The Seattle Sounders suffered more fouls than any other team in Major League Soccer this season, but they put the fewest shots on goal.
Those were the only major team categories where Sounders FC was alone at the statistical top or bottom during the MLS regular season, which ended Sunday.
Seattle begins postseason play at 7 p.m. Thursday, meeting the Houston Dynamo at Qwest Field.
“I think last year in Columbus we led the league in fouls suffered,” said coach Sigi Schmid, who led the Crew to the 2008 MLS Cup title. “I guess I encourage my players to go one-on-one, which is good.”
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Leading the way was forward/midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, who drew a league-high 67 fouls. Teammate Fredy Montero was second in MLS, with 62.
As for those league-low shots on goal, the Sounders didn’t seem concerned.
“I think more importantly you look at the goals-against and our defense,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “You play to zero and you’re going to give yourself a chance. Whether it’s 5-0 or 1-0, it’s a win. Playing to zero is the most important thing.”
League statistics support Evans, because while the Sounders were last in shots on goal, they were eighth in goals, and tied with Houston for fewest goals allowed (29).
However, Schmid doesn’t totally dismiss his team’s low shots-on-goal numbers.
“There are times when we’ve got to pull the trigger more and we’ve got to shoot more often,” he said. “That’s something we’ve worked on all season. It’s a little bit of mentality, it’s a little bit of confidence.”
One example came early in the Sounders’ regular-season-ending win over FC Dallas on Saturday.
Forward Nate Jaqua found himself on the right side of the penalty area with no Dallas defender between himself and goalkeeper Dario Sala. But instead of shooting, Jaqua sent a pass into the middle of the box where it was cleared by the Dallas defense.
“There were a couple of chances where I should have pulled the trigger and didn’t,” Jaqua said. “In the playoffs we need to get more shots off. If you’re not shooting, you’re not scoring. I think a lot of it is that we play it around too much a try to get the perfect opportunity. Sometimes that’s good; but when you get that opportunity, you need to hit it.”
Jaqua was among several Sounders ranking among the league leaders in individual categories – tied with Montero for fifth in the league with 47 fouls committed.
“I’m usually in the midst of things up front,” Jaqua said. “I’m a big guy. Sometimes I get fouls called on me, sometimes I knock into people a lot. Those are pretty normal, I think; especially the fouls. … It’s a place on the field where it’s OK to foul. You have to be physical.”
Playoff game times have been announced by MLS. The Dynamo-Sounders opener is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Qwest Field; Game 2 is set for noon Nov. 8 in Houston. … The Dynamo has decided to train this week in Los Angeles, where it concluded the regular season Sunday against Chivas USA. “It probably makes sense not to fly back to Houston on Monday and turn around and fly back (to Seattle) on Wednesday,” Schmid said. … The Sounders starters trained mostly indoors Monday at Starfire Sports Complex. “Everybody is talking about the weather,” Schmid said. “But it is a great day because we are starting the playoff season.” The forecast for Thursday calls for showers with temperatures in the low 50s to high 40s.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
BY THE NUMBERS
rank as team …
1st Goals against (tied) 1st Fouls suffered
2nd Corner kicks as INDIVIDUALS … 12 Montero, tied for third in goals
4 Montero, tied for third in game-winning goals