TUKWILA, Wash. – Shortly after the Seattle Sounders went ahead 3-0 in Saturday’s game against Real Salt Lake, head coach Sigi Schmid called his captain, Brad Evans, over to the sideline.
The Sounders had been in this position before. Against the Colorado Rapids in late April, they built a 3-0 lead but conceded a goal before settling for a 4-1 win. Schmid did not intend to see a repeat performance.
“I want this shutout,” Schmid told Evans.
Mission accomplished. The Sounders finished off the clean sheet – and added another insurance goal to beat RSL 4-0 – their second in three games after going a franchise-worst eight straight without posting a zero.
“Anytime you get a shutout it’s good for your team,” Schmid said following Tuesday’s training session. “It’s something we want to do, we want to cut down on our goals against. When you look at our goals against numbers in comparison to the rest of the league, it’s not that far out of whack anymore.”
Following a 5-0 loss May 11 to the New England Revolution, the Sounders ranked at the bottom of the MLS goals-against standings. After allowing two goals in the three games since, the Sounders’ 21 goals allowed is basically middle of the pack.
“It was just a matter of figuring it out,” Sounders center back Chad Marshall said. “I don’t think it’s one thing where all of a sudden you’re getting clean sheets. It’s myriad things. I thought we did put it together this weekend.”
The Sounders have managed the improved defensive performance despite continuing to juggle their backline. Against RSL, the Sounders used a different quartet of defenders for the sixth consecutive match and only needed goalkeeper Stefan Frei to make a single save.
- Get the latest Seattle news at SoundersFC.com
The lineup juggling has mostly been forced upon Schmid, due to various injuries and international call-ups. That situation won’t get much better until after the World Cup break, as the Sounders will be without Djimi Traore (adductor) for three to six weeks and Dylan Remick (adductor) for a couple more as well.
Even without a full complement of defenders, the Sounders finally have something positive to think about in the back.
“We talked about putting in a complete performance and to reward ourselves for the hard work we do,” Evans said. “That was one, now it’s a test of if we can keep it going.”