Eddie Johnson makes trade pay off for Sounders
Newcomer has winning goal to help beat Chicago
Seattle Times staff reporter
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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — For Eddie Johnson, attention turned to production Saturday.
The Sounders FC forward, acquired in a preseason trade, was the team's high-profile addition for the 2012 season. It was a move that resonated leaguewide and one Seattle hoped would fill a missing piece in the pursuit of a title.
Johnson, once a fixture for the U.S. men's national team, gave glimpses of that potential with the deciding second-half goal that led Seattle to a 2-1 road victory against the Chicago Fire in front of 14,166 at a blustery Toyota Park.
"The team sacrificed a lot in bringing me here," said Johnson, referring to the trade that sent Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle to Montreal. "It was important (for me) to get off to a good start, but without the effort from my teammates and the guys around me, I don't think that goal would be possible."
Johnson's opportunistic goal came in the 67th minute — six minutes after he hit the post with a header. Forward partner Fredy Montero started the play with a dipping free-kick that forced an uncomfortable save from the Chicago goalkeeper, and Johnson poked in the rebound for his first professional goal since 2010.
Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said the breakthrough will relieve some pressure on Johnson, who is hoping to revive his career after a few difficult years personally and professionally.
"Any time you open up your account and you get a goal, it helps you psychologically," Schmid said.
The Fire (2-2-2) closed to a goal behind in the 89th minute to make things interesting when midfielder Marco Pappa remarkably scored directly off a corner kick.
With the help of the wind, Pappa's cross sailed over the head of Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning and bounced in the goal off the post. It was the first goal the Sounders had allowed in 336 minutes.
Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba had one last look on goal in the final minute of stoppage time, but his shot was hit right to Gspurning.
Moments before the final whistle, Anibaba went into a dangerous sliding tackle on Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez, which led to some postgame pushing and shoving. Midfielder Brad Evans was hit in the face during the scrum.
"It is what it is. We'll move on, take the three points and leave them with nothing," said Evans.
The result continued a number of positive trends for the Sounders, who improved to 4-1-1 and continued their franchise-best start.
Seattle has gone 6-0-1 in its past seven road games, which is the longest road unbeaten streak in the MLS. The Sounders also improved to 5-0-3 overall against Chicago.
The visitors had opened the scoring in the 39th minute and, once again, it came off the foot of David Estrada.
Playing as a left midfielder, his third position this season, Estrada collected a pass from Johnson and fired a shot from the left side of the goal that took a fortuitous deflection off Fire defender Arne Friedrich and rolled past wrong-footed goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
The play was reviewed by MLS and Opta, the league's official stats provider, and was initially ruled an own goal, then credited to Estrada and then back to an own goal about an hour after the game ended. Estrada has a team-leading four goals this season, one of which came off a deflection against Houston.
"It went in, and that's all that matters," said Estrada.
And for the Sounders, all the mattered was the victory.
• The Sounders were boosted Saturday by the returns of midfielder Mauro Rosales and defender Adam Johansson, who had each missed the past four games injured. Rosales was subbed out in the 51st minute after taking a hard hit to the ankle earlier in the game, but it isn't believed to be serious.
• Defender Patrick Ianni, who had played every minute this season, was unavailable due to back spasms. Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez also was out with a quad strain.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @joshuamayers
|Seattle||1 1 — 2|
|Chicago||0 1 — 1|
Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Adam Johansson, Mauro Rosales (Marc Burch, 51st), Brad Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa, 90th+), David Estrada.
Chicago — Sean Johnson, Arne Friedrich, Dan Gargan, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares, Daniel Paladini (Federico Puppo, 72nd), Logan Pause (Marco Pappa, 61st), Pavel Pardo, Sebastian Grazzini (Rafael Robayo, 81st), Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro.