TUKWILA — A lot of positive attributes can be applied to the Sounders’ play the past few weeks.
There’s their resiliency in dealing with six players rotating in and out of the lineup due to injuries. There’s their commitment to improving in training. And there’s their depth in reserves being able to fill in for the starters and keep Seattle competitive.
But the results have only added up to three points because of three straight draws.
After a record start that saw them second in MLS standings only to Los Angeles FC, the Sounders (5-1-4) have dropped to fourth in the Western Conference. However, they have an opportunity to pass Houston and into third place by beating the Dynamo (6-1-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“A lot of people were complaining about the slow starts,” Sounders FC coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’ve put ourselves in a hole the last couple of years. We don’t want to do that again. Wins now, wins at home, wins against conference opponents, wins against good teams — all of those factors are in play for (Saturday).”
The Sounders played with their healthiest roster since the opener in March in a draw at Minnesota last week. Striker Raul Ruidiaz (heel) and backup Will Bruin (hamstring) were among the returnees, substituted into the match late in the second half after missing about a month.
For Saturday’s game, Seattle will have defender Kelvin Leerdam in the lineup. He missed the Minnesota trip due to a red card he received in a home game against LAFC.
Seattle will be without Gustav Svensson (hamstring) at defensive midfield, but Jordy Delem has received praise from teammates and Schmetzer for his performance as a backup.
The middle will again be a critical spot to gain control because of Houston’s style. The Dynamo, which has won four of its past five matches, is led by forwards Mauro Manotas and Alberth Elis. Manotas has scored five goals with four assists while Elis has four goals and five assists to open the season.
“More than anything else is going to be the concentration,” Sounders center back Roman Torres said through a translator. “In the space that they give us, we have to be sure we capitalize and get the shot. Hopefully (Saturday) we’ll get the three points.”
Seattle is unbeaten against Houston at home. The last meeting between the teams was in Houston, the Sounders winning 3-2 in October, when Ruidiaz scored the deciding goal in the 87th minute.
“Houston is playing into that ‘flying under the radar’ (role),” Sounders goalie Stefan Frei said. “But I’ve noticed and our players have noticed they’re a good side and they’re dangerous. They’re very efficient with their touches. They don’t fuss about possessions. They’re quick on the counter. They’re explosive on their attack. They’re dangerous.”
Saturday’s game marks the start of another grinding stretch where the Sounders will play three games in eight days. Schmetzer is looking for the club to make it through and have a lighter stretch before a two-week international break in June.
Make it through with wins, not draws.
“(Then) we can reset, reboot for the last half of the year,” Schmetzer said. “It’s a smidge early, (to say the game is a must-win), but it is an important game.”