September Record: 3-0-2
MLS Results: vs. Chivas USA (1-0); vs. Chicago Fire (2-1); vs. Real Salt Lake (2-0); @ LA Galaxy (1-1); vs. New York Red Bulls (1-1).
MLS Record: 15-8-6 (16-11-7 overall).
The Sounders FC train is rolling toward the postseason and the month of September was a downhill straightaway as Seattle gained steam as it builds to the playoffs.
With just one month remaining on the schedule, Seattle is in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak to lift the team into a tie with Real Salt Lake atop the Western Conference standings at 51 points, although Salt Lake holds the second tie-breaker (goals scored). The Sounders reached that point by posting a 3-0-2 record in September for their ninth unbeaten month of three or more matches in club history and first since going 2-0-2 in July of 2012.
Carrying momentum from a fortuitous month of August, Seattle won the first two matches of the month against Chivas USA and the Chicago Fire to set the stage for a 1 vs. 2 matchup against Real Salt Lake on September 13. With both teams welcoming players back from international duty, Seattle put its foot on the gas early and never looked back, racing to a 2-0 win to take over the top spot in the Supporters’ Shield standings.
A pair of draws against the LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls to close out the month kept Seattle’s unbeaten streak alive at seven matches, but dropped the team back even with RSL, though Seattle still holds two games in hand.
Lamar Neagle led all Seattle scorers with three goals in wins over Chivas USA, the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake. Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson also each added a goal to remain level with Neagle for the team lead with eight goals on the season.
However, the bigger story was Seattle’s defense. Michael Gspurning posted two shutouts to bring his total to 10 on the season, tied for third in the league and just one behind the leaders, Portland’s Donovan Ricketts and Philadelphia’s Zac MacMath, despite playing three fewer matches than any of the other five goalkeepers who have posted double-figure shutouts.
“We’ve got to play good defense. That’s important,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “At the end of the day, that’s what helps you win championships.”
A big part of the Seattle defense that allowed a 0.60 goals against average in the month of September and a 0.43 mark on its current unbeaten streak has been the reemergence of center back Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. The 29-year-old Colombian returned to the starting lineup on August 25 in a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers and has missed just one start since in the middle match of a stretch of three games in eight days on September 4, a 1-0 win over Chivas.
“Soccer starts with the defense,” goalkeeper Michael Gspurning said. “It’s good to see that we’ve found each other and we are playing great.”
It doesn’t get any easier for Seattle in the final month of the regular season. The Sounders open the month on Saturday on the road against the Colorado Rapids and will play three road matches in the month against Colorado, Portland and FC Dallas. The match on Saturday starts a stretch of three matches in eight days that includes a home match against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC on October 9 at CenturyLink Field and closes on the road against the Timbers on October 13. Sounders FC closes out the regular season on October 29 at home against the LA Galaxy.
“I know we got some tough games coming up and next week’s going to be a tough week,” Schmid said. “We’ve been put in tough situations before and we’ve met them, so we just have to stand up and meet them again.”
The entire stadium is opened up for the finale against the Galaxy, with tickets available through SoundersFC.com, all Ticketmaster Outlets, the CenturyLink Field Box Office or by calling 800-745-3000.