Five games into this MLS season, Sounders FC has allowed two goals.
That has produced a 0.40 goals-against average, three shutouts and no more than one goal in any game – one of those by penalty kick.
Three defensively focused players have been there for every second of that run: goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and central defender Patrick Ianni.
Alonso has been among the most durable and dependable of starters in his four seasons with the club, and Gspurning was brought in this season specifically to take over the job.
However, after three seasons of spotty playing time in Seattle, Ianni’s emergence as a guy who starts on the pitch and stays on the pitch has been a surprise – to most observers, at least.
“I don’t know if I would have been surprised, but you just never know,” Ianni said. “I’ve been saying every game is important. I came in to preseason just wanting to play my best soccer in preseason. ... I can’t make the decisions about who’s going to start – in the last (five) games or any game in the future. I try to play my best, and hopefully we’ll keep getting shutouts and getting results.”
Ianni arrived from Houston in a trade before the Sounders’ 2009 expansion season.
He started 10 games that first season, 24 in 2010, and 12 in 2011.
The club is 25-14-12 when Ianni starts. But with veteran central defenders Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado returning for 2012, coach Sigi Schmid’s decision to anchor Ianni in the middle didn’t seem obvious when the club reported to preseason camp.
“I knew I was going to get my opportunity,” Ianni said. “Every day is an opportunity – Sigi always says this. Every practice, every game is an opportunity.”
Schmid also said Ianni has seized his latest chance with play that’s been more simple than spectacular. But his efficiency has forced either Hurtado or Parke to the spot on the bench once occupied by Ianni.
However, the game at Chicago a week from today opens a stretch where the Sounders will play eight MLS matches in 29 days, so Schmid reminds that there will be plenty of minutes to go around.
Ianni figures to get his share of them.
“I think you’ve got to remember what brought you there, you’ve got to keep your game simple, not forget the basics,” Schmid said. “Yeah, you can add certain things to your game, but it’s adding to what your foundation is. I think some players, it takes a little longer to do that than others; but I think that’s something Patrick has done well when he’s come into the lineup this time.”
At 6-foot-1, 175 pounds, Ianni always has looked the part of a center back. Now at age 26 and in his seventh professional season, he said he believes he is playing his best soccer.
“I feel like I’ve had some good spells with Seattle,” he said. “Surely I’ve played my best soccer in Seattle, since I’ve gotten here. And I think I’ve continued to grow each year.
“I’m happy with my progress, but I know I have a lot of growth to do and potential to get out of myself. I look forward to continuing to push.”
The Sounders went through a light training session Friday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. “We wanted it to be a little more fun and competitive situation where we played big goals, small goals – you have to win on the small field to get up to the big field,” Schmid said. “The guys’ spirit and activity was good.” … Training today will include a scrimmage against the University of Washington, which is closed to the public. Schmid said the training game could be an important marker in the recoveries of midfielder Mauro Rosales (knee) and defender Adam Johansson (hamstring).
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