TUKWILA, Wash. — Two separate times this year, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado has found himself on the bench in an effort by coaches to make a point about improving his consistency.
The message appears to have been received. Hurtado now says that he’s playing with as much confidence as he was in 2009, when he was an MLS Defensive Player of the Year finalist. His Seattle Sounders, meanwhile, have gone 5-0-1 and allowed just two goals since Hurtado returned from his latest benching.
His most recent performance may have been his best yet, as Hurtado helped limit Robbie Keane to zero shots in last Saturday’s 1-1 tie with the LA Galaxy. Perhaps a sign of how frustrated Hurtado made the prolific forward was the two getting into several altercations.
“I thought he together with Zach Scott did a tremendous job on Robbie Keane this weekend,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters on Friday. “It was a little more Hurtado with the off-the-field, WWF displays. It was good. I thought Jhon played good; he was attentive, he was alert.
“I think with the ball, comparing him to 2009, I think his defending is at the 2009 level, but his play with the ball is better than it was in 2009. I think at this stage he’s a better player than he was in 2009.”
Neither Hurtado nor Schmid took any issue with Keane playing the aggressor.
- Get more Seattle Sounders news at SoundersFC.com
“That’s part of my job, right?” Hurtado joked.
That Hurtado’s standout play came against the Galaxy and Keane was fitting. In the Sounders’ previous meeting with the Galaxy, Keane scored a hat trick and was the driving force behind his team’s 4-0 win. Hurtado was promptly benched after that game.
“I needed something in my heart to remember that game,” Hurtado said. “I did a good job in front of him.”