Strength In Numbers
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
Though they don't have a player in the top 20 in the league in goals scored, Seattle leads the league with 42 goals this season.
After the Sounders FC started the season with two scoreless matches, the offense looked bleak to the outsider. Internally, though, the club knew that a team with attacking options like young stars Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani wouldn’t be held for long.
Since then, it’s been 42 goals in 25 matches and the Sounders are now the top-scoring team in MLS, putting an exclamation point on the mark with their six-goal performance against the Columbus Crew last week.
They already have more goals than in the 2009 and 2010 season, when they played 30 matches in league play and reached the playoffs both seasons. They have also matched the point total from the 2010 season with their 13-5-9 record in 2011.
All that while Zakuani and O’Brian White, who were leading the team with two goals and two assists at the time, have been out of action due to injuries since the seventh game of the season on April 22.
“I think we are doing a better job of holding the ball in the final third of the field, I think that’s helped us. We are certainly getting goals from different places on the field, I think that helps us as well,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “But I think the main thing is we are doing a better job of holding the ball in the final third of the field, connecting our passes, just being a little bit patient at the right time.”
The increased number of goals has come despite not having a player in the top 20 scorers in the league.
Diversity in scoring options has been the key for Seattle.
In 2009 and 2010, Montero led the club with 12 goals and 10 goals, respectively. Nate Jaqua added nine in 2009 while Zakuani matched Montero’s total with 10 in 2010. 2009 saw the club feature 11 different players registering a goal, while 14 scored for the Sounders in 2010.
This year, the scoring has been much more spread out. 14 players have scored, but four players have already scored five goals or more with seven matches remaining on the season. Only three players scored five or more in 2010 and it was just Montero and Jaqua in 2009.
“It’s coming from a lot of different places. Different guys have stepped up at different times and we’re not just relying on one goalscorer,” said Roger Levesque, who himself has contributed an MLS career-high three goals. “We’re getting ourselves in good spots and making that commitment to getting numbers in front of the goal and good things happen.”
Montero is again leading the pack with six goals and seven assists, with Alvaro Fernandez sharing the goal-scoring lead with six goals of his own. After his hat trick on Saturday against the Columbus Crew, Lamar Neagle pulled even with Mauro Rosales with five goals. Rosales is also third in the league with nine assists.
In Pat Noonan, Nate Jaqua, Mike Fucito, Levesque and the newly acquired Sammy Ochoa, Seattle also has other forward options that have proven goal-scoring abilities. And with Montero still on the verge of another scoring run, things are looking up for the Sounders with seven matches still remaining on the MLS schedule.
“It’s important to get anybody hot and if Fredy is the guy who goes hot for us that’s all the better. Whenever you get a guy who plays close to the goal that’s scoring goals that makes it easier for your team,” Schmid said. “He knows there are other weapons on the team so the pressure is not on him in that regard but he also puts pressure on himself. He wants to score goals. He obviously scored a big goal against FC Dallas (in the Open Cup semifinal) and hopefully he’ll be able to build upon that.”
After taking the weekend off, the Sounders return to MLS play on Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Kickoff is at 1 pm from CenturyLink Field.