Clint Dempsey scored from the penalty spot with the final kick of the game Sunday, lifting the Seattle Sounders over Minnesota United for the second time in a month as the Sounders ran their unbeaten streak to a franchise-record-tying nine games.
Tied 1-1 in the final seconds, the Sounders swung in a corner kick from the left side that ping-ponged around the box before Dempsey rocketed a shot off defender Jermaine Taylor. The Sounders appealed for a handball, and referee Ismail Elfath obliged, pointing to the spot in the third minute of stoppage time.
Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth dove to his left and got a hand to Dempsey’s effort, but the shot was too powerful, driving into the net to the elation of a crowd of 40,312.
“I just wanted to hit it hard and low,” Dempsey said. “I took it quick to throw (Shuttleworth) off. He still got a hand to it, so maybe I didn’t hit as clean as I want it, but I think by taking it quick it threw him off.”
The three points were a welcome boost for a club that dominated the game but could not finish its chances in open play. Seattle (11-7-7, 40 points) outshot the Loons 21-7, including a 13-1 advantage in the second half.
Despite Seattle’s dominance, Minnesota (6-14-4, 22 points) opened the scoring in the 21st minute, when Ethan Finlay raced on to a through ball from Ibson and earned a one-on-one with Stefan Frei, rolling a low shot past Frei into the near side of the net.
Finlay’s goal ended a 421-minute stretch where Seattle held opponents scoreless, a club record that allowed the Sounders to go 5-0-1 in that time.
The Sounders equalized ten minutes later, when Nicolas Lodeiro struck a free kick from just above the end line in the right alley to the head of an unmarked Chad Marshall, who scored his first goal since September.
In the second half, the Sounders had many opportunities to find a game-winner before Dempsey’s penalty, but were unable to convert. Seattle sent in 37 crosses from open play, none successful.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer could not offer a diagnosis for the offense’s failure to capitalize.
“I wish I knew,” Schmetzer said. “Each game in this league manifests itself in a different way. The last time these teams met it developed into a game where they pressed high and we were able to counter. Today, they scored the first goal, they bunkered in and they defended well. That’s the way it goes sometimes. I’ll watch the film, and we’ll see how the setup of the team was, making sure we’re putting players in the right spots.
“Were we off on a couple of final passes? Yes, but at the end of the day all people will remember that it was three points.”
The win puts Seattle in sole possession of first place in the Western Conference standings heading into a busy week with two rivalry matches. Seattle will head to Canada to square off against the Vancouver Whitecaps Wednesday (7 p.m., JOEtv), before returning home to face arch-rival Portland Sunday (6:30 p.m., FS1).