Fans are dancing in the aisles at CenturyLink Field as Sounders FC has stormed its way through the MLS season sits on top of the Supporters’ Shield standings at 12-4-2.
After watching Sounders FC score goals in recent weeks, though, the fans aren’t alone in their exuberance in big moments and excitement from an entertaining brand of soccer. It is both a cause and a result of Seattle’s tremendous season thus far.
“When we score goals, we always try to celebrate together. That means we are a unit now and I hope it continues in that way,” Sounders FC midfielder Marco Pappa said, who has two of Seattle’s 35 goals this season. “There are a lot of good players on this team. We’re on the top of the table. We’re in the semifinals of the Open Cup. But we have to continue in this way and focus on our goals.”
A major component to the footloose and fancy free-style that has turned Sounders FC into the top-scoring team in MLS is the tandem of Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey.
Martins has quietly been an MVP candidate all season with eight goals and six assists, making him one of only two players in MLS along with Robbie Keane to rank in the top eight of both statistics. Dempsey, meanwhile, has nine goals and three assists in just 10 league matches, including one in his return to the field for Sounders FC after the 2014 FIFA World Cup, a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers on July 13.
“[Clint and Oba] together is almost not even fair,” smiled defender Jalil Anibaba, who is thankful to only face the duo in training. “Obviously Oba’s speed and his technique and his power is hard to defend and then Clint’s illusion and deception is very difficult. Those two together, it’s almost impossible to defend.”
It’s not a style that is often easily embraced by coaches, but Seattle Head Coach Sigi Schmid can see how special the talent is on his squad. It helps that the players on the field have also laid a strong commitment to defending, as evidenced by the five goals Seattle has allowed over the last seven matches, including four shutouts in that stretch.
“At the end of the day, it’s players playing with each other and players interpreting the game with each other,” said Schmid. “The beauty of the sport of soccer and the thing that always has attracted me to it and keeps me loving it every day is that there is that creativity and there is that freelancing that’s there. Being able to freelance and create is the beauty of the game.”
Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson has seen this style succeed in MLS before. In 2001, he played with the Miami Fusion that led the league in scoring with 57 goals in 26 matches and had the best record in the league.
He sees a lot of similar characteristics in this year’s Sounders team.
“I call it serious fun. All the guys are competitive, but when you’re able to show that little flare while you’re competing, I think that’s important,” Henderson said. “That Miami team was the best group of guys that I ever played with. That’s a lot of what you see here. Guys cover for each other and that free-flowing attack makes it hard to key on one player defensively. As long as guys are enjoying the game and loving what they do and getting results, that’s what you want in a team. We have a lot of those elements in our group.”