TUKWILA, Wash. – Look at it any way you want. Five games in 15 days. Eight games in 29 days.
That busy schedule is one of the biggest challenges awaiting the Seattle Sounders in the coming month, and it all starts with Saturday’s game against the Chicago Fire (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“You look at it, for sure,” Sounders defender Jeff Parke told MLSsoccer.com. “You understand what you’re going up against. It’s part of the sport and part of the season. You just prepare for that.”
The good news is that the Sounders have a fair amount of experience with this kind of crowded fixture list. Last year, they had three separate instances where they were playing basically once every three or four days for about three weeks. Their worst stretch saw them go 5-3-1 with a plus-five goal differential.
In August 2011, they played eight matches across all competitions, went 7-0-1 and outscored their opponents 16-4. Among their biggest accomplishments were road wins at Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas. They also became just the second MLS team ever to win a game in Mexico when they beat Monterrey 1-0.
The Sounders’ involvement in US Open Cup and Champions League were the main culprits for last year’s busy August.
This time, they're playing all MLS games, which provides a different kind of opportunity.
“If we can take care of this game, we can tend to get on rolls,” Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said, while also repeating the one-game-at-a-time mantra. “It’s a streaky team, a streaky league so we’ve gotten a couple of good results lately and I think this is a team we can do well against.”
One key to this stretch will surely be how effectively the Sounders can use their depth. So far, they’ve used a different starting group in every game and given 19 players at least one start. The results haven’t always been pretty, but it’s hard to complain about a 3-1-1 record, no matter how it was accomplished.
Even with the return to health of players like Mauro Rosales, Adam Johansson and Eddie Johnson, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid noted there will still have to be some kind of rotation and that the lineup juggling will likely continue.
“They aren’t going to be able to play a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday sequence of games,” Schmid said.
Adding just a dash of motivation is what comes at the end of this stretch. After the May 26 game at Chivas USA, the Sounders only have a pair of early-round US Open Cup games between then and their next MLS game on June 16.
“If we work hard for these next four or five weeks, we have a nice stretch off,” Parke said. “We have to get in our mindset and realize it’s going to be a grind for a couple weeks or so, but at the end there will be that nice break we’re hoping for.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.