In both a literal and metaphorical sense, the sun Saturday afternoon burned off the clouds that have covered Seattle and its Sounders lately. A ricochet goal from midfielder Harry Shipp banished the gloom, snapping a four-game winless streak and providing proof that Seattle still knows how to find the back of the net at Century Link Field.
Shipp, dropped from the starting lineup in four of the past five games, was elated to notch his second goal of the season. In the 42nd minute against Real Salt Lake, he ran onto a rebound from a corner kick outside the box, smashing it off Reagan Dunk and bouncing it into the net as keeper Nick Rimando went the wrong way.
The lone goal in the 1-0 win was especially big for Shipp, who fought his way back into a starting spot. He heard coach Brian Schmetzer tell him to be more aggressive.
“The last few games, I played being too deferential,” Shipp said. “I’ve made a conscious effort to say, ‘Have belief in your own abilities. You’re playing with a bunch of good players, but there’s no need to be deferential.’
“That’s going to be more conscious in my mind the rest of the year.”
Shipp took three shots, tying a season high for the attacking midfielder. Shipp’s other goal came the other time he took three shots in a 3-1 win against the New York Red Bulls March 19.
Shipp also benefited from a strong partnership with right back Brad Evans, finally over a calf injury, who made his first start of the season at home in front of a crowd of an announced 40,588.
After two substitute appearances lasting 11 and 12 minutes in recent losses, Evans lasted just over an hour at right back, harassing RSL forward Joao Plata and making runs up the right side that gave Seattle the opportunity to attack both flanks.
The competitive Evans was unhappy to miss the first nine games rehabbing, but understood the logic that allowed the 32-year-old to fully recover:
“There were times where the situation was I was damned if I did and damned if I didn’t. We sat down as a group and said, ‘We need you to be healthy because we want you on the team. But if this keeps happening, ultimately the team has to find someone else that can do the job that is consistently healthy.’ A consistent back line is a recipe for winning in this league.
“I didn’t want to be out that long, but I knew that if I did something, and I come back in three weeks and it happens again, then I’m probably out of here. it’s difficult (to rehab), my body didn’t feel right. It’s been an uphill battle, but hopefully, now (we’ve) taken care of the issue and can build off of this.”
Clint Dempsey had a chance to ice the game in the 54th minute, after Jordan Morris drew a penalty in the area, but he put his shot well inside the left post, allowing Rimando to make an easy save.
The save was a break for RSL, which outshot Seattle 10-6 in the second half, forcing five saves from Stefan Frei. But the Sounders were able to avoid a late collapse to earn their second home win this season.
With a 2-1-2 record at home this season, CenturyLink is not yet the fortress the Sounders (3-5-4, 13 points) want, but Saturday proved that walls can be rebuilt.
Evans put it another way:
“This has got to be a place where (a win) is a guarantee.”