Pontius hat trick stuns Sounders, 3-2

[MLS] One of last year's top rookies chose a most opportune time to shake himself out of a sophomore slump. Chris Pontius, sidelined for much of the season with a hamstring injury, scored his first three goals of the season and United held on to beat Seattle, 3-2, at Qwest Field, despite the Sounders piling up a 20-6 advantage in shots.

Not only did Seattle repeat its familiar pattern of dominating the stats but losing on the scoreboard, it contributed to the defeat through a deflected goal and a bumble by goalie Kasey Keller. Very late goals by James Riley and Fredy Montero were only enough for Seattle to fall short and negate an encouraging 3-0 defeat of New England last weekend.

Pontius scored in the 39th minute after a poor Seattle clearance. He faked two opponents out of his path and launched a 30-yard shot that caromed off Patrick Ianni and flew past Keller for a 1-0 lead. The Qwest Field faithful were stunned into silence, and stared in disbelief a few minutes later when one of their favored sons erred egregiously.

Pontius charged up the middle and fought through an Ianni arm tackle to fire another left-footed shot that Keller somehow let squeeze between his gloves and bounce just over the goal line despite his desperate lunge to retrieve it.

Seattle’s ineptitude resurfaced in the 79th minute when a midfield free kick by Santino Quaranta floated over Riley to Pontius on the left side of the penalty area. His looping header to the back post eluded Keller’s dive as United forward Adam Cristman barreled into the goal.

His hat trick nearly matched Pontius’ league tally of four goals last season. He also registered three assists, and scored three more goals in non-league play. Despite his injury and slow return to form, he’s better off than fellow second-year man Rodney Wallace, another of last year’s excellent rookie class. Wallace suffered a fractured left fibula in a game against Real Salt Lake last weekend and is sidelined for at least two months.

Riley scored in the final minute of regulation and Montero tucked away a Freddie Ljungberg cross in the first minute of stoppage time to revive the spirits of Seattle’s rabid fans. United held out for its first road win of 2010 and yet another Sounders’ sickening home loss.

By winning, United (3-8-1) opened up a three-point gap from Eastern Conference cellar-dweller Philadelphia (2-7-1), which lost, 2-0, at Kansas City Thursday to goals by Kei Kamara and Davy Arnaud. The Wizards (3-5-3) head into the World Cup break fifth in the East. At 4-6-3, Seattle is tied with FC Dallas for sixth among the Western Conference octet.

League games will resume June 25, the final day of World Cup group play, when San Jose plays at Real Salt Lake.

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