SEATTLE – The Seattle Sounders’ triumph over the New York Red Bulls at CenturyLink Field on Sunday wasn’t just the Western Conference team's first win of 2017.
It was also a statement of intent as they embark on their MLS Cup defense.
The match was Seattle’s first inside the friendly confines of CenturyLink since their championship victory last December. The atmosphere for Sunday’s match was predictably raucous, as a celebratory crowd of 45,600 fans packed in to watch Seattle unveil their championship banner before gliding to a 3-1 victory thanks to a strong performance from their attackers.
- NEXT HOME MATCH: Saturday, March 25 vs Club Necaxa | 7:00PM
“What I would say is that today was a very good game but it’s still a work in progress,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer said. “I’m not going to put any pressure or crown us kings of this very competitive league yet. But I do think that some of the potential that is there certainly puts us with all of the top teams in our league. So it’s just a matter of making sure we continue to work.”
With last year’s MLS Cup coming on the heels of a historic turnaround that followed a dismal first half of the campaign, the Sounders have made a point of saying that the hope for this year is that such a late-season push will not be necessary.
If Sunday’s victory is any sort of sign of things to come, it probably won’t be.
Seattle’s front four of Clint Dempsey, Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Harry Shipp looked menacing as a unit for stretches of the contest, with Dempsey, Morris and Shipp combining for all three of the club's goals and Lodeiro tallying an assist.
The performances put forth may have left Schmetzer with plenty of reasons for optimism about the prospects for his attacking core, but he was not the only one feeling good about how things are coming along with that group.
“Little by little [our front four] is getting closer together. We’re understanding each other better," said Lodeiro. "If we can keep progressing during the games, I think we’re going to keep improving and improving.”
Schmetzer also cited the play of Dempsey in particular as an additional reason for encouragement. The 33-year-old star forward played 90 minutes for a third consecutive game on Sunday, scoring his second goal in those three matches on a 28th-minute penalty kick. It was Dempsey's first home game since being sidelined with a heart condition last August.
“I think what you saw out of Clint today was a guy who has fully bought in for the Seattle Sounders,” said Schmetzer. “He was defending, he was working, he wants this team to succeed. I thought that was great.”