West was the best in a meeting of conference leaders Saturday night at RFK Stadium as the Seattle Sounders cruised to a 1-0 victory over D.C. United.
Chad Barrett’s first-half strike would be enough for Seattle in the teams’ return to MLS play following the World Cup break.
The victory, Seattle’s third straight, stretches their unbeaten streak to five games and keeps them atop the Supporters’ Shield table with 35 points from 16 games. D.C. United are now forced to share the top spot in the Eastern Conference with Sporting Kansas City as both teams have 25 points from 16 games.
Both teams seemed to be finding their legs during a rusty opening 15 minutes, though United had the better of the game’s early chances.
In the second minute, Chris Rolfe’s chipped effort from 10 yards out would sail wide. Two minutes later, Luis Silva’s driven attempt from well outside the box would find its way harmlessly into the hands of Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Seattle mounted their first attack on goal just after the quarter hour mark. Guatemalan international Marco Pappa’s cross into the box was nodded goalward by forward Kenny Cooper, but United keeper Bill Hamid was up to the task, pushing the attempt over his crossbar.
D.C. would come inches from nabbing the opener in the 24th minute. Right back Chris Korb – filling in for regular starter Cristian Fernandez, who missed the match for personal reasons – drove a ball across the box to former Sounders forward Eddie Johnson.
He failed to connect with the service, but the ball fell at the feet of Rolfe, who fired home a volley that struck the far post before caroming harmlessly away.
Seattle, however, would get on the board 15 minutes later.
Midfielder Gonzalo Pineda found himself with time and space on the right flank, taking a touch and driving a bending ball into the box from 30 yards out. Barrett had little trouble with the service, rising to meet it and heading it home from the edge of the 6-yard box.
United were missing the services of talismanic forward Fabian Espindola – out four to six weeks with a knee injury and another two on suspension – and it showed. They built well from the back but seemed to have trouble unlocking Seattle’s midfield. The Sounders were also missing several key pieces, most notably US national team forward Clint Dempsey and outside back DeAndre Yedlin and a suspended Obafemi Martins, but they found success playing a bit more direct.
The home side’s best chance at a late equalizer was their last, when in the 90th minute, Sean Franklin found himself on the end of a well-placed through ball from defender Bobby Boswell, but his right-footed attempt from seven yards was dealt with expertly by Frei.
D.C. will look to regroup before they travel north of the border to take on Toronto FC next Saturday.
DCU Lineups: Hamid; Boswell, Korb, Franklin (Kemp 87'), Birnbaum; Rolfe, Neal (Jeffrey 45'), DeLeon, Kitchen, Johnson, Silva (Martin 76')
SEA Lineups: Frei; Evans, Marshall, Anibaba, Gonzalez; Pineda, Neagle (Estrada 85'), Pappa (Kovar 72'), Alonso; Barrett (Azira 58'), Cooper
Scoring: Barrett 39' (Pineda)
Disciplinary: Alonso 20', Pineda 87'