TUKWILA, Wash. — The cast of characters playing defense for the Seattle Sounders keeps changing, but the results remain consistent. Behind their fourth different set of defenders, the Sounders registered their second shutout of the season this past Saturday against D.C. United. That's no mean feat against a team that was coming off a four-goal performance the week prior.
The Sounders have now allowed the second fewest goals (two), with red-hot Sporting Kansas City the only team that has allowed fewer. Seattle also rank third in goals allowed per game (0.50).
“It’s great,” Sounders center back Patrick Ianni said about the team’s defensive depth. “We have some good defenders here. They’ve done a good job of bringing guys in all over the field. We’re a deep team and it will help us in the long term.”
Ianni is the only defender to play in all four of the Sounders’ MLS games. Appropriately enough, he wasn’t even considered the starter when the team broke training camp, and he did not play in either leg of their Champions League quarterfinal against Santos Laguna.
He replaced Jeff Parke, who had started each of the Sounders’ first three matches on the bench. Parke made his return to the starting lineup on Saturday, after making his season debut a week before as an injury replacement for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
“It’s the whole team, not just putting one player in the lineup no matter who it is,” Parke said following Monday’s training session. “I’d still rather win. If I get out there and there’s no goals, it’s great, but I’d rather win. If I’m playing, great, but I’d still rather win.”
Although the Sounders didn’t win, Parke and Ianni worked well together against United. They helped limit United to just eight shots and helped the Sounders win 55 percent of their duels — aerial and otherwise.
Also instrumental in that defensive effort was the play of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. Although he was credited with just four saves, he had a very active day as he repeatedly came out to play crosses, many of those plays made using all of his 6-foot-4 frame to punch the ball out of danger.
“With my height, it’s normal to try and come out to help the team,” Gspurning said about his penchant for punching crosses. “If I’m not 100 percent sure and there’s a big crowd in my box, I don’t risk anything by punching it away. Otherwise I’ll catch it. This is my style. After such a long period, it works well.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.