TUKWILA, Wash. — Allowing nine goals in two games has forced the Seattle Sounders to re-evaluate virtually every starting position, including goalkeeper, and Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid declined this week to confirm a starting 'keeper for Sunday's showdown with the rival Portland Timbers (9 pm ET, ESPN).
“It’s something we talked about this morning as a staff,” Schmid told reporters following Friday's training session. “We talked after the game, we talked yesterday, we talked this morning and we’ll talk tomorrow and we’ll decide. As I said after the game, it’s important that we find our form back that we get ourselves back together defensively. We’re evaluating everything in that regard.”
Last season, Michael Gspurning posted the third-best goals against average in MLS history (0.73) in 21 starts and finished third in the voting for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. As recently as two games ago, he ranked second in the league in goals against average (1.02) and was also in the top five in shutouts (10) and save percentage (.713).
After allowing nine goals on 14 shots – many from close range and in one-on-one situations – he has fallen out of the top 20 in save percentage (.667).
“I think you have to worry about [confidence] any time you take nine in two games,” Sounders goalkeepers coach Tom Dutra told reporters on Friday. “Even the best goalkeepers are going to struggle with that. That’s a tough one to come back from. Whether the goals are your fault or not your fault, it’s still in the back of your mind. You’re still the one picking the ball out of the net, so it’s tough."
The presence of the experienced 41-year-old Marcus Hahnemann, a veteran of English club soccer and the US national team, who has allowed one total goal in wins over Dallas and Toronto this year, complicates the process. The Sounders are also well aware that with three games left in the regular season, they do not have much margin for error.
“I think it’s more a situation of, again, as I said to the team, are we the team that went 14 undefeated at home or are we the team that has taken two bad losses?” Schmid said. “Is Michael the goalkeeper who was averaging basically a goal against [per] game or is he the guy who has taken nine goals in the past two games?
"I think he’s the guy who has averaged a goal against [per] game. I think we’re a team that went 14 games undefeated at home."
Despite his professed faith in Gspurning, Schmid admitted that making a change could be in the team's best interest.
“It’s a matter of us finding our form as well," the coach said. "Sometimes your form is off, and you lose a little bit of confidence. Sometimes you have to make a temporary move or a temporary adjustment to deal with that.”