the soccer franchise — in the 53rd minute when Mehdi Ballouchy found himself unmarked at top of the box.
He took a cross from Patrick Mullins and deftly lofted a shot over GK Stefan Frei to end a 266-minute scoring drought, tie the game and renew hope for an upset in the first and only meeting this season between the teams.
But the Sounders, pressed hard in the first half, restored order four minutes later.
The Sounders play the second of three consecutive games on the road at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Columbus against the Crew.