Seemingly so much has transpired since Sounders FC’s last home game back in March.
Need a CliffNotes version?
Well, star forward Clint Dempsey has returned from suspension and is producing at an MVP level, plus Seattle went 2-0-1 on a riveting three-game road trip to climb to second place in the Western Conference standings.
Yet the Sounders still return home for Saturday’s 1 p.m. game against the Colorado Rapids with much to prove. Seattle has lost two straight at CenturyLink Field, only the third such occurrence in team history, and is looking to avoid its first three-game home losing streak as an MLS franchise.
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The Sounders’ two home losses have matched their total from all of last season, and the motivation to set that right hasn’t been forgotten after three weeks of exciting results on the road.
“We feel we owe more to our city and owe more to the fans,” said defender DeAndre Yedlin, a Seattle native.
Points lost at home are always the ones that linger. Coach Sigi Schmid still laments some missed opportunities in 2007, his second year in charge of the Columbus Crew. The team narrowly missed the playoffs, and captain Guillermo Barros Schelotto spoke up in a postseason meeting with a stinging realization.
Schmid recalled the Schelotto message: “He said, ‘You know if we would’ve won one more game at home, we would’ve made the playoffs. That’s all we needed to do was win one more game at home.’ That always stuck with me.”
The Sounders, of course, have never missed the playoffs, but in four of their five seasons, just one more home win — whether in April or October — would have resulted in a better seed in postseason.
“We know that our record at home has to be very important,” Schmid said.
Being at full strength is important, too. The Sounders were without their two main U.S. internationals in their last home game, with Dempsey completing a two-game suspension and Brad Evans out with a calf injury. Both will be available Saturday, and the only thing keeping Seattle’s from a first-choice lineup is defender Leo Gonzalez being out with a hamstring strain.
Perhaps just as significant as the personnel boost, though, is the confidence from a stellar road trip, where Seattle claimed seven out of nine possible points despite trailing in each of the three games.
“We’re feeling good, we’re in a good rhythm and we’re showing character in the games we’ve been playing as of late,” Dempsey said. “We’re on a good run of form, and that will carry us forward.”
Recent history could factor, as well.
The last regular-season meeting between these two teams was a 5-1 home win for the Rapids, back on Oct. 5, which tied the worst loss in the Sounders’ MLS history and set a team record for goals allowed in a league game. Seattle got revenge in the playoffs, advancing past Colorado in the Western Conference knockout round, but the lopsided defeat still stings.
Said Schmid: “We’re still thinking about that one.”
• Sounders FC will honor Pepe Fernandez, who starred for Seattle in the old North American Soccer League, during Saturday’s game as part of a yearlong celebration of the club’s 40th anniversary.
• The Sounders are 8-2-2 against Colorado in MLS, tied for the most wins against a league opponent. Seattle holds a 5-0-1 advantage at home.
|The Sounders’ two home losses have already matched the total from last season.|
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184