Seattle Sounders: Four Observations from 1-0 Win Over Portland Timbers
It wasn’t the prettiest of games, but the Seattle Sounders managed to do just enough to earn an important win against their biggest rivals. Here’s four observations from the 1-0 win over the Portland Timbers:
1) Defense! Defense! Defense!
You may (or more likely won’t) recall one of my keys to this game was that there would likely be a few goals. The last five fixtures between the Sounders and Timbers had produced 24 goals – an average of five per game for anyone keeping count.
However, as it turned out, we all had to settle for just the one goal. It appears that Seattle and Portland have done a good job of solidifying their defenses after last season, when they conceded 50 and 52 goals respectively.
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There were fears that the Sounders would be found wanting without the suspended Chad Marshall, but Zach Scott stepped in, and the side hardly missed a beat. As head coach Sigi Schmid said after the game: “He’s Mr. Reliable…He does his job, he wins his headers. He’s very good at talking and organizing (everyone).”
The 1-0 win also represented Seattle’s fourth clean sheet in seven games – last season, the team had nine shut-outs in total. Just as impressive, they are now tied at the top of the league for fewest goals conceded (five).
2) Stefan Frei
Having covered Toronto FC games in previous seasons, I’ve had my fair share of opportunities to watch Stefan Frei in action. I always felt he was unlucky during his time in Toronto, while also believing he still had more to offer.
Apr 26, 2015; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC goalkeeper Stefan Frei (24) makes a save against the Portland Timbers during the second half at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Portland, 1-0. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
The 2009 13th overall draft pick took the first step towards fulfilling his potential during his first year with the Sounders, and this season he appears to be even better. He didn’t have much to do early on, but kept his concentration to make some key stops when he was finally called upon.
Frei’s only relapse came late on, when he fumbled a sure catch, which went out for a Timbers corner. Schmid discussed his goalkeepers performance with the media: “Stefan came up to me after the game and said sorry about making it more exciting than it needed to be.
“I just said to think back to where (he was) a year ago and how far (he’s) come. I’m just really happy for him because I think he’s showing our fans and people around the league the quality of goalkeeper that he is.”
3) Clint Dempsey Does (Virtually) Nothing
It’s fair to say that Clint Dempsey was pretty ineffective for the majority of this game. However, this is not meant as a criticism, because every player is entitled to an off-night.
However, the sign of a great player is to still be able to have some impact on a game, even when you’re not doing much. And did he ever, scoring the only goal of the game after being involved in setting up the original chance:
Dempsey was the first to admit the team isn’t quite as sharp as last season yet: “We’ve had some injuries here and there. It’s still early in the season, but we’re grinding out results and we’re moving up the table like we should be.
“Confidence comes with getting results and I think we’re growing more confident and our play will just continue to improve…When we start clicking, I think it’ll be really fun to watch.”
4) Man of the Match
In truth, I didn’t have much difficulty in deciding on my man of the match. Yes, the defense was solid as a whole, but Obafemi Martins was easily the Sounders best player on the day.
Sometimes, it seemed like he had come down from another planet. Seriously, the majority of the other players on the pitch looked like mere mortals by comparison.
Every time the “Nigerian Nightmare” got the ball, he looked dangerous. (Before you say it, I realise I stole that nickname from Christian Okoye, but I’m sure he won’t mind. The guy’s been retired 23 years now.)
The Sounders are blessed to have one of the best trios of designated players in the entire league. And for my money, Martins may well be the best of the three of them. (Let the debate begin….)