During the first 18 seasons of Major League Soccer, no team has ever finished with the best record while also surrendering the most goals.
Now, about a third of the way though the league’s 19th season, the Seattle Sounders are bucking the trend. With 11 regular-season games behind them, and 23 to go, the Sounders lead MLS with a 7-3-1 record while also at the bottom with 19 goals allowed.
Is that sustainable?
“No, not at all,” veteran defender Zach Scott said. “It’s a definite testament to our offense, how many goals we’ve been able to put in. The fact is that we still unfortunately leaked some goals. For a while there it was some PK goals, some deflected goals, some own goals. But even that, you need to kind of change and start making your own luck and starting getting some shutouts; or otherwise you’ve going to find yourself very quickly moving from first place down.”
For now, the Sounders’ league-high 22 goals have compensated for a defense that hasn’t recorded a shutout since March 23. During the eight matches since, Seattle has allowed 17 goals. Five of those poured in Sunday during a franchise-worst 5-0 loss at New England.
“I thought we were really improving on the defensive side the three games prior, and this game just caught us,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But, you know, over the long term, defensively we’ve got to be able to play to zero. But we’ll find our way there.”
Schmid attributed some of the New England breakdown to fatigue. The Revolution was at home and rested, while the Sounders were playing their third game in nine days and played it after cross-country travel.
Fitness statistics kept by the club reveal that the Sounders covered significantly less ground Sunday than they had four days earlier in a 2-1 win over Dallas.
Schmid pointed to that number while stressing that the goals-allowed statistic reflects on the entire team, and not just the defenders and goalkeeper.
“Defending is everybody: It’s all 11 players,” Schmid said. “It’s our reaction to the ball, our transition from offense to defense: Is it quick enough? Is it appropriate? Are we coming back into the right spaces? (Those) are things that we looked at. And then, at the end of the day, you have to make plays on the defensive end.
“For us, it’s a situation of we’ve got to make better decisions. Obviously, if people don’t make better decisions soon, then we have to look at different options. I’m still happy with the defenders.”
Both of Seattle’s starting outside backs from Sunday — DeAndre Yedlin and Brad Evans – are expected to miss the next few matches while away at the United States national team camp, along with Seattle goals leader Clint Dempsey. Meanwhile, Schmid indicated after Tuesday training that defenders Leo Gonzalez (hamstring) and Dylan Remick (ankle) are expected to be available.
Yedlin was subbed out for the first time this season in the 60th minute Sunday, when Gonzalez came on. But Schmid said the move was tactical, with no deeper message behind it.
He also was asked specifically about goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who has played every minute of his first season with the Sounders.
“I think Stefan’s played all right,” Schmid said. “I think he’ll be the first to admit that a couple of goals he could have done better on … but at the end of the day, I don’t care if we would have had whomever in goal at that time … I don’t think it would have made a difference in the game overall.”
The Sounders return to action at 7 p.m. Saturday, when the San Jose Earthquakes visit CenturyLink Field.