2014 Months In Review - August

August record: 3-2-1 (4-2-1 overall)
Overall record: 15-7-3 (18-7-4 overall)
MLS Results: @ San Jose Earthquakes (0-1); vs. Houston Dynamo (2-0); @ Real Salt Lake (1-2); vs. San Jose Earthquakes (1-1); @ Portland Timbers (4-2); vs. Colorado Rapids (1-0).
USOC Results: Semifinal vs. Chicago Fire (6-0)

The month of August was all about returns for Sounders FC.  The whirlwind month saw a return to form after a brief hiccup, a return to the score sheet for Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and a return to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final.

Seattle went 4-2-1 overall in the month, including emphatic wins over the Houston Dynamo at home and the Portland Timbers on the road. Seattle ended the month the same way it started – atop the Supporters’ Shield standings and with sights set on three championships in the Supporters’ Shield, U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup.

“I think the team has set some pretty high goals this year, which we always do.  We’re in a position now where we’re in an Open Cup final, so we give ourselves a chance to win something there.  We’re in a playoff spot, so we give ourselves a chance to win MLS Cup.  And we’re still in the running for the Supporters’ Shield,” Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson said.  “Three of those carrots out there that we’re focused on are still available and we want to keep that drive and focus for the team.”

Seattle had seven different players score goals for the month, including four from Chad Barrett and three from Obafemi Martins.

That scoring spread has been prevalent all season.  With Clint Dempsey (11 goals) and Martins (10 goals) leading the way, Seattle’s potent attack has made it a tough team to beat.  The 3-2-1 record in MLS play kept Seattle two points clear of the LA Galaxy and D.C. United in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

“It’s really good to have multiple guys getting goals and getting chances.  Any time you’re an attacking player, you feel like you’re in a good run of form when you’re scoring or contributing assists or setting up goals,” Henderson said.  “Sometimes that takes an Open Cup or another competition to get that going again.  We’ve had guys contributing in the Open Cup and that helps team confidence as well.”

Although Seattle did have two difficult road defeats to the San Jose Earthquakes and Real Salt Lake and a home draw against the Earthquakes, those moments were outshined the emphatic wins. The month finished off with a 1-0 victory over the Colorado Rapids to give goalkeeper Stefan Frei his league-leading eighth shutout of the season.

Even in defeat, Henderson sees lessons to be learned for Seattle as the end of the regular season draws near.

“On the road you want to go and sneak a win or a tie at minimum and we lost two on the road.  The good thing is that the goals that we’ve taken have all been preventable goals that we can work through,” he said.  “We’ve done a lot of film with the guys and those are all learning things that we can move forward on.”

In addition to a solid record in MLS play, Sounders FC also posted a 6-0 win in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Chicago Fire to power through to the club’s fifth Open Cup final in six seasons. Sounders FC will meet the Philadelphia Union in the final on September 16 at PPL Park.

Success in that tournament helped keep the momentum going in Seattle’s locker room even when the results were tougher to come by in league play.  That showed best with Seattle winning the final two matches in the month against teams fighting to stay alive in the playoff chase in Portland and Colorado.

“I think the spirit of the team is good,” Henderson said.  “The win down in Portland was a big statement game for us.  It was a chance for guys to step up in a big game with a playoff atmosphere.  The more games you can have with that type of atmosphere, the easier it is going to be when you face those playoff games.  When it’s time for guys to step up and you’ve got a must-win, you’ve got to do that.  There’s no room for slip-ups in the playoffs.”

In September, Seattle starts off with a road tilt against Chivas USA, then will run another gauntlet of matches in the middle of the month.  Starting with a home match against Real Salt Lake, Sounders FC will play five matches in 16 days, including the Open Cup final.  Adding to that rigorous calendar, Seattle will play three straight road matches in a nine-day stretch against Philadelphia, New York and Dallas before returning home to meet Chivas for a second time to close out the month on September 27.

With a deep lineup and a battle-tested team, Seattle is ready for that late-season push.“It’s a busy stretch.  It’s going to be similar to what we just went through.  Those are times in the season when you need your whole roster,” Henderson said.  “This month tested us a little bit and we had a chance to show our character.  I think we’re going to see more of that going forward.”