SEATTLE – Coming off their worst loss in franchise history, the Seattle Sounders wanted to make a statement.
They didn’t just want to beat the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, as they spoke of a desire to keep a clean sheet and start to re-establish themselves as a solid defensive outfit following an eight-match run of games in which they had allowed 17 goals.
The resulting 1-0 win may not have been dominant, but it was a positive step in both regards.
"I think after last week we decided we wanted to play better defensively,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game. “We were all committed to defending as a group, so it was good to get the shutout today."
Seattle’s defensive struggles had come to a head a week earlier, when they were beaten 5-0 by the New England Revolution. Not only was it their largest ever margin of defeat in a regular-season match, but it also capped off a franchise-worst run of eight consecutive matches without a shutout.
Perhaps no one player had been feeling the sting of the Sounders’ recent defensive struggles more than goalkeeper Stefan Frei. After starting the year with two shutouts in his first three Sounders appearances, Frei had watched his goals against average balloon from .67 to 1.72 heading into the Quakes game.
“It comes at a really good time for us,” Frei said. “Every one is three points, but [the 5-0 loss to New England] in particular hurts because of how they completely ran over us. We wanted to come back, make a statement and take some pride in a clean sheet, especially at home and bounce back from that loss real quick. We’ve been scoring lots of goals, but today we only needed one, which is great.”
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Although the Sounders failed to convert several golden opportunities to expand on the lead Obafemi Martins gave them in the eighth minute, no one seemed to stress over the narrow margin. The need to buckle down defensively was made all the more important by the US national team absences of Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin.
“Just for us to just get a shutout, not to let any goals in and focus in on defense actually,” midfielder Lamar Neagle said. “The last few games we’ve always let one in even if we scored a bunch. This is huge. We got the goal – an amazing goal – and we got the shutout. I think this is a nice start to not having the rest of the guys with us.”