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Sounders ride defensive resurgence to third clean sheet in four matches

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Four matches into the 2023 Major League Soccer season, the Seattle Sounders have already recorded three clean sheets. They had just six total in 34 matches last year.

The Sounders made it a point of emphasis this past offseason to correct some of the mistakes they suffered in 2022 that caused them to miss the postseason for the first time in their 14-year MLS history. Seattle has flexed its defensive resurgence through the first month of the season, conceding just once in matches against some of the league’s elite attacking sides.

The Sounders played to a scoreless draw with defending Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup winner LAFC on Saturday at Lumen Field, holding the visitors to just three shots on target and taking seven of their first nine home points on offer.

“It’s a good statement for everybody on the outside, but also for us,” said goalkeeper Stefan Frei, who made a clutch kick save in the second minute of stoppage time. “Shutouts are very fragile, and it takes all 11 players to buy in defensively to be able to achieve such a feat.

“It’s good keeping another clean sheet against an opponent that has been very good offensively and has scored an abundance of goals in their few games they’ve had this year.”

LAFC came into this weekend’s tilt with seven goals in its first two league matches, and four more in two Concacaf Champions League games. While the Sounders couldn’t ultimately find the breakthrough — Albert Rusnák came the closest when he hit the post midway through the first half — they know a draw against a tough Western Conference opponent could have a lot of significance later in the year.

“It’s a point that we’re going to need,” said defender Alex Roldan. “I know we want to stop talking about last year, but those are some of the points we missed last year when we missed the playoffs. We’re going to need some of these throughout the season.”

The Sounders understand that their defensive fortitude helps take some pressure off the attack and always allows them to be in positions to grab three points, especially at home. After sporting an uncharacteristic 9-5-3 home mark last year, they’re well on their way to re-establishing Lumen Field as a place where no one in the league wants to visit.

“As a back line, our message is always a clean sheet,” said Roldan. “It’s the message that we’re trying to send out that when you come here to Lumen Field, we’re going to make it difficult on you. We’re not going to give you anything easy, and that’s what every team should expect when they come here.”

The Sounders will now head on the road for back-to-back matches, starting with a trip to Sporting Kansas City next Saturday (5:30 p.m. PT; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV) and then to the LA Galaxy before coming home on April 8 against 2023 expansion side St. Louis CITY FC.

“Three home games and zero goals against is a good thing to build on,” said Frei. “I’m proud of the team for working on some things that we were not happy about last year and to give such a good response early on in a season is nice.”

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