Seattle Sounders FC capped its 2014 regular season with what coach Sigi Schmid considers the top win in the club’s six-season history.
Such a ranking is unusual for Schmid, who doesn’t like comparing teams, players or games. But in this pause between regular season and postseason, he went ahead and slapped the superlative on Seattle’s 2-0 win over Los Angeles on Saturday, which earned the team its first Supporters’ Shield.
“From a standpoint of the club’s history, I think it was a significant win because it was L.A., it was at home, it was with Supporters’ Shield on the line, last game of the regular season,” he said. “… Obviously, the Open Cup victories are up there as well. I don’t like to rank things like that in general — you know me — but right now I think it’s got to be the No. 1 win in our history.”
With almost a week to go before the Sounders open their Western Conference semifinal series Sunday against the winner of the Dallas-Vancouver knockout game, Schmid also reflected on that league-best 20-10-4 regular season, which included club records for wins and goals (65).
“When you look over 34 games, I think it becomes a true reflection,” he said. “As somebody says, basically the cream rises to the top. And a cup competition is fantasy island: Anybody can have their day. But from the standpoint of 34 games, the consistency of those 34 games: Did you play well in every game? No, not necessarily so. Did we pull some games out? Yeah. Did we dominate some games? Yeah. Did we have some stinkers along the way? Yeah. It was a little combination of all of those. But at the end of the day, we were the ones who were able to pick up the most points.”
Individually, Obafemi Martins set a club record with 17 goals. Clint Dempsey also went one above the previous mark with 15.
Martins also led the Sounders with 13 assists, tying the club record. Dempsey led with 113 shots and 47 shots on goal. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei finished with 99 saves, a 1.47 goals-against average and a career-high nine shutouts, good for third in the league.
“I think it’s just a reflection of our team and everybody combining well … and (Martins and Dempsey) obviously with their individual abilities making things happen,” Schmid said. “Oba’s total is like being involved in 30 goals, and Clint’s been involved in like 26 of our goals. … And when you take into account those missed games as well, that’s pretty good. When you’re involved in close to 45 percent of a team’s goals, that’s a good thing.”
One record the Sounders didn’t topple was in the stands. Over each of their first five seasons Seattle set MLS home attendance records, topping out in 2013 with 748,652 total attendance and an average of 44,038 per home game.
The 2014 figures came up just short: 743,485 total and 43,734 average.
“I guess I’d point to the positives,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “We have the largest season-ticket-holder base that we’ve had in 35,000 this year. I think we’re at 93-94 percent renewal rate — something in that range — which has to be tops in the league. … We’re very happy with our average. But it’s an opportunity to continue to plug away and try to grow the base, and look at it as a challenge to the business to sell more — whether we had broken the record or not.”
Seattle midfielder Marco Pappa was named MLS player of the week Monday after coming off the bench to score both goals in the win over Los Angeles. … Schmid said one result of the MLS realignment that will disband Chivas USA, shift Kansas City and Houston to the West and plop expansion teams New York City and Orlando in the East could be an increased difficulty for Western teams to win Supporters’ Shield. “It’s going to be so competitive, and you’re going to be taking points off of each other,” he said. “With two expansion teams in the East — although I think they’ll be good expansion teams — and a couple of teams having off seasons … it probably makes that division look easier.”