- Associated Press - Saturday, July 4, 2015

SEATTLE (AP) - For Tyrone Mears, it was just a hunch. Turned into the right hunch for him and for the Seattle Sounders.

Mears scored in the 88th minute Friday night for his first MLS goal as the Sounders beat short-handed D.C. United, 1-0.

Mears, a defender playing his first season in the league after joining the Sounders from England’s Bolton Wanderers, was outside the top right corner of the penalty area when a ball was headed away from the net toward that spot. Mears took it just inside the box and fired into the left side of the net past goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra.

The goal for Mears was his first since Jan. 8, 2011, while he was with Burnley of the Football League Championship, one notch below the English Premier League.

“I’d been a little bit defensive and stayed back. At that time, I don’t know why I felt I needed to go forward,” Mears said. “I had a lot of time to think about it. It was just about getting a good connection and hitting the far post.”

The Sounders (10-7-2, 32 points) snapped a three-game losing streak and climbed into a tie with Vancouver atop the Western Conference. Their last points in league play had come on June 13 with a 3-0 victory against FC Dallas.

“We were low on confidence and missing a lot of players,” Mears said. “But Sigi (Seattle head coach Schmid) said that tonight, the excuses have got to stop.”

The Sounders were still without leading scorers Clint Dempsey (seven goals) and Obafemi Martins (seven). Dempsey is with the U.S. national team for the upcoming Gold Cup, and Martins is still out with a groin injury suffered on June 16 in the U.S. Open Cup. Schmid switched to 4-3-3 lineup, and had asked Mears to be more involved offensively.

“Tyrone has hit a few shots like that in practice - he struck it really well,” Schmid said. “That’s something we talked about during the week was for him to have the confidence to go forward.”

League-leading D.C. (10-6-5, 35 points) played the majority of the game with just 10 men. Forward Fabian Espindola, the team’s top playmaker with five assists, was sent off with a straight red card in the 27th minute for a retaliation foul against Seattle’s Zach Scott as the two went for a ball near the right touch line. Scott had received a yellow card for leveling Espindola in the 13th minute.

Midfielder Nick DeLeon nearly tied it for United in the 89th minute when he hit a shot from the top of the box that banged off the right side of the crossbar.

The Sounders picked up their league-leading ninth shutout, but this one was split. Starting goalkeeper Stefan Frei went out just before halftime with a left shoulder sprain.

Frei, whose eight shutouts and 71 saves are the most in MLS, had played every minute of the season. He was pulled down by D.C.’s Steve Birnbaum early in the 29th minute as both went up for a ball in the penalty area. Frei resumed play after two minutes on the turf until being replaced by Troy Perkins.

United had to remove starting forward Luis Silva midway through the fifth minute because of groin tightness.

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