The Sounders FC is in an all-too-familiar position this week, playing three matches over an eight day stretch. Just over two months into the season, this is already their third stretch of three matches in 11 days or less.
They opened the season by playing on Tuesday, flying across the country to play on Saturday, then back across the country to Seattle to play the following Friday. Then on April 30, they hosted Toronto before flying across the country for road games against DC United May 4 and the Columbus Crew on May 7.
This time around, they play the opening two matches of the swing at home before heading on a reasonable trip to Salt Lake City.
“It’s just a matter of everybody managing their bodies. A three-game in a week schedule is something that we’ve experienced often times in the past, especially last year and we will experience that again in the future,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s a matter of you got to look at your individual players. Some guys might need a rest. Some guys can come back on pretty short notice. Obviously we have got some guys who are injured who we are still trying to work back into the team so maybe that will give us the opportunity to rest some people as well.”
Seattle will have one more similar stretch of MLS matches this season from June 18-26 when they play Toronto FC on the road, then return home for matches against the New York Red Bulls and New England Revolution. However, like last season, their schedule will quickly fill up with US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches if they make a run in the tournaments like they did last year, when they added 12 matches to their calendar by winning the Open Cup and reaching the group stage of the Champions League after advancing through the preliminary round.
This week, it means facing FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake – two teams that topped the Sounders in the standings in 2010 and two teams that are in direct competition with Seattle in the Western Conference standings. After drawing against each other 0-0 on Sunday, FC Dallas now is second in the West with 18 points, while Real Salt Lake is third with 17 points, even with Seattle in points, but leading in goal difference.
And while the team has consistently said that all points count the same at the end of the season, there is no denying that taking points from conference rivals is important and rewarding.
“We are playing teams in our division and that’s always important. To measure ourselves against Dallas, measure ourselves against Salt Lake in Salt Lake is going to be important for us,” Schmid said. “But the first task at hand is Dallas at home and we want to do very well.”
The fact that the first of the two matches is at home gives the Sounders a chance to improve on their 3-1-2 record at Qwest Field. It is the last of three consecutive matches on their home turf and they hope to get as many points as they can.
“We had three games in a row and we were hoping for nine, but I’ll take seven. It’s now a big concentration on Wednesday to make sure that everybody’s ready to roll and get this next win and keep pushing up the table,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “Good teams win their home games and we just need to do that and then pick up a few more on the road. But if we can keep our home form good, then we’ve got ourselves a great chance. There’s no reason why we can’t do that on Wednesday against Dallas.”
The chance to climb the standings, even in the early times of the season and at a stage when they have played more matches than any team outside of the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC.
After Saturday’s victory over Sporting Kansas City, Seattle moved into second place in the West, only to be supplanted on Sunday by Dallas. However, the placement was not ignored by the players after the match.
“It was nice going in after the game to see us in second place,” Keller said. “It’d be fantastic to be able to do that again and play that team ahead of us and beat them at home and see us just below LA and keep pushing them.”
The Sounders kick off against FC Dallas at 7 pm on Wednesday. Saturday’s match begins at 6 pm Pacific Time and will feature ESPN’s Rob Stone on the broadcast alongside Pete Fewing on KONG 6/16 and 97.3 KIRO FM radio.