"Three points at home is important."
Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid's post-game statement may have been obvious, but Seattle has shown a renewed commitment to making CenturyLink Field a difficult place for opponents to play. Saturday's 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes reinforced that commitment, extending Seattle's home winning streak to four consecutive matches.
Fueled by a crowd of 49,746 – the highest attendance in MLS this season in the first of five MLS matches in which Sounders FC will expand capacity – Seattle raced to an early lead on a remarkable eighth minute goal by Obafemi Martins. The defense put forth a stellar performance the rest of the way to get back on track after a hard-to-handle 5-0 loss to the New England Revolution one week earlier.
"We always feel that. We do alright when those fans show up," Schmid said. "You can definitely sense it—it's a little bit louder for sure when we step onto the field. There was a great energy at the very beginning of the game."
The extra fans in the stands have meant extra wins for the Sounders. Since first expanding the capacity on October 15, 2011 and 64,140 fans packed the stadium to see Seattle top San Jose 2-1, Sounders FC has gone 9-0-3 with a plus-17 goal differential when attendance exceeds 40,000.
For goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who finished with his third shutout of the season and second in seven matches at CenturyLink Field, turning to celebrate a victory with the home crowd has a special meaning.
"It was awesome. Our crowd is always great," Frei said. "It's awesome if you can share that feeling you have when you get a win with so many people. The more the merrier."
On Seattle's current four-match home win streak, the club has turned in some good performances in ousting the Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas while outscoring the visitors 8-3. However, Saturday marked the first time Seattle had scored in the first 20 minutes of a match at home, so Martins eighth-minute goal was a tremendous boost for the team, as well as any fans that were anxious after the road loss to New England.
The players, too, were able to breathe a sigh of relief when Martins staked Seattle to the early lead, especially after they were able to see the game out and earn a league-leading eighth victory.
"It's just great. It's always the best thing to win at home," midfielder Gonzalo Pineda said. "It means more than other days because the last time we lost a crazy game. That hurt everybody, so today was the day that we needed to do something different, and we did."
Sounders FC will face the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday before returning home for a battle with Real Salt Lake in the final match at CenturyLink Field before the World Cup break.