Twelve points in five MLS matches can be a tall task.
Accumulating those points in just 15 days is not just difficult, but admirable.
Only two teams in 17 MLS seasons have ever won five games in a 15-day stretch. So looking at Seattle’s 4-1-0 record in their just-completed stretch of five games in 15 days was quite an accomplishment in itself.
Even after dropping the finale 1-0 to Real Salt Lake on Saturday at CenturyLink Field, head coach Sigi Schmid didn’t want his team hanging their heads.
“It’s part of a set of five games,” Schmid said. “They’re an experienced team in this league and they’re one of the better teams, and so are we and when the top teams meet, there’s sometimes not a lot that separates the two.”
The Sounders went 3-1-1 in their first five matches of the 2012 season, covering a span of 29 days, adding perspective to just how grueling their schedule was in their more-recent two week stretch.
To combat the fatigue of the schedule, Schmid opted to rotate his lineup, and he was forced to look even deeper into his bench because of injuries and suspensions.
All told, 17 players started for the Sounders.
“We’ve had a lot of guys that are carrying little nicks and strains. We’re playing a lot of young guys out there,” Schmid said. “They’re all young players and players that don’t have a lot of games in this league and we’re still able to be right there.”
Rookie midfielder Andy Rose got three straight starts in the final three matches of the sequence, picking up his first professional assist on Fredy Montero’s second goal in a 2-0 win over FC Dallas last Wednesday.
Cordell Cato also made his MLS debut, picking up his first career assist too, on a Montero goal against Dallas, and Alex Caskey proved very capable while making two starts and two other substitute appearances.
Then there was the play of Bryan Meredith in goal.
The 22-year-old from Monmouth University was thrust into the lineup when starter Michael Gspurning aggravated a hip injury in Seattle’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy on May 2. Meredith came on to start the second half and went 275 minutes without allowing a goal until finally conceding one to RSL on Saturday.
Yet even with the squad rotation, the Sounders had eight players record at least 325 minutes. That makes the full week between games even more important to players like Jeff Parke (450 minutes), Montero (405 minutes), David Estrada (394 minutes) and Eddie Johnson (379 minutes) who have taken on heavy loads.
“We definitely need the break,” said Johnson, who scored two goals over that period. “The boys have put in a lot of minutes over these five games.”
With the next game coming on Saturday in Vancouver, the Sounders have a chance to get several regular contributors back into form.
Alvaro Fernandez played the final 32 minutes of Saturday’s match after missing the previous five matches with a quad strain. Schmid said it is likely that he’ll be available to return to the starting lineup against Vancouver.
Brad Evans and Michael Gspurning, meanwhile, may have longer recoveries that may put them closer to returns against either the Columbus Crew on May 23 at CenturyLink Field or on the road against Chivas USA on May 26.
With Patrick Ianni also nearing a return from back spasms, the Sounders are getting closer to full strength.
That spurs confidence in the Sounders after a start that has them sitting in third place overall in the MLS standings, but first on points per game.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start,” Johnson said.