Sounders FC rounding into winning shape
Seattle kicks off the final third of the 30-game regular season against Chivas USA at 8 p.m Saturday, and players and coaches like where they stand heading into the playoff pursuit.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Sounders FC @ Chivas USA, 8 p.m., KONG
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TUKWILA — Time for the final push.
Through two-thirds of the Major League Soccer schedule, Sounders FC had an even share of ups and downs. Then, it was about disappointing results and high-profile departures. More recently, it's been about high-profile additions and hot streaks.
Having finally found its winning form, Seattle kicks off the final third of the 30-game regular season against Chivas USA (5-10-3) at 8 p.m. Saturday, and players and coaches like where they stand heading into the playoff pursuit.
"Right now, I think we're in a much better place than we were at the start of the season," coach Sigi Schmid said. "We have to maintain it, though."
Once positioned in last place in the Western Conference following an embarrassing home loss to Los Angeles, Sounders FC (8-8-4) is currently in the middle of the postseason hunt thanks to a four-game winning streak.
Midfielder Steve Zakuani said the team benefited by not panicking throughout early-season frustrations.
"When you lose a few games, minor things become major and you start overanalyzing," he said. "And when you win, maybe you overlook some stuff. I think we've done a good job of not overlooking anything.
"We've kept the same approach when things weren't going so well and we knew they'd turn around, we just didn't know when."
Saturday's game commences a filled-to-the-brim schedule through the end of October. Along with 10 MLS games in 10 weeks, Seattle has picked up six midweek games in CONCACAF Champions League group stage play and hosts a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against Chivas USA on Sept. 1.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller said responding to inevitable adversity along that long road will be key for Seattle in the final months.
"What I'm looking for is, if we do lose a game, to bounce straight back and get back on the next run," Keller said. "That's what is so important, is to make sure you don't get into bad runs, continually pick up points, put teams under pressure.
"I see no reason why that's going to stop. The team spirit is tremendous at the moment."
• Midfielder Brad Evans was placed on the disabled list Friday with a left patellar tendon injury and is required to miss six games per league policy. Conversely, forward/midfielder Mike Fucito (knee) was taken off the DL and is eligible to play for the first time in four months.
• Schmid said Zakuani has been ruled out of Saturday's game with "general soreness" and will not travel to Los Angeles.
• John Rooney, younger brother of Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, is no longer on trial with Seattle and will resume training next week with the Portland Timbers.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
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