Much has been made of the fact that in their first-ever MLS Cup victory, the Seattle Sounders had the dubious distinction of going a full 120 minutes without a single shot on goal. However, a more important point that has seemingly gone overlooked, is the fact that this same Sounders team held scoreless over that same 120 minutes, a Toronto attack that had found the back of the net 17 times in the 5 playoff games leading up to the final. Seattle’s defense did what no other team in the 2016 playoffs was able to do, hence the phrase, ‘Defense wins championships.’
Not only did the Sounders keep Sebastian Giovinco, easily one of the most dangerous players in the league, from scoring, but they were the only team to hold Jozi Altidore—first player in MLS history to score in five straight playoff games in a single season—without a goal. A goal in the final would not only have cemented this accomplishment in MLS lore for all of history, but it would have won the Cup for his side as well.
Say what you will about the early season woes of the club, the Sounders finished the year tied with Supporter Shield winners FC Dallas for the third highest number of regular season shutouts with 12, behind only Toronto (13) and Colorado (14). Over the course of the playoffs, including the Cup Final, Seattle conceded a mere 3 goals in 6 games. Stellar performances from eventual Cup MVP Stefan Frei were commonplace. His 7 saves against Sporting Kansas City in the Knockout Round were the number reason Seattle was able to even catch a glimpse of the coveted trophy.
The center back duo of Chad Marshall and Román Torres, along with defensive midfielder Ozzie Alonzo, were essential in not only holding Giovinco and Altidore at bay in the finals, but stifling some of the best attackers in the West all throughout the playoffs. Add to this the fact that Seattle’s outside defenders assisted on 4 of their 8 playoff goals, 3 of those assists coming from left back Joevin Jones, and you have not only a recipe for disaster for opposing teams at the end of 2016, but a recipe for success heading into the 2017 pre-season next month.
The Sounders pre-season begins on February 4th against Cascadia rival Portland Timbers. The location of that match has yet to be determined. Check in at SoundersFC.com or download the Sounders app to keep up with all things Sounders in 2017.