Early in Seattle’s 4-1 win over Colorado on Sunday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Sounders center back Jalil Anibaba was caught in possession at the midfield stripe.
The resulting chance came to nothing, as most Colorado attacks did yesterday. But on the JOEtv broadcast, Kasey Keller said that, while Seattle got away with miscue this time, it could be a different story against the Los Angeles frontline of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Gyasi Zardes.
Such is a life in a historically heated Supporter’s Shield race: L.A. has pulled even 60 points with three matches remaining despite what was once a 10-point Sounders lead, a charge that included a 3-0 win at CenturyLink in late July.
It’s natural — and it’s human nature — for players, fans and broadcasters to keep a wary over their shoulders, especially after L.A.’s comfortable 3-0 win against Toronto on Saturday and especially given the home-and-home series set to close the regular season.
“This week we had the advantage, knowing all of the results last night, especially that last one with LA, so it truly is going to be a battle until the end,” Seattle midfielder Brad Evans said. “Thinking about earlier in the season, we had a 10-point cushion.
“We knew that wasn’t going to be that easy. It’s never going to be that easy.”
L.A. is unbeaten in its last 10 matches and has won eight of them. Over that span, the Galaxy has poured in 31 goals and surrendered just eight.
“I mean, of course you see the (L.A.) result, that’s how it works,” Sounders winger Marco Pappa said. “But you don’t worry about them, you worry about us.”
That is part of the reason for anxiety — whereas L.A. was dominant throughout most of August and September, Seattle hit some rough patches, particularly on the back line. Deshorn Brown’s 45th-minute strike Sunday marked the sixth consecutive match in which the Sounders have allowed a first-half goal.
But to get so bogged down in nitpicking the team’s flaws is to miss out on what could be a historically successful campaign.
Seattle has already set its club record with 19 wins and is one away from becoming the first (and only) MLS team since the ’98 Galaxy with 20. It has already won the U.S. Open Cup and is still alive for the treble. Obafemi Martins broke his own single-season club scoring record with his 16th and 17th goals of the year Sunday.
I mean, did you see those goals on Sunday? Pappa’s chip off a no-look, back-heel feed from Clint Dempsey should be a candidate for the league’s goal of the year, and Osvaldo Alonso nearly topped it from near the midfield stripe only for Clint Irwin to get a hand on it at the last second.
The final three matches of the year bring the Cascadia Cup decider Friday against the Whitecaps then a two-match mini-series with an L.A. team some are calling one of the best in league history.
It’s a stretch to look forward to, not to dread.
“I don’t think we needed to respond (to L.A.), we just feel that we are a team that … we’ve been in first place for a while now, we don’t want to give it up,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said.
“We wanted to get the three points today. We are at 19 wins now and we want to keep going.”
By the numbers: 4 — assists in his last six MLS matches by Lamar Neagle, who has also tallied three goals during the span. Neagle has already matched his career high in assists with nine and matched his career high in goals with eight.
In their own words: “You can’t deny human nature. These guys aren’t playing with the most confidence – how can you when you haven’t won a game in two months? It makes it that much more difficult. My job the past two months has been to be very upbeat, really positive and focus on the good things that we’re doing. We’ve had some good performances sporadically mixed in there but, it’s that piano on your back. You start saying “can we ever win?” — Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni
Up next: Sounders vs. Vancouver Whitecaps, Friday at 7 p.m. at CenturyLink Field.