TUKWILA, Wash. – When the Seattle Sounders were unceremoniously booted from the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals last month by an onslaught of Santos Laguna goals, there was some definite concern about the defense that was about to begin the 2012 MLS season.
It wasn’t that anyone was going to panic about one bad half of soccer – Seattle more than held its own against Santos for a game and a half before falling apart in the final half of the two-leg quarterfinal – but rather that the Sounders were about to begin its season with plenty of questions on defense, and they was going into its regular-season opener fresh off a thorough beating.
For the Sounders, 2012 was the first season without former team captain and U.S. soccer legend Kasey Keller in goal. James Riley, the team’s starting right back for three seasons, was gone after Seattle decided not to protect him in the expansion draft. Seattle was also coming into the season potentially starting a newcomer at left back as well as offseason addition Marc Burch battled Leo Gonzalez for the starting job.
Mix uncertainty with a six-goal onslaught, and there was suddenly legitimate reason to wonder how well Seattle would be able to protect its goal in 2012.
Four games into the regular season, the Sounders’ defense has done plenty to quiet any and all critics. Seattle has given up just two goals in four games on the way to a 2-1-1 record.
“It’s important,” center back Patrick Ianni said of his team’s ability to bounce back from the Santos loss. “I don’t think the group ever lost confidence or faith after that game in Santos, but it was a rough one. You have to pick yourself back up and get going again.”
What makes Seattle’s stingy defense more impressive is the fact that it has been accomplished with a rotating cast of characters. Ianni is the only defender to start all four of Seattle’s regular-season games, and he figured to be the odd man out at center back with Jeff Parke and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado projected as starters. Those two have both started games, as have two right backs – Adam Johansson and Zach Scott – and two left backs – Gonzalez and Burch.
“It’s just a matter of us all being on the same page,” said Parke, who lost his starting job after that Santos game, but got the nod last week with Hurtado injured.