Sparked by Clint Dempsey and Osvaldo Alonso’s return to the starting lineup, Sounders FC overcame Toronto FC by virtue of a 2-1 victory on Saturday at CenturyLink Field. The result marked Seattle’s third straight home win, and the club’s third victory in its last four MLS games.
After enduring one of the roughest stretches in team history – eight losses in nine matches – the Sounders have started to pick up some momentum at the right time of year.
Still, the Rave Green understand there’s much to improve on during the final half-dozen games as they eye a berth in the MLS Cup Playoffs.
“Now we have to take our next step,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said. “We’ve grinded out a couple of results, which is great. But with the quality we have in the locker room, it’s time to have a little bit of extra confidence, a little bit of extra swagger, and take it to teams. We have that quality. We have to believe in ourselves and make it a bit easier on ourselves to get those wins.”
Three wins in the last four games has pushed Sounders FC (13-13-2, 41 points) to fourth place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers. The club remains behind both SKC and Portland in terms of points per game, however, and the next three weekends all contain a match that could make or break Seattle’s season.
Starting this Saturday in a clash with the San Jose Earthquakes, the Rave Green are on the road for the next three weeks against teams battling them for playoff positioning in the West.
“We’ve just got to keep fighting as a team and keep getting sharp,” said Dempsey, who stayed in Seattle rather than joining the U.S. National Team for Tuesday’s friendly with Brazil as originally planned. “If we can keep it tight in the back, keep creating chances in the attacking third and keep getting good looks in front of goal, I think we’ll always have a chance to do well.”
One thing the Sounders know they need to clean up is defending set pieces. After Seattle had allowed the Timbers to score on a corner kick the previous weekend, the only goal it gave up to Toronto on Saturday resulted from a set piece. Plus, two of the three goals the club has conceded in Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League play were also on set pieces.
“We are going to work on that next week,” Assistant Coach Brian Schmetzer said after Saturday’s game. “It’s not always the initial ball that comes in, but when it gets cleared out, how do we adjust and step up? Who’s marking whom? I was not happy one of their guys was wide open – that wasn’t my intention or the players’ intention. We are going to work really hard to correct that.”
Last weekend the Sounders were without one of the key pieces of their backline, as centerback Román Torres is on international duty with Panama. He and midfielder Marco Pappa, who’s with the Guatemalan National Team, are expected to be available for Saturday’s game at San Jose.