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The Sounders close the first of the season in style

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Since the Seattle Sounders were eliminated from the US Open Cup on May 11, no MLS team has been better. You can slice your data in many ways, but they all basically tell the same story.

Following Saturday’s 2-0 road win over Toronto FC, the Sounders are now 6-2-1 with a +11 goal difference since their schedule was cleared of non-MLS games. No team in MLS has as many wins or points, and the team with the next best goal difference is the Vancouver Whitecaps at +5. In that time, the Sounders have recovered 6 points from Supporters’ Shield leaders LAFC, 5 points from second-place Austin FC, and 5 points from Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls.

Advanced metrics also like the Sounders, though maybe not as much. In their six wins, the Sounders have had a positive expected goal difference and collectively have 15.5 expected goals scored and 10.27 expected goals allowed, not far from the actual number of 17 goals scored and six goals allowed. which I am tempted to attribute to some exemplary goalkeepers in Stefan Frei and Stefan Cleveland until proven otherwise.

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Even more encouraging is that this data doesn’t seem to be heavily influenced by the Sounders’ home-and-away split during that period. The Sounders are 4-1-1 (2.17 PPG) at home and 2-1-0 (2.00 PPG) on the road. If they kept those divisions for the rest of the season, they would finish with around 61 points.

The Sounders have also been doing this while juggling their lineups. Even factoring in João Paulo’s injury, the Sounders were missing several key starters in at least six of those games, in which they are posting 10 points (1.67 points per game).

The victory over Toronto was especially confirming. Brian Schmetzer, who had already missed several starters to long-term injuries and was coming off a frustrating midweek loss, decided to make the calculated gamble of resting several other veterans before next weekend’s game against the Portland Timbers. . Stefan Frei, Jordan Morris, Cristian Roldan and Albert Rusnák didn’t even fly to Toronto, instead making way for the likes of Léo Chu, Cleveland, Danny Leyva and Dylan Teves. Those replacements combined have just 13 starts and less than 1,300 minutes of playing time in MLS this year.

Those four players not only put on outstanding performances, but they did so in a game that was a bit tough for the Sounders after being outplayed by the Montreal Impact a few days earlier. Chú spent most of the afternoon skinning Designated Player Carlos Salcedo and had the game-winning assist; Cleveland earned its first shutout of the season by making six saves; Leyva arguably had the best performance out of him as a defensive midfielder against a veteran midfielder of Michael Bradley, Jonathan Osorio and Alejandro Pozuelo; and Teves was consistently dangerous and scored in his first MLS start.

Add solid performances from what was effectively the starting baseline, another encouraging change from Nicolás Lodeiro as part of a double pivot, and Fredy Montero conjuring up another classic performance, and you can understand why there seemed to be some extra energy in the post- win “Jingle Bells”.

“The players are in a very good mood,” Schmetzer told reporters after the match. “I think it was a determined group.

“After a loss at home, to come across the country to play against a team with big ambitions and a great manager and come out with a clean sheet and two goals was very, very impressive and the right time for this group. get to the Portland game.”

All of which is to say that it appears the Sounders have found their footing after a somewhat self-inflicted slow start to the MLS season, while understandably having their focus on CCL. This looks like a team that is now built to withstand the bumps and bruises that come during any MLS season. They are also in a reasonably strong position in the table. Although they are seventh in the West, they are just one point out of fourth and three points out of third with one game remaining.

The game against the Timbers should be another good test. It’s unclear if any of the injured starters will be available, but the rest Frei, Morris, Roldan and Rusnák got are expected to pay dividends. If the Sounders can play out the second half of the season the way they finished the first, this promises to be a special season.

sniloans