In Major League Soccer – and many other leagues around the world – there is a generally accepted mentality that teams will work to take three points at home, then get what they can on the road, often playing for a draw and hoping a win can surface from it.
Few teams in MLS go against that grain and thus far Sounders FC has been one of them. That, the players say, is why Seattle is able to have so much success away from home, leading the league along with the Colorado Rapids and Columbus Crew with seven road points, though Seattle has scored nine goals in those three matches compared to four for Colorado and six for Columbus.
“Teams have to come at us at home and if they come at us, we have talented guys that are going to hurt you. They have to play against us and that’s not good for them,” Seattle forward Chad Barrett said. “And when they come here, they’re just trying to salvage points. I’ve been on teams where that was our only goal.”
Barrett has been around the league, playing for the Chicago Fire, Toronto FC, the LA Galaxy and New England Revolution before coming to Seattle this past offseason. He said the only team that used that same approach was the Galaxy during their championship runs in 2011 and 2012.
That mentality has been evident throughout Sounders FC’s five previous years in MLS and the results have been indicative of that. Seattle has posted the second-best road record in MLS since 2009, just four points behind the LA Galaxy.
In a travel-heavy league like MLS, going into opposing stadiums can make winning a difficult proposition. Seattle’s approach has always been to treat all of the games the same way.
“The mentality is to get points. It’s difficult when you go away, but our mentality is we want to go and win the games,” midfielder Marco Pappa said. “We know it’s not going to be easy, but at the end of the day, it’s about the results.”
There are many factors that make that approach work. Chief among them is the roster depth and talent level to compete week-in and week-out.
“I feel like from 1-18 and 1-28, we put a team on the field that can beat anybody,” Barrett said. “We’re going to fix our problems. We’re going to get our team defense down and we’re still going to get goals. We’re going to challenge teams to stop us and I don’t think a lot of teams are going to be able to.”
Another big factor is the team’s character. Already in the Seattle’s three road matches, Sounders FC has had adversity to face. In Montreal, the match was delayed a day because of snow, but the extra day in a foreign country didn’t slow Seattle as the team topped the Impact 2-0 at Olympic Stadium. In Portland, Seattle fell behind 4-2 in the second half, but powered back to a 4-4 draw thanks to a Clint Dempsey hat trick. Then last week against FC Dallas, an early flub and a penalty put Sounders FC behind 2-1 at halftime. Another late comeback gave Seattle a 3-2 win and more confidence heading into this weekend’s road matchup with Chivas USA on Saturday at the StubHub Center.
“We’re fighting back in games that look like they’re starting to get away from us. We’re winning ugly. We’re grinding out results and we’ll get things right. We have a good team here. It’s just about everybody getting on the same page,” Dempsey said. “It is difficult to play away from home and to get the results that we have speaks volumes.”
Saturday’s match kicks off at 7:30 pm PT from the StubHub Center, where Seattle hasn’t lost to Chivas USA since June 6, 2009, going 3-0-2 while outscoring Chivas 12-4.