Sounders FC is a team that has held a strong defense ever since they came to Major League Soccer in 2009.
Last week, Seattle ensured that two key components to that stingy defense will remain intact as they move into the 2013 season with the re-signing of center backs Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni.
“We’ve always had good defensive players and stressed that as a team," said Ianni. "We aim for a shutout every game and obviously teams are going to score goals on you, but our mentality is that if we keep it to zero, we will stay in every game.”
Seattle has maintained one of the league’s strongest defenses over the past four seasons, ranking third in goals allowed since 2009. Yet the Rave Green has received little national attention for its defensive efforts, with Kasey Keller the lone defender or goalkeeper recognized in the MLS Best XI.
Ianni hopes some of that praise can come Seattle’s way in 2013, but his focus is geared toward the process of getting the awards than the awards themselves.
“I’d love to get that recognition up here, but I can’t worry about getting that. I can only worry about doing my best to make the defense better,” he said. “It takes working as a unit, but individually, you have to make plays.”
In 2010, the Sounders finished tied for eighth in the league in defense, allowing 35 goals in 30 matches. Otherwise, they have finished tied for first in 2009, fourth in 2011 and second in 2012.
Hurtado and Ianni have been central to that success. In 16 matches when they have paired together in MLS play, the Sounders are 9-4-3, allowing 13 goals while posting four shutouts. In all competitions, Seattle is 17-5-5, allowing 22 goals with seven shutouts.
“Jhon and I have played well over the last few years and that shouldn’t change,” Ianni said. “I think we’ll only get stronger together as the years go on. Some of our strengths are similar. We’re both no-nonsense defenders and we’re strong in the air. Those things together complement each other.”
Over the last four years, the Sounders have utilized the veteran presences of Tyrone Marshall and Jeff Parke, but now that backline leadership will fall on Ianni and Hurtado. Both have missed time over the last four years because of injuries, but find themselves healthy this offseason.
That’s just one of the reasons for optimism about Seattle’s defense as they look toward 2013.
“I’m really excited. I’ve enjoyed my four years here and I’m looking forward to some more good years and even better years in some ways,” Ianni said.
The Sounders will open the MLS season on March 2 at CenturyLink Field against the Montreal Impact. On March 6 and March 12, they will face Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, with the first match in Mexico and the second at CenturyLink Field.