MONTREAL – Sounders FC has made it clear since the end of the 2013 season that the team’s character would be a focal point in 2014. Sunday was a real test of that character as Seattle had its match against the Montreal Impact delayed by 24 hours because of snow in Quebec. Add that to the loss of captain Brad Evans to injury and Clint Dempsey to suspension and the challenge grew more and more difficult.
The team rose to the challenge at Olympic Stadium and stormed past the Montreal Impact with a 2-0 win to move to 2-1-0 on the season.
“All offseason we’ve talked about wanting to become a more resilient team and that we wanted to display our character every time we played. I think today was one of those real character games,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was a longer than normal road trip, having the game postponed by a day, tactically the way we played, missing some key players and all the guys stepped up and did what they needed to do.”
Last week, Sounders FC talked about the character of the team, fighting back from a 2-0 deficit against Toronto FC to cut the lead in half and, though they weren’t able to come away with any points, the Sounders were encouraged by their undying efforts in the second half.
That carried over into training throughout the week and in Sunday’s match.
While the team certainly would have preferred to get in and out of Montreal without any delays, Seattle didn’t treat the delay as a burden as much as an opportunity to grow closer as a team. With the frosty weather, the players didn’t spend much time out on the city, opting instead to spend the time together.
“It’s just like the preseason,” said forward Obafemi Martins, whose second-half goal put the match away. “We’ve been here for four days and we’ve been very focused. We just came here to win and it came well for us. We played very well today. We scored two great goals and we won the game.”
Stefan Frei finished the match with five saves for his second shutout in three matches to start the season. It took a strong defensive effort in front of him as well and Djimi Traore even made a goal-line clearance in the 84th minute to keep the clean sheet intact.
It was plays like that, according to Lamar Neagle, that showed the spirit of the squad.
“There are always going to be things against you when you’re away, but we showed a lot of character today and we grew a lot as a team with the defense we played toward the end, everybody putting their bodies on the line and Stef did a great job,” said Neagle, who had a first-half header knocked into the net by Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins for an own-goal.
Seattle was outshot in the match 25-9, but was able to absorb most of the pressure Montreal put on and limited those chances to shots from outside the box and under duress.
Now with a 2-1-0 record and the confidence boost of winning on the road without two important pieces to the team, Seattle can hold their heads high heading into next week’s match against the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field.
“I feel like this would be a great game to start a streak on,” Neagle said. “Away with all these things against us and we go up two and hold it when they were crossing balls in left and right. They had a lot of dangerous play and we were able to deal with it.”
Sounders FC will travel on Monday and take Tuesday off before returning to training on Wednesday ahead of Saturday’s match against Columbus.