Sounders FC went through the gauntlet in the first half of the season filled with peaks and valleys, elation and adversity. Still, Seattle emerged as the top team in MLS, leading the Supporters’ Shield standings by seven points at the World Cup break.
After playing 120 minutes in surviving a fifth-round Open Cup clash with the San Jose Earthquakes and then flying across the country, that success continued Saturday with a 1-0 win over D.C. United to extend its lead in the West to 10 points. It was another in a long line of character-revealing matches for Seattle against a D.C. team who had rocketed to the top of the Eastern Conference standings this season after finishing with one of the worst records in league history in 2013.
“I thought it was a really important game for us. We had such a good early spell before the World Cup break. It’s very important for us to come out and have a good game today to do justice to all those other games we had before the World Cup break,” said Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who finished with his fifth shutout of the season. “We worked extremely hard and it was a good result for us today.”
Head Coach Sigi Schmid had to do some lineup shuffling after Tuesday’s Open Cup match, bringing on Jalil Anibaba, Chad Barrett and Osvaldo Alonso and all three came up big. Alonso put in his typical disruptive performance in the midfield while Anibaba shored up the back line in limiting D.C. to just two shots on goal the whole match. And it was Barrett that netted the game-winner, nodding in a cross from Gonzalo Pineda in the 39th minute to give Seattle control heading into halftime.
Sounders FC then put in the work to close out the match, withstanding D.C.’s offensive possession but limiting the scoring chances.
Playing without the likes of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin on World Cup duty, Obafemi Martins because of suspension and Djimi Traore because of injury, Seattle needed contributions from its whole roster and the whole team responded the same way they have all season.
“We just don’t give up. We are going to fight until the end. If you’re going to play the Sounders, you’re going to play us for 90 minutes. If you give up for even a second, we’re going to make you pay for it,” Barrett said. “We’re a very close team. All these guys are like brothers and nobody’s going to disrupt that.”
Seattle faces Vancouver Whitecaps FC on Saturday at BC Place, starting a week of three matches against Cascadia rivals that includes two matchups with the Portland Timbers—a U.S. Open Cup match on July 9 and a return to CenturyLink Field on July 13.