Sounders FC

Expansion success continues for Sounders

Exactly one-third of the way through its inaugural season, Seattle Sounders FC still holds the best record of any Major League Soccer expansion team after 10 games.

The Sounders’ fourth straight draw Saturday at Colorado moved their record to 4-2-4 (16 points), just ahead of the 5-5 starts (15 points) by the 1998 Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion.

“For us to be a third of the way through the season in second place (in the Western Conference) is something we’re very happy with,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I don’t think anybody expected an expansion team to be in second place in the conference at this point in the season. The last few expansion teams haven’t come close to doing that.”

Schmid said his team’s 1-2-4 record since its eye-poping 3-0 start doesn’t indicate regression.

“Especially over the last few weeks, with the injuries that we’ve had and missing people,” he said. “… The other teams are prepared for us as well. We’ve played quite a few games on the road – three of our last four have been on the road – so that makes it a little bit tougher as well.”

The Sounders have not only lost players to suspensions and injuries, but they’ve lost some of their best players.

Goalkeeper Kasey Keller, forward Fredy Montero and defender James Riley all missed time due to red cards, and Montero also missed a game due to illness. Designated player Freddie Ljungberg missed the first game-and-a-half of the season due to injury and the past two games because of migraines. Starting defender Brad Evans stayed home Saturday because of an injury, while midfielder Peter Vegenas finally became healthy enough to make his Sounders debut.

“Injuries,” Keller said, when asked what has changed since the Sounders’ sizzling start. “And two of those games with a man down for almost the whole second half for both. And then (the last) two games away from home. So, for the most part we’re pretty happy with that.”

Seattle’s 3-0 start also was highlighted by three straight shutouts. And Keller set an MLS record with 457 scoreless minutes to open the season.

“I think we need to go on another little run here of shutouts,” he said. “We’re not conceding lots of goals by any means; but at the same time, I’d like to have another run of two or three games without conceding a goal. We rode our luck in some of those (early) games as well. Shots were hitting posts and different things.”

Keller went into the Colorado game as the league-leading goalkeeper with a 0.41 goals-against average.

However, the Rapids’ two goals Saturday raised his average to 0.60 and dropped him to second in the league behind Zach Thornton of conference-leading Chivas USA.

Other Sounders among the league leaders are Montero, who is 10th in the golden boot race (goals leader), seventh in shots, fourth in fouls suffered; and Nate Jaqua, who is tied for fourth in assists and third in fouls committed.

As a team, Seattle has the fourth-best record in MLS, is tied for fifth with an average of 1.4 goals per game, is third in goals against with an average of 0.8 per game, and leads the league in home attendance with an average of 29,536.

Once the expansion team gets more time playing as a unit – especially if the wave of injures subsides – Schmid figures the final two-thirds of the season could be better still.

“We still haven’t had an opportunity to get Montero and Ljungberg on the field enough together for that combination to really click,” he said. “I think our better soccer is still ahead of us. We’re still getting to know each other. So to be where we are right now, I’m really pleased because I know better days are ahead.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blogs.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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