When Eddie Johnson scored his first goal Saturday night it would continue a ‘hidden streak’ of 37 straight matches without a loss when scoring the first goal. A truly potent and impressive, if a bit unknown, record. Johnson’s second strike would be the winner and extend Seattle Sounders FC to three straight wins and six straight without a loss.
Sounders FC are not new to streaks, though. Season one in MLS started with a three-match streak. But the big streaks, like the club record nine-match unbeaten run in 2011, face challenges not just from the opposing teams, but from secondary competitions and national team call-ups. For this current streak of six unbeaten (5th best in team history) to continue, the club will need to overcome those same challenges.
Sunday’s nationally televised ESPN2 match against the LA Galaxy is the last one for some time in which Sigi Schmid will not lose players for international duty with both World Cup Qualifiers (Seattle hosts the USA v Panama on June 11), the U20 World Cup and the CONCACAF Gold Cup in the near future. It is also the first match of a set of three games in only seven days as a trip to Tampa starts Seattle’s 2013 U.S. Open Cup run.
When Sounders FC is hot that has not mattered. That nine-match unbeaten streak was also during the Gold Cup and U.S. Open Cup. It started with a signature road win in Sandy, Utah. Real Salt Lake fell to goals by Patrick Ianni and Lamar Neagle, snapping their home unbeaten streak. RSL sat in the driver’s seat of the season, until that loss and Seattle’s big run of points. The Gold Cup roster that year did not feature any Sounders, but seven players from the league represented the USA and many others took part representing other nations. The upcoming World Cup Qualifying run will be similar as Seattle is losing Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson for the stretch, but other teams will face those same weaknesses.
International Duty did not challenge Sigi Schmid (or the opposition) during the second-best unbeaten run from July 11 to August 28, 2010. There was only one U.S. friendly in that month and a half. Instead the challenge was the dramatic travel of the CONCACAF Champions League that tested Sigi Schmid and team administrators – similar to next week’s trip to Tampa. The four CCL matches included a trip to San Salvador, El Salvador, and San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Neither the congested schedule or lengthy travel slowed the team down in league play.
Similar to the current streak, last year’s best-ever five straight wins occurred with no secondary competitions and with less pressure from international call-ups. A defender started that winning streak, just like this one. In fact, fortuitous goals from non-scorers are a necessity for long runs of wins or matches without losses. Scott, Johnson (2), Montero (3), Mauro Rosales, and an own goal were the power then. If one of those wins turns to a tie or loss the club would have added an extra round to its 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
This streak already saw more goals than that, but goals are not banked for future games. The attack will need to diversify from the five goalscorers in the six-match unbeaten run for it to extend and approach previous Seattle records. Three forwards (Johnson, Neagle and Martins) have three goals each, Rosales scored twice and Traore added one during this stretch. It is the next goal that is more important because if it comes prior to a Galaxy goal that 37 matches unbeaten stat could push to 38. With the best goals against average in the league Seattle may just find a way to challenge its own records.
When Sounders FC gets on a roll, it gets on a roll. The challenges of schedule, secondary competitions and injuries exist for all teams. Sometimes it slows a team down, as it did at the start of 2013 here in Seattle. But there are also times when the depth of the roster is proven and magical runs of performance define seasons rescuing a team from mediocrity to instead challenge for regular season titles and top playoff positioning.