Clint Dempsey’s hat trick paves way for Sounders’ 3-1 win

Aug 7, 2016, 7:04 PM | Updated: Aug 8, 2016, 1:05 pm

In just his second match as the Sounders’ head coach, Brian Schmetzer went on the road to Orlando City with a lineup barely changed from the one that drew 1-1 with Los Angeles last weekend. And yet, Seattle saw completely different results, coming out with a crucial 3-1 win on Sunday, thanks largely to a Clint Dempsey hat-trick.

Unlike in the matchup with LA, Schmetzer picked Andreas Ivanschitz over Nelson Valdez, who has been mostly ineffectual all season, though he did contribute to Seattle’s lone goal against the Galaxy. Orlando City was also led by a newly-minted head coach – Jason Kreis – who was brought in a few weeks ago in an attempt to bring the Lions to the playoffs in just their second MLS season.

In front of a strong crowd on a hot, humid Orlando evening, the first half started fairly slowly, with both teams trying to find their footing. The Sounders found space on the right side and earned an early corner, but nothing came of it. Goalie Stefan Frei dealt poorly with a foolish back pass by Joevin Jones, forcing Frei to who looped it behind himself to give Orlando a corner. Kaka’s corner went right to his teammate Seb Hines, who lost Brad Evans and headed the goal down and past Frei to put Orlando up 1-0 after just seven minutes of play.

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The Sounders responded quickly, though, as they turned a failed counter-attack into solid possession in their opponents’ half. Nicolas Lodeiro found an opening on the right and put in an excellent through ball to right-back Tyrone Mears, who cut his cross back to Dempsey in the middle of the box. Dempsey left no doubt, firing the ball into the back of the net in the 14th minute to tie the score. It didn’t stop there, as Seattle came close on more than one occasion. The onslaught finally paid off for the Sounders when Cristian Roldan’s excellent through ball landed over the top for Jordan Morris, who found himself one-on-one with Orlando’s goalkeeper. But rather than take the shot, Morris passed to Dempsey, who was wide open in front of the net. Dempsey handled the rest, giving the Sounders the lead.

That goal marked the first time Seattle had taken the lead in a match in which they had previously trailed in since May 2015.

The Sounders came back from halftime with the same intensity as when they left it. Lodeiro was the mastermind yet again as he slipped Morris through Orlando’s defense, and even though he was again one-on-one with the ‘keeper, the rookie chose to pass to the unmarked Dempsey on his left. The veteran again knocked the ball into the open net, putting the Sounders up 3-1 after 49 minutes. It was Dempsey’s first hat-trick in more than two years.

Seattle had a bit of a scare a few minutes later, though, for multiple reasons. A foul outside of the box gave Orlando a free-kick from a good position, though Kaka’s attempt went straight to Frei in goal. The other scare came when Hines knocked Frei in the head, but the goalkeeper eventually shook it off and appeared to be fine. At the same time, Dempsey went down at the other end of the pitch for an unknown reason. Dempsey had to be substituted in the 59th minute for Valdez. Seattle had yet another scare in the 70th minute when another dangerous Kaka free kick was somehow kept out of the net by a combination of Frei, the crossbar, Zach Scott, and the right post. The Sounders eventually kicked the ball out of danger after it somehow did not cross the goalline. Orlando managed to control much of the rest of the second half, except during a huge opportunity for Valdez that he somehow managed to screw up. Valdez had an open net but his shot hit the left goalpost and bounced out. There was no real action in the final 20-plus minutes, aside from a close opportunity for Morris that came to nothing and a couple attacks for both teams that fizzled.

Man of the match: Has to be the hat-trick hero, Clint Dempsey. Probably his best performance of the season, so hopefully his early exit was only due to exhaustion rather than actual injury.

Turning point: While Orlando didn’t seem too dangerous at times, the match didn’t really appear out of reach for the home side until Seattle’s third goal.

One reason to worry: Dempsey had his best match of the season but if he’s injured, that could ruin the momentum gained from the win.

One reason to relax: Much was made about Dempsey in this match, but the partnership between Lodeiro and Morris is arguably much more important for the rest of the season. Lodeiro read Morris’ runs all night and two of the goals came directly from that understanding.

Spenser Davis also covers the Sounders for Sounder at Heart.

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