Sounders FC

Sounders’ win welcome, but concerns remain

Seattle Sounders players, including goalkeeper Stefan Frei, third from right, celebrate as Montreal Impact defender Donny Toia sits on the pitch Saturday after the Sounders defeated the Impact 1-0 in Seattle.
Seattle Sounders players, including goalkeeper Stefan Frei, third from right, celebrate as Montreal Impact defender Donny Toia sits on the pitch Saturday after the Sounders defeated the Impact 1-0 in Seattle. The Associated Press

Late Saturday night in the CenturyLink Field press box, someone mentioned that the Seattle Sounders went from the worst three-game start (0-3) in their eight Major League Soccer seasons to their fifth-best four-game start (1-3).

Ah, fun with numbers.

This is why virtually everyone else associated with the club has reminded anyone who would listen that it is still early. With sample sizes this small, exceptions can be mistaken for trends. Ten games, maybe two or three months, are needed before you can confidently tell one from the other.

But of course, that door swings both ways. And therefore it seems reasonable to note that if an 0-3 start didn’t necessarily indicate the sky was falling, neither does a one-goal home win guarantee blue skies ahead.

Against the Impact, Clint Dempsey nailed the header that provided the win. In the previous home match against Vancouver, he had trickled a shot wide of an open goal. Those shots constituted about one second of the two 90-minute games. But one might have changed a would-be draw into a loss, while the other might have turned a would-be draw into a win.

Did the Sounders really play better in their one-goal win than they did in their three one-goal losses?

Even Dempsey seemed to imply maybe not.

“I thought we played well again at home — just like we did against Vancouver,” he said Saturday. “I thought we were unlucky that game. Tonight we had a little bit of luck on our side.”

The Sounders certainly had an impressive first 20 minutes against Montreal. And they deserve full credit for shutting out and mostly shutting down dangerous attackers such as Ignacio Piatti and Dominic Oduro the whole way. But Seattle has had solid stretches and bright spots in all of their matches so far.

Seattle looked every bit the equal of 3-1 Kansas City, except for a rare misplay by goalkeeper Stefan Frei. And Seattle looked every bit the equal of 2-2-1 Vancouver, except for a couple of questionable penalty kicks. It’s possible the Sounders’ best performance this season was their 2-1 loss at 2-0-2 Real Salt Lake, which could be revealing itself as a reborn contender in a genuine home fortress.

So scoreboards aside, the Sounders’ lone win didn’t come with notably more style points than the three losses.

That fast start against the Impact gave early hope that coach Sigi Schmid had found something with a new lineup, moving Dempsey into the middle of the attack. That still seems a promising place for him. Yet over the full 90 minutes, offensive production didn’t really rise.

“We still have to get to the point where when we’re dominating (as we did early) we have to finish some of those goals,” Schmid said. “… We had some chances to ice the game toward the end, and we didn’t use those chances.”

Except once, in the 79th minute, when Dempsey got his head to an Andreas Ivanschitz corner. It was his first MLS goal of the season, and the Sounders’ third goal over four games. And this time it was all they needed.

“I just like being involved in the game and getting touches on the ball,” Dempsey said. “I feel like if I am getting touches, I can influence the game in that way. Whatever allows me to get touches and get the ball in the attacking third, that’s the position I like most.”

At the very least, the result means that as the Sounders prepare for their trip to Houston, they won’t have to face any more questions about when they’re going to get their first win or their first points. With that modest breakthrough behind them, they can spend their week working to build.

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