Sounders counting on surge in second half
All streaks have to begin somewhere, and the Sounders’ ongoing eight-game winless streak happened to begin against Real Salt Lake.
The Sounders took a 7-1-1 record into CenturyLink Field on May 12, when they suffered a 1-0 loss that still bothers them. And despite some near misses, they haven’t won since.
“It was a hard loss because I thought in that particular game that we were the better team,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I just watched the game again (Sunday) and you’re looking at that game going, ‘How did we lose that one?’ because we played well. That hurt a little bit.”
He hopes the turnaround happens tonight when the clubs meet at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“We’ve gone up to Salt Lake before and been successful,” Schmid said. “They’ve lost three in a row, so they’re a team that’s going to be hungry. We have to get out there, and we have to get something.”
This game will begin the second half of Seattle’s 34-game Major League Soccer regular season. The first half opened with the best start in the franchise’s four-season history, until that loss to RSL began the club-record winless streak.
“Up and down,” technical director Chris Henderson said. “We’ve had some key players out. Getting everyone healthy and back again is going to help our group. We’ve been a team that’s been able to put a good stretch together from the middle to the end in past years. We’re counting on that this year. We’re counting on our veterans to really pull the young guys along.”
Among those veterans and young guys, there also could be some new faces.
“Just like every other year ... we’re working on things that we feel could improve the squad,” Henderson said. “Those things are still continuing.”
If the second half of the season duplicates the first:
• The Sounders would end the season with 52 points, a regression from the 63 of last season, and for the first time in their four-season history would not improve on the season before.
• Eddie Johnson would lead the club with 14 goals. That would top Fredy Montero’s single-season club-record 12. Montero would end the season with a career-low eight, and it would mark the first time he hasn’t at least shared the club’s goal-scoring title.
• Montero and Rosales would share the assists lead with eight.
The number the Sounders can least afford to duplicate in the second half is the seven starts by No. 1 goalkeeper Michael Gspurning before he suffered a right-hip strain. Over the first half of the season, Seattle went 5-1-1 in the games Gspurning started, while going 2-4-4 with anyone else in goal.
Gspurning has begun training with the other keepers, and Schmid said his progress this week will help the club assess when he might return. The club also took reserve keeper Josh Ford (knee) off the disabled list Friday. However, if Gspurning’s prognosis isn’t good, Henderson said bringing in a new goalkeeper is as likely as any other position.
“We brought Michael in to be the experienced guy who has been through those battles,” Henderson said. “Nobody can guess that an injury like this is going to come along. It’s encouraging lately: I think it’s going in a good direction with him.
“But I think we’re always looking that if it doesn’t happen you’ve got to try to bring in a guy with that experience.”
SOUNDERS FC (7-5-5; 26 POINTS) AT REAL SALT LAKE (10-6-2; 32)
7 p.m., Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah
TV: Ch. 5. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).
CLUB LEADERS: For Seattle – G 7, Eddie Johnson; A 4, Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales; S 70, Montero; SOG 26, Montero; GAA 1.38, Bryan Meredith. For Salt Lake – G 7, Alvaro Saborio; A 4, Javier Morales; S 46, Saborio; SOG 19 Saborio and Fabian Espondola; GAA 1.19, Nick Rimando.
HEAD TO HEAD: Salt Lake leads, 4-3-3, including playoffs. RSL won the earlier meeting this season, 1-0, at CenturyLink Field, and will return to Seattle on Oct. 17.
NOTES: This game opens the second-half of the 34-game MLS season for Seattle. ... These clubs rank second (RSL) and fourth (Seattle) in the Western Conference. RSL has lost three consecutive games, including two at home. Seattle is winless (0-4-4) over its past eight. ... Rimando leads MLS with nine wins in goal. ... Salt Lake is second in MLS in fouls committed and third in yellow cards. ... For Salt Lake, defender Jamison Olave (calf) and midfielder Ned Grabavoy (adductor) are listed as doubtful. For Seattle, defenders Adam Johansson (hamstring) and Jeff Parke (dizziness) and midfielder Steve Zakuani (leg) are listed as questionable. The club took reserve keeper Josh Ford off the injury list Friday, and he is listed as probable. ... Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is ineligible after receiving his fifth yellow card of the season Saturday at New England. Montero is one yellow card away from suspension. ... The referee is Hilario Grajeda.
QUOTABLE: “We were a bit unfortunate to not get a point, or three points, when we played them at home. We know we’re facing a good team. They can possess the ball really well, and they’re a physical team.” – Johnson on RSL.
NEXT: 8 p.m. Saturday, Colorado Rapids at CenturyLink Field.
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