SEATTLE — Harry Shipp took one quick glance over his shoulder before sprinting to the left side of the 18-yard-box, jumping into the air and pumping his fist.
Shipp had just scored his second goal with the Seattle Sounders and gave his side a 1-0 lead in the 42nd minute on Saturday against Real Salt Lake, a tally that would hang on to be the game-winner. The goal had been coming for a while — Seattle had outshot RSL 10-1 at that point — and Shipp was the one to finally sound the death knell on what had thus far been a virtuoso performance in goal by Nick Rimando.
Gustav Svensson did well to keep possession in the box before finding Shipp in the center. He one-timed a shot destined for the corner, but it took a deflection on its way in and trickled into the net on the near side.
“That’s just a reward for him,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer.
Before the game, Schmetzer had told Shipp to be more aggressive. Shipp is very technically sound and savvy with the ball at his feet, but at times he can get complacent setting other people up rather than being the one to finish plays. Schmetzer wanted to change that.
“He’s a really nice kid,” Schmetzer said of Shipp. “[I said], ‘Don’t be nice today, take a few more risks, take a few more chances.’ Not just on the goal, but there were a couple other times where he really was engaged in the attack. I like that.”
By becoming more of a nuisance offensively, Shipp forces defenders to keep tabs on him and pulls them away from the already-difficult task of trying to slow down Jordan Morris, Clint Dempsey and Nicolas Lodeiro. If Shipp and other players can start scoring consistently, it will make the Big Three’s job that much easier.
“I found myself the last few games I played too deferential,” said Shipp. “You’re playing with a bunch of really good players, but there’s no need to be deferential on the field. That’s being more aggressive offensively, defensively. I tried to make an effort to do that. That’s going to be something that’s more conscious in my mind the rest of this year.”
While Shipp stepped up and followed through on Schmetzer’s request, it produced something even greater. His contributions earned a pivotal three points in the Sounders’ first win in their last five tries.
“It was important for us to turn momentum in the locker room,” said Shipp. “It’s easy to sulk if you think things are going against you and we’re not putting our chances away, so for us to get three points, even though we didn’t play perfectly…it’s a big mental lift for us.”