A Seattle Sounders lineup featuring a mix of youth and experience picked up their third straight win thanks to yet another tremendous defensive performance and a goal from Mauro Rosales. Andy Rose and Bryan Meredith made their first MLS starts and Alex Caskey made his second, with Sigi Schmid opting to rest several regulars ahead of Wednesday's trip to Dallas. It was a game largely dominated by Seattle, but difficulties with finishing and a late surge of counter attacks from the Philadelphia Union made things a bit more uncomfortable than they perhaps should have been.
Meredith made just one save on the afternoon with the defense locking down the Union with ease, and the Sounders recorded their fifth shutout of the season. The last goal Seattle surrendered during the run of play came on March 17th in the first MLS game of the season against Toronto FC. The Sounders were perhaps lucky to make it through the game with all eleven players players after Rose-already on a yellow after a reckless challenge early in the game-was not sent off after what looked like a bookable offense just short of the half-hour mark.
The Union may have a legitimate case that Rose was let off easy, but Ricardo Salazar's decision to allow the Sounders midfielder stay in the game was just one of many puzzling calls (or non-calls, as the case may be) the referee made on the day. Salazar ignored the raised flag of his assistant referee on several occasions, and at one point played advantage for the Sounders after Rosales appeared to have been fouled inside the box. Both clubs had several legitimate complaints with the refereeing and on the balance of things the incorrect decisions likely balanced out, but it was a very poor performance by Salazar. It's unfortunate when the referee becomes part of the story, but there's little denying that it was the case this afternoon.
With FC Dallas and Real Salt Lake coming up this week, the Sounders' ability to pick up a win while resting some key players could be key. With 19 points from 8 games played, Seattle sits second in the Western Conference with a game in hand over the Earthquakes. Their pace of 2.38 points per game is good enough for third in the league behind Sporting Kansas City (2.63) and San Jose (2.44) and would be good enough for 81 points over the course of 34 games-solidly Supporters Shield-winning territory. Whether they can sustain that kind of pace over a full season is yet to be seen (and realistically rather unlikely) but it's beyond clear now that the sputtering starts that have plagued Seattle these past few seasons have come to an end. If Seattle can avoid a mid or late-season swoon, this could turn out to be a very special season.