SEATTLE – There's something about playing in front of big crowds that seems to bring out the best in the Seattle Sounders.
With 55,107 fans packed into CenturyLink Field on Friday, the Sounders took care of Real Salt Lake with a 2-0 victory to move into the Supporters' Shield lead. The Sounders are now 7-0-0 with a 17-3 goal-difference in games played in front of crowds numbering least 50,000.
It's not just a coincidence.
“Keep ‘em coming, keep those big crowds coming," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. "The more we do that, the better it is. Our team reacts well to that – the energy, the excitement. I think the noise was fantastic. The amount of people that stayed at the end of the game was fantastic. I think the crowd definitely helps us and it’s a big plus for us."
The Sounders seemed to feed off the crowd from the opening whistle, scoring their fastest goal of the season when Obafemi Martins hammered home a Andy Rose pass in the 3rd minute. From there they really didn't look back, took a 2-0 lead on Lamar Neagle's goal in the 38th minute and cruised to victory from there.
"We talked about the last couple games, starting strong in the first 10-15 minutes, getting a jump on teams," said Rose, who picked up his second assist of the season. "In front of 50,000-plus, we thought if we could score early, really pressure them, we thought we could get on top of them and the crowd would really carry us through. That's what happened. RSL is very good team. Scoring early kinda set the tone for the rest of the game."
As much as the early goal set the tone for the game, this result could very well set the tone for the rest of the season. Over the course of the last couple months, the Sounders have climbed from eighth in the Western Conference to the top of the table.
But there's still an undeniable sense that getting to this point is only as important as where it ultimately leads. Their first big test will come next week when they visit the LA Galaxy, a team they have not beaten on the road since 2009.
Suffice it to say, there won't be 50,000 rave green-clad fans pushing them on.
"In my opinion, we've accomplished very little," Sounders defender Zach Scott said. "We worked hard and earned everything we got to this point. But it means very little if you're in first place one week and lose that position the following week because you don't play well. Our goal is to prepare for a very good Galaxy team and hold this spot."