2014 Months In Review: March

March record: 2-2-0, 6 points
Results: vs. Kansas City (W, 1-0); vs. Toronto (L, 1-2); at Montreal (W, 2-0); vs. Columbus (L, 1-2)

The opening month of the MLS season for Sounders FC can be seen in many different ways, depending on the angle of the analysis.

On one hand, scoring has been spread out throughout the team and Stefan Frei has two shutouts in his first four matches for Seattle. A late winner against Sporting Kansas City in the season opener and a victory in the postponed road match in Montreal showed the character and desire of the team. On the other side of the coin, no player has more than one goal and Seattle has allowed two goals in both defeats, including one in stoppage time against the Columbus Crew last weekend.

To Head Coach Sigi Schmid, the play of the team has been satisfactory, even if he feels the results would have improved if one aspect had been better.

“I feel good about what we’ve done. We’ve stayed on the same page. We believe in what we can do as a group and as a team and we’ll continue to show that,” Schmid said. “We’ve been in all four games. If you look at the two losses, we were creating chances, but we didn’t finish enough. That’s really been our bugaboo – finishing the chances we’ve created.”

Five different players scored goals and five different players tallied assists as Seattle’s balanced attack helped it to a 2-2-0 record. It could easily have been 2-1-1 if not for a Justin Meram stoppage-time winner for the Columbus Crew in the final match of the month on Saturday, but it also easily could have been 1-1-2 if Chad Barrett hadn’t done the same in the opening weekend against Sporting Kansas City.

Sounders FC has already been dealt some adversity in the early stages in the form of a two-match suspension to Clint Dempsey and niggling injuries to Brad Evans and Andy Rose. However, with players like Dylan Remick stepping up in the left back spot while Leo Gonzalez recovered from offseason groin surgery, Gonzalo Pineda providing some veteran savvy, steady defensive work and deft passing out of the midfield and Micheal Azira stepping in admirably as a two-way midfielder on Saturday, Seattle has uncovered more contributors to add to the team’s depth.

When Seattle has been on, it has been entertaining, imaginative offense and pugnacious defense that shows the characteristics of a championship club. However, lapses in concentration have led to four costly goals and finishing on the offensive end has left something to be desired.

The scoring has been dispersed among Barrett, Dempsey, Kenny Cooper, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle,. While none has scored more than once, that distribution has kept Schmid happy, though he would like to see the goal total be a bit higher.

“I wanted the scoring to be spread out,” Schmid said. “You hope that somebody would get two or three at this stage as well. We need to get more goals. We’ve had chances to get more goals and there are guys who certainly could have more goals at this stage and that’s the crux. We have to make sure to have a better percentage of finishing the chances we create.”

The players agree, noting that there is still plenty to be had on the offensive side, particularly with the number of players Seattle has who are capable of scoring in bunches.

“It’s nice to see different players scoring goals and getting assists. We know we have a lot of firepower and we get a lot of chances,” Neagle said. “It’s just a matter of finishing those and I think we realize that.”

While the offense has distributed the scoring load among several players, the defensive core has remained intact with the same starting back four in all four matches in March. Frei registered a 1.00 goals against average and two shutouts in his first month with Sounders FC, marking one of the best defensive starts to a season in club history.

Seattle will endure a different type of test in the month of April. After playing only Eastern Conference teams in March, the club will take to the road for three consecutive matches against Western Conference foes, starting on Saturday against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. Seattle will go on to face FC Dallas on April 12 and Chivas USA on April 19 before finishing out the month at home against the Colorado Rapids on April 26.

In that time, Seattle will look to extend its April unbeaten streak, which sits at 10 matches (6-0-4) over the past three seasons.

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