Sounders FC

Sounders surprise on defense

While much has been made of the Seattle Sounders’ recent offensive problems, their defense has limited the damage while quietly climbing to the top of the Major League Soccer statistics.

Sounders FC leads MLS with an average of 0.92 goals allowed per game and is second in the league with nine shutouts. Goalkeeper Kasey Keller ranks second with a 0.86 goals-against average – and over his last six games he’s even better: 0.50.

“I think we’re doing our job as a team defensively,” veteran defender Tyrone Marshall said. “We’re working hard. And just hopefully we can get a bounce now where we can get the ball in the back of the net of the opponents. Because all the games that we’ve lost – looking back at it, I was venturing through the stats – and we haven’t scored a goal. All the defeats we’ve been shut out. Anytime we score a goal, we get a result.”

Marshall read those stats right: Seattle is 9-0-7 when scoring at least one goal, and 8-0-3 when scoring first. Each of Seattle six losses has been by shutout.

One of those came Aug. 20 to New England, a 1-0 defeat at Qwest Field.

The Sounders meet the Revolution again at 4:30 p.m. today in Foxborough, Mass.

“We’re down to four games, and we need to get three points in our upcoming game here against New England, because I think we owe them one,” Marshall said. “They came (to Seattle) kind of under the radar and sneaked out of here with a victory. So we have to repay them for that.

That earlier meeting was one of six shutouts Seattle has suffered over its last nine regular-season games. During that slump, the Sounders have fallen to 12th in the 15-team league with an average of 1.19 goals per game.

That turn of fortune has been as surprising as it has been frustrating. Forwards and midfielders such as Fredy Montero, Nate Jaqua, Steve Zakuani and Freddie Ljungberg gave Seattle an early reputation as a dangerous offensive team. The Sounders scored seven goals over their first three games; but now you have to reach back 10 league games to account for their most recent seven goals.

“(The statistics are) a little bit surprising,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “(Defense) is something I am always concerned about because we have so many offensive players on the field. But the guys have done all right defensively. ... When you play good defense, you always give yourself a chance to win the game. Now, we just have to finish at the other end of the field.”

The Sounders haven’t lacked for chances. Last weekend, they outshot Chivas USA, 12-4, and put six shots on goal to Chivas’ one. Yet the game was scoreless.

Over the past four games, opposing goalkeepers have saved 18 Seattle shots, while only three goals have gotten past them.

“We’re just a little bit away from getting our luck to turn and getting some balls in the back of the net,” Marshall said. “That’s how it goes sometimes. If we score one, I think we’ll probably score three or four. ... The floodgates have to open one of these days, man, and hopefully soon.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808



Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

TV: KONG 6/16. Radio: 97.3-FM, 1210-AM (Spanish).

Head-to-head: New England won the previous meeting, 1-0, on Aug. 20 at Qwest Field.

Team leaders: For Seattle - G 11, Fredy Montero; A 7, Nate Jaqua; S 73 Montero; SOG 26 Montero. For New England - G 7, Kheli Dube and Steve Ralston; A 8, Shalrie Joseph; S 41, Dube; SOG 19, Dube.

Coach Sigi Schmid scouting report: “They have been able to stay very consistent in that back four. ... It’s going to be difficult for us at their place because it is always difficult away from home. But we also feel confident that we can play well.”

Notes: This is the first of three straight road matches for the Sounders. Seattle is 2-0-1 in its last three road games and is 3-0-1 in the Eastern time zone this season. ... New England is 6-3-3 at home. The Revs are 0-2-1 over their last three games, including a draw at last-place New York last week. ... New England’s Steve Ralston is the MLS leader in career appearances (377) and assists (135). ... New England’s Sainey Nyassi and Seattle’s Sanna Nyassi are twins. ... Schmid (122) and New England’s Steve Nicol (96) rank 1-2 in MLS victories among active coaches. ... Seattle has the fifth-best point total in MLS, but six teams are four or fewer points behind (including the Revs) and three of those have played fewer games. ... Three Sounders face a one-game suspension if they pick up yellow cards today: Osvaldo Alonso, Tyrone Marshall and Nate Jaqua.

Next: 4:30 p.m. Oct. 3, at Columbus Crew; KONG 6/16.

Don Ruiz, The News Tribune