Sounders FC had nabbed a comfortable lead at 3-0 in the 62nd minute when Chad Barrett scored his third goal of the season. Even still, Head Coach Sigi Schmid needed more from his team. When Brad Evans made his way toward the bench after the goal to get some water, Schmid grabbed his captain with an important instruction.
There was still plenty of time left in the match, and Real Salt Lake is the type of team that can grab a little momentum and carry it a long way, so keeping a clean sheet was an important task for Seattle.
"Against a team like that with 20 minutes left anything can happen," Evans said. "We had to make sure we were switched on in that situation to make sure we were at zero in the back."
Seattle heeded that instruction and held on for the shutout in a 4-0 victory, holding RSL to just one shot on goal and six shots in the match. Stefan Frei made the only save necessary of him for his fourth clean sheet of the season behind a backline playing together for the first time, with Brad Evans and Leo Gonzalez on the outside and Chad Marshall and Zach Scott in the middle.
It was the second shutout in three matches and second straight at home. Frei bounced back from allowing two goals against Vancouver Whitecaps FC last week, one of which came on a clearance that he misplayed.
"Obviously we are happy with the shutout. It's something we talked about. There were still times I wanted to do a little bit better with it, but I think our effort defensively was as good as it's been," Schmid said. "I don't think [Frei] had a ton to do, in terms of making big saves today but it was a good test for his character to show that he can come back and play well."
Marshall has been as consistent a center back as there is in MLS this season. On Saturday he was joined by a Seattle stalwart in Scott, who has re-emerged in recent weeks as a regular candidate to start, making the 11 in four of the last five, with Seattle allowing just three goals in those four matches.
Having those two veterans together helped the organization in the back as Sounders FC held Salt Lake at bay.
"I think we defended really, really smart today. We didn't give up very many chances," Frei said. "Even though we scored four, you had the feeling that we were really well organized and one or two was going to be enough today, but it's always good when you can put away a team like that."
It was the kind of defensive performance that can build momentum for Seattle going into a match on Saturday with the Chicago Fire, the top-scoring team in the Eastern Conference at 1.67 goals per game.
"We'll put this one in the bank and look at what we did well," Evans said. "I thought we played tight defensively, sacrificed for each other, didn't leave anything to the last second, we were sure of ourselves and that's positive."