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Originally published September 6, 2013 at 3:22 PM | Page modified September 7, 2013 at 6:31 PM

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Defense has been key to Sounders’ recent success

After an “eye opener” of a defeat in Houston, the Sounders committed to improving their defense, which has resulted in three straight shutout wins heading into Saturday’s home game against Chicago.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Chicago @ Sounders FC, 7 p.m., NBC Sports

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TUKWILA – Sounders FC has always prided itself on being an entertaining, attack-minded team.

Who doesn’t love offense, right?

Seattle led MLS in scoring in 2011 and has signed some of the most exciting players in the league the past couple seasons in Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson.

Recent success, however, has been less flash and more grit. A commitment to defense following an embarrassing defeat has helped lead the team to three straight wins — all by shutout — heading into Saturday’s 7 p.m. home game against Chicago.

The Sounders haven’t allowed a goal in 286 minutes, their longest streak of the season, and have improved to third in MLS with 1.03 goals allowed per game.

“It’s been an absolutely great team effort and, of course as a goalkeeper, I like it very much,” said Michael Gspurning, who is tied for second in the league with nine shutouts.

Ask what has improved on defense and the Sounders provide many answers. And there was much to fix from the team’s last loss, a 3-1 drubbing at Houston that Gspurning called “an eye opener for us that we have to change.”

Leo Gonzalez, who is back from a red-card suspension, said defensive success has been due to a teamwide commitment, all the way to the forwards.

Marc Burch credited team pressure in Wednesday’s win over Chivas USA: “Every time we lost the ball we chased them down. We made them uncomfortable, and that way we were winning a lot of balls back.”

Coach Sigi Schmid has been especially impressed with the team’s tight marking on set pieces and crosses. He also noted the team’s improved effort in blocking shots.

In the past three games, the Sounders have blocked 19 of their opponents’ 47 attempts, more than 40 percent.

“We want to create a momentum that makes it tough to score on us,” said Gspurning, whose team has allowed just 11 second-half goals, best in MLS.

Obafemi Martins will be a game-time decision for the Sounders as he continues to recover from a nagging ankle injury. The forward missed his fourth straight game Wednesday.

• Sounders fans are encouraged to arrive early Saturday with a Mariners home game scheduled for 6:10 p.m. and Chinatown Autumn Moon Festival also in the area.

Good ‘D’
A team-wide commitment to defense has reaped instant reward as the Sounders’ current shutout streak of 286 minutes is fifth-longest in MLS this season. A look at the 10 longest scoreless stretches this season:
Team Minutes StartEnd
Sporting KC546March 9April 20
New England 420May 11June 15
Portland 312March 30April 21
Houston 298April 28 May 12
Sounders FC 286Aug. 17 current
Sounders FC 285 March 30 May 4
Portland 283 June 8 July 7
Colorado 282April 28 May 18
Sounders FC 273May 4May 18
FC Dallas 272March 17 April 6
Good ‘D’
A team-wide commitment to defense has reaped instant reward as the Sounders’ current shutout streak of 286 minutes is fifth-longest in MLS this season. A look at the 10 longest scoreless stretches this season:
Team Minutes StartEnd
Sporting KC546March 9April 20
New England 420May 11June 15
Portland 312March 30April 21
Houston 298April 28 May 12
Sounders FC 286Aug. 17 current
Sounders FC 285 March 30 May 4
Portland 283 June 8 July 7
Colorado 282April 28 May 18
Sounders FC 273May 4May 18
FC Dallas 272March 17 April 6

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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