Defense a strong point on Sounders first preseason trip

Defense a strong point on Sounders first preseason trip

Posting a 3-0-1 record over the first leg of preseason, the Sounders back line deserves much of the credit.

TUCSON, Ariz. – One month away from opening the season against Sporting Kansas City on March 8, Sounders FC played its fourth preseason game in Tucson against the rival Vancouver Whitecaps FC and after a 2-1 victory, the first-team defense for Seattle ended the Arizona leg of preseason without allowing a goal.

“I’m pleased that we played to zero. I thought that was important,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said after Saturday’s scoreless draw against Portland on Saturday. “There were a lot of positives out of it and I think there’s better soccer still in front of us.”

Jalil Anibaba made a game-saving stop in the waning moments of the match against Portland, sliding in to stop an open-net shot by Frederic Piquionne to preserve the shutout on Saturday. After also playing on Sunday against Vancouver, Anibaba finished with 164 shutout minutes playing as a center back and right back.

Dylan Remick has been a revelation at left back, playing 154 minutes until finally allowing a goal against Vancouver while also contributing two assists on the offensive end. And DeAndre Yedlin returned from U.S. National Team camp to play 71 minutes on Saturday against Portand.

The center back pairing of Chad Marshall and Djimi Traore has plenty of experience individually and has shown already to be a defensive wall. Traore played 105 scoreless minutes while Marshall was in the lineup for 121 minutes without allowing a goal.

Marshall, who played 10 seasons with the Columbus Crew and won the 2008 and 2009 MLS Defender of the Year awards, has shown his ability to win aerial duels and keep the box clear from danger.

“Marshall is such a handful. He’s 6-4 and he likes to win his headers. It’s kinda funny because he’s soft spoken, but when you throw the ball in the air, he goes up and destroys everything,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who allowed just one goal in two matches over three days. “When a cross comes in I can go have a drink and come back once he’s cleared it.”

For all of the talent and early signs of cohesion, the biggest reason for the staunch defense has been the effort, not just of the back four, but of the entire 11.

“The effort was good. The team didn’t short change us in any way in terms of effort,” Schmid said. “I think the quality sometimes at the end of that effort needed to be a little bit better. I think our ability to hold the ball at times could have been a little bit better. But from a standpoint of effort, this group isn’t going to let anybody down.”

Sounders FC returned to Seattle on Sunday and will start training again on Wednesday. The next preseason trip will take the team to Charleston, SC, for the Carolina Challenge Cup, where they will play the Charleston Battery, DC United and the Houston Dynamo.

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