TUKWILA, Wash. — Since the beginning of August, the Sounders have posted a perfect 4-0-0 away record in league play. With Seattle locked into the No. 2 spot in the Western Conference, the team’s primary goal against Chivas USA is keeping the momentum going.
Specifically, coach Sigi Schmid wants his squad to get used to winning in Carson, Calif., site of this year's MLS Cup final.
“Playing at the Home Depot [Center] is a field that hopefully we’ll be playing on again, so playing well on that field is just another thing that will serve well for our memories,” said Schmid. “It’s the main thing of continuing to be a good road team.”
Should the Sounders and the LA Galaxy both advance to the Western conference final, they would face off in LA for a trip to MLS Cup. Incidentally, that game will also be played at the Home Depot Center. Any way you slice it, Seattle will need to win in LA to claim the MLS Cup.
Seattle's 8-3-5 road record so far this year, for 29 points, is the best in MLS this season (only New York, D.C. United, and Houston have managed to beat the Sounders). To keep that streak going, the Sounders will focus on keeping a clean sheet against the struggling Goats, something that’s been difficult of late.
The Sounders backline has only recorded one shutout in the past eight matches, a cause for concern as the playoffs approach. Schmid preaches a team-first approach to defending, so keeping a shutout against Chivas may be a principal motivator on Saturday evening.
“I think the last few goals we’ve given up, they’re what I called the other night ‘soft goals,’” Schmid said. “We want to eliminate that. We want to eliminate those kinds of errors and those kinds of decisions.”
“I think everything tightens up when you get into the playoffs,” Schmid added. “It becomes more difficult to find space. Everybody’s concentration on the defensive end of the field is a little bit better.”
Through suspension, injury, or fatigue, nearly every member of the Sounders back line has missed time in the past month. Saturday’s match gives that unit a chance to play 90 minutes together before the playoffs begin the following week.
Jeff Parke, who was critical of his own performance in Tuesday night’s Champions League game, is eager to retake the field.
“We need it, me personally,” Parke said of keeping a clean sheet. “For the team it’s a huge thing because you want to go into the playoffs on a high and have as much confidence as you can.”
“We’ve leaked a couple goals lately, we need to nip that and hopefully this weekend can be a clean sheet,” Parke added.
Andrew Winner covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.