Sounders FC has the second best defense in the league in 2012, allowing just 31 goals in 30 matches for a 1.03 goals against average to trail only Sporting Kansas City’s 25 goals allowed in 31 matches (0.81 GAA).
With Michael Gspurning in net, those numbers are even better as the Seattle goalkeeper has a 0.79 goals against average, with the Sounders earning seven shutouts in his 17 starts.
However, they needed to get that defense back on track after allowing seven goals in their previous five matches before Saturday’s match against the Vancouver Whitecaps. In that span, they were 2-1-2, but needed to clean up their defensive effort as they build toward the playoffs.
They got just what they needed on the defensive side of the ball, posting their tenth clean sheet of the season in a scoreless draw against the Whitecaps that also clinched their fourth consecutive berth in the postseason.
“As a group, defensively, it was a good game,” said defender Jeff Parke. “We gave up a couple of chances, but at the end of the day we got the zero and it’s important that we role with this and hopefully use this as confidence going into the next game and go on a little bit of a run.”
The shutout comes on the heels of a match against the San Jose Earthquakes that saw Seattle allow a goal in the second minute when Simon Dawkins was given a comfortable amount of space and he scored from 25 yards out in a match the Sounders wound up losing 2-1.
That was one key difference in Saturday’s shutout.
Throughout the match, defenders were playing tight to the Whitecaps, contending every shot and pass.
“That was our objective tonight. We gave away too much space in the San Jose game and it was important that we stayed tight,” Parke said. “For the most part, we did a good job.”
Over the course of the year, Seattle’s defense has been streaky. Over the first nine matches of the season, they allowed just three goals, posting six shutouts. They didn’t record another clean sheet for eight matches, then clocked a scoreless draw with Real Salt Lake on July 4. Consecutive home shutouts in August against the LA Galaxy and Whitecaps showed progress on the defensive front, but recently they have been allowing goals in every match. While the Sounders have still been able to earn results, allowing goals consistently was something they wanted to change as they move toward the end of the regular season.
The culmination of those efforts resulted in the shutout on Saturday.
“I thought we battled defensively. I thought everybody together played defensively well,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It starts with our frontrunners – I thought Eddie and Fredy helped us out as well. I thought the guys in the back did well and Ozzie is a big part of that effort.”
The Sounders will look to continue their defensive stinginess on Sunday when they host the Portland Timbers in the final match of the 2012 Cascadia Cup for Seattle. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 pm from CenturyLink Field with television coverage on ESPN.