Sounders hope to keep riding late momentum
The Sounders play on the road Saturday at Chivas USA, and the key for Seattle late in the season will be the cohesion of a new-look offense after the midseason addition of two attack-minded midfielders.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Seattle @ Chivas USA, 7:30 p.m., Ch. 5
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TUKWILA — There's a board in the Sounders FC locker room that lists team goals for the rest of the season. Call it a daily reminder.
Over the months, certain aspirations changed or have gone unfilled. Others have stayed the same. A recent re-evaluation came in mid-July after the 20-game mark of the MLS regular season; Seattle had just clawed its way out of a franchise-worst nine-game winless streak.
So what are those goals? That's a team secret.
Then how are they doing? Well, aside from a painful loss in the U.S. Open Cup, the Sounders have gone 4-1-1 in MLS and have steadily climbed up the Western Conference standings heading into Saturday's 7:30 p.m. road game in Los Angeles against Chivas USA.
"We're pretty much on stride to reach those (goals)," said coach Sigi Schmid. "We just look at them, update them and remind ourselves of what we're trying to achieve."
The Supporters' Shield, a trophy awarded to the team with the best regular-season record, has remained in reach despite the summer slump and would provide entry into the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, something Seattle lost in its Open Cup defeat. The third-place Sounders are also making up ground in the conference on No. 1 San Jose and No. 2 Real Salt Lake.
The key for Seattle in reaching those goals over the final 10 games of the season will be the cohesion of a new-look attack after adding offensive-minded midfielders Christian Tiffert and Mario Martinez during the summer transfer window.
The Sounders already boast a dangerous triumvirate of forwards Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson and midfielder Mauro Rosales, who have combined for 20 goals and 16 assists.
"We're still looking for the right mixes in the right places now," Schmid said. "We've got Tiffert here and he's played some games now. We've got Mario Martinez, who we're trying to work in as well. But it's now a matter of making sure we have the right balance of attacking players and defending players, the right balance on the field. 'How are we going to defend that? How are we going to cover these spaces?' "
Schmid was a little tight-lipped about how he sees it all working but admitted it might involve hybrid formations. The Sounders generally play a version of a 4-4-2 formation (four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards) but could shift into more of a 4-3-3 look or a 4-5-1 during the game.
Along with balance, Schmid said it will be important to maintain possession of the ball, which will mask defensive shortcomings if he elects to play more attack-minded players.
Ultimately, if it all comes together, no team goal will be out of reach.
"We want to attain those," midfielder Brad Evans said. "One of those is obviously winning an MLS Cup, which every team has. If we reach the Supporters' Shield, great, but if not, we want home-field advantage (in the playoffs). There are still some goals that we need to reach."
• Sounders FC loaned out midfielder/defender Michael Tetteh to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League on Friday. Seattle's top draft pick in 2011 has rarely been used the past two seasons. Tetteh was loaned to Orlando City SC of the USL Pro league last summer.
• Midfielder Andy Rose (broken rib) and forward/midfielder David Estrada (broken foot) will each undergo X-rays to determine whether they can rejoin practice. Rose suffered the injury last week against Vancouver. Estrada has missed the past 11 MLS games.
• A win Saturday would give the 11-6-7 Sounders a team-best record through 25 games.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.