Jhon Hurtado

Sounders defense being led admirably by goalkeeper Gspurning

The unit has put in a solid start to the year only allowing five goals in six matches, including two straight shutouts.

The Sounders FC back four has two players who are new to the club in 2013. However, Djimi Traore and DeAndre Yedlin have fit seamlessly into the team and have helped the Sounders defense remain among the best in Major League Soccer despite the evolving relationships between the four defenders and goalkeeper Michael Gspurning.

To Traore, a veteran of 13 seasons in Europe before he came to the Sounders during preseason, there is a simple reason for that quick cohesion.

“When you play with good players, it’s easy to play well together,” Traore said. “We have a very good goalkeeper. Michael, for me, is one of the best in MLS. We have two clean sheets in the last two games because of him. It’s a great credit to him.”

The Sounders FC’s shutout of the Colorado Rapids on Saturday was the club’s second straight after posting a clean sheet against the New England Revolution one week earlier. His 0.83 goals against average thus far in 2013 brings his career total to an all-time MLS-best 0.75. That puts him nearly a quarter of a goal per game better than the No. 2 goalkeeper in that statistic, Jimmy Nielsen, who sits at 0.99.

That recent run of clean sheets that now has the Sounders riding a 235-minute shutout streak may be an outward sign of improvement in the defense, but the team has remained self-assured all along.

“To be honest, I was never feeling different. From the beginning of the season, we have been feeling pretty confident in the back,” Gspurning said.

The Sounders have been pleased with the defense that has allowed just five goals through six games, knowing that short of a 2-1 loss to Real Salt Lake they have played well enough on the defensive side to keep the Sounders in every match.

“I think defensively we’ve been pretty consistent all season,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Sometimes things break the way they do on Saturday and we’ll take that and continue to build and go forward.”

That confidence will be put to the test in the month of May though, as the Sounders will face five potent offenses when they meet the Philadelphia Union, Sporting Kansas City and the LA Galaxy on the road and the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas at home in a stretch of 23 days.

However, getting that first victory under their belts against the Rapids has already done wonders for that confidence.

“It helps an awful lot. Just the spirit of the team, the mood of the team, they feel good about that,” Schmid said. “It just takes a burden off your shoulders. It’s something that was important for our psyche.”



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