July record: 1-2-0 (2-2-0 overall)
Overall record: 12-5-2 (14-5-3 overall)
MLS Results: @ Vancouver Whitecaps FC (0-1); vs. Portland Timbers (2-0); vs. LA Galaxy (0-3)
USOC Results: vs. Portland Timbers (3-1, AET)
When looking at the two sides to Sounders FC’s month of July, Sporting Director Chris Henderson chooses the optimistic view, while also knowing there are valuable lessons to be learned. Seattle went 1-2-0 in the month, with shutout losses to Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the LA Galaxy, but the one win came in convincing fashion against the Portland Timbers. In two non-league matches, Seattle was impressive in advancing to the semifinal of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 extra time win over Portland and played Tottenham Hotspur to a 3-3 draw in an international friendly.
“Overall, it was a good month for the club,” Henderson said. “When you’re looking toward playoff pictures, these are the types of scenarios that happen in the last month – tight games, big rivalry games – that are going to help us in a series. So we have to make sure that we remember these moments. The losses are something you remember. Many times you’re learning more from losses than wins.”
While gaining just three points in the standings, Seattle maintained its spot in front of the Supporters’ Shield race, though Sporting Kansas City is level with 38 points. The win over Portland was as complete a game as Seattle has played this season, along with a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake in May.
All despite a rash of injuries that has limited the availability of Brad Evans, Leo Gonzalez and Djimi Traore and tested the club’s depth when players like Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin, Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda and Chad Marshall have been forced out of action this month.
“We had some injuries this month, so we had to manage our team with players missing,” Henderson said. “I think some guys stepped up and we were able to look at some guys and see how they do in some clutch games. It was disappointing at 1-and-2, but there were some important things as we move forward.”
In defeat to Vancouver and LA, Seattle was humbled by a pair of Western Conference foes. To Henderson, those losses will be nice reminders to the club to avoid complacency in critical matches later in the season and in the playoffs.
With a hectic August schedule that starts on Saturday with a road tilt against the San Jose Earthquakes, the club will be put to the test right away.
“When you get to these moments, you’ve got to focus on what your goals are as a team,” Henderson said. “It’s a test of your lineup and these are moments that if you’re trying to win the conference or Supporters’ Shield, these are big points coming up. It’s survival, it’s qualifying for the playoffs. There’s a lot on the line.”
The busy schedule includes the U.S. Open Cup semifinal – Seattle’s fifth in six MLS seasons. With its 3-1 extra time win over the Timbers, Sounders FC set up a rematch of the 2010 Open Cup final against the Chicago Fire. The semifinal, which will be played at Starfire Stadium on August 13, will be another stiff test in a season that has been loaded with them.
“It’s going to be a tough game. Semifinals always are. We have experience as a club being in these moments, sitting somewhere and being two games away from a cup again,” Henderson said, noting Seattle’s three consecutive U.S. Open Cup titles from 2009-2011. “These are really hard competitions. If you have an off day, then you’re out. So to be able to keep that consistency is something we want to carry on.”