Defense off to a strong start
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
Seattle's four defenders prove immovable in season-opener.
Very little didn’t go exceedingly well for the Sounders FC in their season opener Thursday night. Along with standout play from all of the attacking players and a nationally televised introduction to MLS Player of the Week Fredy Montero, Seattle saw a shutout from native son Kasey Keller in his first MLS start after 17 seasons in Europe.
Easily lost in the shuffle was the play of the four defenders in front of him. Tyrone Marshall led a group that included fifth-year veteran James Riley on the right side, Colombian newcomer Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and longtime USL Sounder Zach Scott, both of whom made their MLS debuts.
That foursome has quickly melded into a pretty strong unit in a short amount of time because of unique traits to each player.
Hurtado is good with one-on-one matchups, so Marshall tried to help him into those types of situations while Riley provided energy on the right side. Scott, meanwhile, had a more simplified task, according to head coach Sigi Schmid, because he was making his MLS debut.
“It was his first time out, so I tried to keep the assignment simple because that helps when you’re playing your first game,” Schmid said. “I knew the adrenaline would be there for him and the effort was there.”
That mix helped keep the defensive responsibilities of the entire team covered.
“I think it was a whole team effort. We went into the game with good preparation and everyone did their job,” Marshall said. “Once you have 11 players out there doing their job, this is a tough team to beat.”
Added Scott, “The team did exactly what he asked defensively and that goes all the way to the forwards. As a team, we defended great and you can tell that by the zero on the scoreboard.”
For Scott, it was the culmination of years of strife at the USL level, which made starting in front of 32,523 at Qwest Field that much more rewarding.
“I really soaked it all in. I wanted to look around at the crowd and see the spectacle that the Sounders had created,” Scott said. “It was 10 times what the team last year averaged. It was great. It was the most ideal way to start a season and, for me, a career in the MLS.”
It may have been his first game in the MLS, but it wasn’t nearly his first against MLS competition. Outside of exhibitions and friendlies, in fact, Scott has not played on a defense that has allowed a goal to an MLS club since 2007 when the USL Sounders lost 2-1 to FC Dallas in the US Open Cup semifinals. That spans a 2-0 win over Chivas USA and a shootout win after 120 minutes of scoreless soccer against the Kansas City Wizards in the 2008 US Open Cup. Adding in last week’s clean sheet over New York means Seattle clubs have 300 consecutive scoreless minutes against MLS opponents.
“There’s no secret. Just good solid defending,” Scott laughed. “That’s about it.”