The Sounders FC team that took the field on Saturday against Real Salt Lake was not a familiar looking team. The names on the backs of the jerseys were familiar, but the play was not that of the Sounders FC team that Seattle has grown to love since they first took the field in March of 2009.
The resulting 2-1 loss leaves the Sounders at 0-3-1 on the season and with plenty of questions to ask of themselves moving forward. However, first they must examine what took place at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday night and here are four things they may learn from the tape.
Gspurning kept it close
Real Salt Lake attempted 25 shots in the match, putting a barrage of pressure on the Seattle goal throughout the contest. Michael Gspurning made seven saves on the night, six of which came in the first half. To say he was uncharacteristically busy would be an understatement. He made eight saves through the club’s first three matches combined and his previous regular-season career-high was five in one match.
On Saturday, he came up big in some big moments that could have sucked the life out of the Sounders. He stopped RSL on three breakaway opportunities that should have put the Sounders away. Seattle wasn’t ultimately able to make the comeback, but Gspurning’s goalkeeping made the comeback a possibility in the second half.
“He did what he needed to do, but it wasn’t enough for us,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.
Martins has bought in
When the Sounders signed Obafemi Martins, their hope was to add the Robbie Keane-type of player that could put their team over the top. On Saturday, to Schmid, he saw an element of Martins that may matter in the end just as much as the scoring.
An injury suffered while away on international duty very easily could have kept Martins out of the match, but instead he chose to make his first start of the year, playing 62 minutes before giving way to David Estrada.
“He gutted it out for us, which shows me that he’s got some character and wants to battle for the team,” Schmid said. “He can play better because he wasn’t fully 100-percent. He had the good chance on Rimando in the first half and I think 100-percent Oba buries that.”
Evans has no quit in him
On a day when the Sounders couldn’t find their offensive continuity, Evans was something of a bright spot. He scored his first goal of the season and while that puts an exclamation point on his contribution, it was far from the only indicator of that contribution. He finished with five of the eight shots taken by the Sounders, putting three of them on frame.
One of the leaders on the Sounders roster, Evans was active in trying to will the Sounders back into the match and nearly did it.
This is not an 0-3-1 team
The Sounders FC’s record is not becoming of them. At 0-3-1, they are not in a good position and they know it. They also know that they are much better than their record indicates.
“At 0-3-1, our record is not good,” midfielder Steve Zakuani said. “We have to take what’s coming our way - the criticism, the backlash. We deserve it, but the good thing is that the season is still young. We have time to turn it around.”
That carries some weight coming from inside the Seattle locker room, but the true indicator of that truth is in what comes out of the winning locker room on a night like Saturday. There, RSL captain Kyle Beckerman agreed that the Sounders will be a team to contend with once the MLS season has reached its 34th game.
“All in all, that team is not going to lose too many games,” Beckerman said.