When Sounders FC built its inaugural team in 2009, strength through the middle of the field was a focal point.
Five years later, Seattle's anchor in the back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado continues to lead one of the league's top defenses. On Saturday, the 29-year-old center back played his 100th career MLS match, becoming the fourth player in club history to reach the milestone.
“The club is really important for me,” Hurtado said. “This is my fifth year with the team. I have a good feeling here with my family. My kids were born here so it’s really important for me. The coaches, the staff, my teammates – they’re a part of my life.”
The defense will face some tough tests in some of the top offenses in the league over the final eight matches of the season. While Head Coach Sigi Schmid knows Seattle won’t earn clean sheets in every match, he was encouraged by one important factor after the Chicago Fire took an early 1-0 lead on Saturday night.
“You’re not going to shut everyone out down the line, but what was really encouraging and nice is our ability to get it back,” Schmid said.
If there is one player to embody that ability to get back in form after experiencing disappointment, it’s Hurtado.
In five years in Seattle, Hurtado has seen all the highs and lows.
In his first year in 2009, he was an MLS All-Star and a finalist for the Defender of the Year award, putting him among the three top defenders in the league that year. Then he suffered a knee injury after starting nine of the first 10 games in the 2010 season. Patiently, he waited until the start of the 2011 season before returning to the pitch and since then, he has been a stalwart in the Seattle defense, starting 60 games over the last three seasons. In those 60 matches, Seattle has allowed 60 goals, keeping The club among the top defenses in MLS each year.
Over the last month, Hurtado was a key cog in Seattle’s 311-minute shutout streak and four-game winning streak. An important aspect to that run of defensive success has been a shift in Hurtado’s focus in games.
“It’s just the anticipation versus the reaction to plays,” Schmid said. “He knows when he reacts to plays, he’s physically gifted enough that a lot of times he can still win those situations successfully. But when you’re going against really top-quality forwards in our league, you have to anticipate a little bit more. He knows that it’s part of the game that he always needs to work on”
While that detail may have shifted, his work rate on the field hasn’t.
“It’s always the same. I train hard. I play hard,” Hurtado said. “When the opportunity comes, I’m focused.”
With eight matches remaining in the regular season, Sounders FC finds itself in the mix for the Supporters’ Shield, trailing first-place Real Salt Lake by just two points with two games in hand. Those two sides will meet at CenturyLink Field on Friday in a nationally televised match on NBC Sports.