Seattle Sounders FC came from behind to tie Sporting Kansas City on Saturday in their final game of the Desert Diamond Cup.
The 1-1 draw was the best result the Sounders had against another Major League Soccer team in its now-completed preseason. However, coach Sigi Schmid said his team’s 0-3-1 preseason record against MLS opponents foretells nothing.
“In 2013 we came down here and won the Desert Diamond Cup, and it might have been one of our worst regular seasons,” he said. “It really doesn’t matter. You look at Major League Baseball, and you look at preseason records and what their records are in the regular season: They have no correlation. Years ago MLS used to have a preseason tournament, and you always knew the team that won the preseason tournament would have no chance at the championship. I don’t worry about that. I know we’ll be ready to go next Sunday. That’s our goal, that’s what we’re focused on.”
The Sounders are scheduled to open their seventh MLS season next Sunday with a home match against the New England Revolution.
Last season, the Revs were the MLS Cup runners up, while the Sounders won the Supporters Shield, but lost to Los Angeles in the Western Conference finals.
“We had a great season last year,” he said. “And the MLS Cup is a cup, so you’ve got to hit the right form at the right time. The way the playoffs are now, you can finish in sixth place and win MLS Cup. What we want to do is we want to be a good team, we want to be a team that competes for the Supporters’ Shield, and we want to be a team that competes for MLS Cup. We want to make the playoffs again: We have never missed the playoffs in our existence and we don’t intend to this year.”
In the final game of the preseason, the Sounders came out flat and fell behind in the eighth minute when Connor Hallisey scored low and wide of goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
However, the Sounders seemed to find their rhythm after about 25 minutes and had the better chances after that.
They broke through on Obafemi Martin’s goal in the 60th minute. Then they had several chances down the stretch — especially from forwards Martins and Clint Dempsey — but couldn’t find the winner.
“Obviously there’s some outside stressors that guys are definitely thinking about,” captain Brad Evans said. “It’s a very stressful time, and to be thinking any otherwise, trying to block it out is being a pro. Tonight maybe we came out a little bit flat. But in saying that, the second half was much better. We pressed. We got our goal. We kept pressing. I feel no different now than I have with this team: very confident, and moving forward we’ll continue to get better.”
Those stressors are apparently related to the unsettled labor negotiations between the players and the league, as the league opener on Friday draws ever closer. The players have said they are willing to strike over the issue of free agency.
Schmid said he believes the Sounders are about where they should be a week in advance of an opener he can only hope takes place.
“You never go into your first game where everybody is 100 percent fit,” he said. “If you’ve 100 percent fit at that point you’re probably going to pay for it at the end of the year. But we’re where I think we need to bit fitness-wise.”
The Sounders concluded the Desert Diamond Cup with a 1-2-1 record.
Real Salt Lake won the championship Saturday, 2-1, over the Colorado Rapids. RSL’s Javier Morales was named most valuable player.