The Seattle Sounders side that everyone expected at the beginning of the season made their first appearance on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Eddie Johnson put Seattle ahead in the 6th minute and the Sounders never looked back, adding another three in the second half and picking up an impressive win in the season's biggest game. Seattle's performance was as close to flawless as is likely to be seen, with the Sounders asserting dominance in every phase of the game and demonstrating the quality with which they're capable of playing against a very strong opponent.
Johnson's goal came from a piece of vintage Mauro Rosales playmaking, the Sounders captain sending a perfectly place early cross into the middle of the area for the striker to meet with his head and send the 60,000+ fans in attendance into rapture. Seattle would continue to boss play for the remainder of the half, but the Galaxy's defense would bend without breaking and leave the visitors with some hope as the teams made their way to the locker room. It wouldn't take long for the Sounders to extend their lead after the break, however; Fredy Montero backheeled a ball into the path of Alex Caskey whose first-time effort was blocked by Josh Saunders, but Montero latched onto the rebound and sent a floating effort past the Galaxy keeper and into the top right corner. Nine minutes later Alex Caskey put the game to bed, sending an audacious but perfectly taken chip past the off-his-line Saunders from long range. Andy Rose put the icing on the cake in the 88th minute, tucking home a first-time effort after a brilliant low cross from Marc Burch.
It's difficult to find fault with the performance of any Sounders player; on the offensive side of the ball the team showed a level of chemistry and understanding unlike anything that's been seen all season long, with each element of the attack playing off of the strengths of the other and tormenting the Galaxy back line all night long. Despite LA's statistical edge in possession, the Seattle midfield clearly bossed the game. The defense was largely impenetrable, and on the rare occasions that they did allow a Galaxy attack to threaten the goal there was some last-ditch defending or excellent goalkeeping from Michael Gspurning to keep LA at zero. The Sounders desperately needed a few big performances, and they got 14 of them; from top to bottom, Seattle was tremendous, and though the performances of Mauro Rosales, Alex Caskey, Patrick Ianni, and Leo Gonzalez will loom large there wasn't a single player in Rave Green that could be said to have put in a shift rating a level below excellent.
The key now is to make sure the quality of this performance can be carried over into the rest of the season. Wednesday brings the US Open Cup final and the possibility of an unprecedented fourth straight win and another season of CONCACAF Champions League play. The league-leading San Jose Earthquakes come to town on Saturday, and a win would bring Seattle to within four points of the top spot in the league. Just a week later, the Sounders will host the Vancouver Whitecaps in a game that could have huge playoff implications where playoff positioning is concerned. This is brutal, brutal stretch of games. But if this team can play half as well over this run of games as they did tonight, this could turn out to be a very special season indeed.