Seattle Sounders have suddenly become set-piece aficionados: "It's a weapon for us"

TUKWILA, Wash. – In the final training session before the Seattle Sounders took on the LA Galaxy last week, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Eddie Johnson hatched a plan.

Rather than have one of them run Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez away from the action on set pieces, either Johnson or Hurtado would attempt to set a pick. On the Sounders' first corner kick of the game, the plan worked perfectly. With Hurtado running interference, Johnson found himself with an unmarked header that he buried to give the visitors an early 1-0 lead.

“When I look at the tape, maybe it's a foul but things play on and it is what it is, and we'll take it,” midfielder Brad Evans said on Tuesday. “It's something that teams have to be aware of. In the past, it's us being concerned about not giving up set pieces close to goal. Now it's something where it's a weapon for us.

“It's just kind of formed, it's not something that we've really worked on. It just came kind of naturally.”

The goal marked the fourth time in six games that the Sounders had scored on a set piece, and gave them eight for the season. A year ago, they scored nine of their 51 goals on corner kicks or free kicks.

Johnson has been especially good on restarts, scoring three goals in four games that way.

“It's just another weapon,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of height, a lot of presence in the box. If I'm an opposing team, I'd be frightened when the likes of Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy, [Clint] Dempsey, Oba [Martins] and myself. That's a lot of guys with athleticism and power in the box to deal with.”

As much as the defense has been a major reason for the Sounders' ability to claim 25 of their last 30 possible points – allowing just seven goals – the offense has been significantly aided by scoring set-piece goals in half of the games.

“In tight games, a set-piece goal often makes the difference,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously you look at the LA game and both goals came off set pieces. In tight games, those are the types of the games that swing it one way or the other.

“It helps the team, the belief is strong. You want to get corners, you want to get free kicks because you know those are opportunities to score. When you believe it, when you go at them with confidence, it also helps the likelihood of you being able to score.

"In Columbus in 2008 [when Schmid's Crew won the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield] we scored quite a few goals off set pieces. Just knowing you have people there and knowing that every time you get that opportunity, it's there, just lifts the whole team.”

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