By John Zielonka
Seattle Sounders (10-3-2) defeated Chicago Fire (2-3-9) 3-2 on Saturday in a match that featured two braces, two sending offs, outstanding saves by both goalkeepers and numerous tussles between the two teams.
Seattle forward Obafemi Martins scored twice in the first half, including a penalty conversion. Chicago defender, and ex-Sounder, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado was sent off for his tackle on Martins that led to the penalty call.
Martins was sent off himself later in the half after receiving his second yellow for his clashes with several Chicago players.
Fire rookie midfielder Harry Shipp scored his brace with goals late in the first and second halves. The strikes twice reduced the Sounders' lead to one.
Seattle keeper Stefan Frei made three crucial second-half stops to prevent a draw or Chicago's first-ever win over the Sounders.
The tension between the two sides started early in the match. Martins and Chicago midfielder Chris Ritter were involved in a pushing match. Referee Chris Penso decided to issue yellows to both players.
Martins struck in the 31st minute to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. The play started with a long pass from Gonzalo Pineda to the left corner flag. Forward Chad Barrett nudged the ball to Brad Evans and his shot deflected off a Chicago Fire player to Martins. The Nigerian striker held off Hurtado and sent his shot past goalkeeper Sean Johnson for his seventh goal of the season.
Hurtado played a role in Seattle's second goal of the game six minutes later. He was called for a two-footed tackle that took Martins down inside the box. Penso pointed to the penalty spot and Hurtado saw a red card for the foul.
Martins converted the penalty kick with a shot inside the left post to give Seattle a 2-0 advantage and give him his second of the match and eighth of the year.
Shipp reduced the visitors' lead to one goal with four minutes left in the first half. He outmaneuvered Seattle defenders Chad Marshall and Evans to find enough space for a left-footed strike inside the far post.
After the Chicago goal, Martins grabbed the ball with both arms at midfield. He appeared to have a verbal exchange with several Fire players. Penso reached into his pocket and issued Martins his second yellow of the game to end his evening. Both teams were now playing with 10 men.
Fire keeper Sean Johnson extended his right hand in the 57th minute to prevent a third Seattle tally. Ex-Fire midfielder Marco Pappa sent a pass to Lamar Neagle in stride. The Seattle forward shot required Johnson to react and send the ball over the crossbar.
In a two-minute flurry starting in the 59th minute, Frei made two acrobatic saves to prevent Chicago's attempts to tie the match. On a free kick to the left of the Seattle goal, Jeff Larentowicz's header towards the center of the goal required the Seattle keeper use his left arm to deflect the ball over the bar.
On the subsequent corner kick, midfielder Benji Joya's shot from outside the box bounced to Quincy Amarikwa to the right of Frei. The Austrian again made an outstanding stop on Amarikwa's point-blank strike.
Neagle's fifth tally of the year gave Seattle their second two-goal lead with a dozen minutes left in regulation time. Pappa lofted a cross into the box that forward Kenny Cooper headed high into the air. Neagle chested the ball down and let it bounce once before volleying his shot past Johnson and to give a 3-1 edge for the Sounders.
Shipp and Amarikwa combined in the 82nd minute to reduce Seattle's advantage to one once again. Amarikwa's cross to Shipp evaded four Sounders inside the penalty area. The rookie-of-the-year candidate nailed his shot into the upper right corner for his fifth goal of the year.
Frei stopped Chicago's Juan Luis Anangono parked at his doorstep with two minutes left in regulation time. He was perfectly positioned to prevent Anangono's attempt at a dramatic game-tying goal.
Seattle returns to MLS play on June 28th for their matchup against D.C. United. Chicago's next regular season game is on July 2nd when they face off against Toronto F.C.