Dealing with multiple major injuries, fixture congestion with their third match in eight days, and facing the (now) first place team in the Eastern Conference, odds were stacked against the Seattle Sounders in Saturday's match against the Union in Philadelphia.
Backups Saad Abdul-Salaam, Roman Torres, Jonathan Campbell (making his first MLS start for Sounders FC, no less), Nouhou, Jordy Delem, Alex Roldan and Will Bruin all started Saturday. Usual starters Nicolas Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, Kim Kee-hee and Stefan Frei, all who played 90 minutes against Houston last Saturday and another 90 minutes against Orlando City on Wednesday, rounded out Seattle's lineup.
And while starters Kelvin Leerdam and Raul Ruidiaz entered the match in the second half, the squad still faced a far-healthier and rested Philadelphia team that had not played since the previous Saturday, an impressive 2-1 road win against Toronto FC.
But what do the Sounders say to the god of losses? Not today.
Despite multiple promising chances by both teams throughout, no goals hit the back of the net and Seattle escaped the road challenge with a point, their seventh in the recent three games, bringing their record to 7-1-5, good for second place in the Western Conference and only four behind LAFC for the Supporters Shield lead.
The 26 points in 13 games start for Seattle equals the club's best start in franchise history, which came in 2014 when the club finished with 64 points and the Shield.
In Saturday's 0-0 draw, Philadelphia out-shot the Sounders 20-6, including 6-1 on-goal, held 67.8% possession, won nearly twice as many duels as Seattle, and passed at a 10% higher accuracy. Statistically, the Union dominated the visitors in Rave Green. Keeper Stefan Frei, the Man of the Match, finished with six saves, including one highlight-reel stop in the 58th minute, to keep the match scoreless.
"Everyone was willing to put in a solid effort to grind out a point and a shutout. For us, to start this spell of road games with this level of commitment is promising," Frei said.
For Schmetzer, seeing results and quality performances from many backup players only gives confidence in his squad for the final 21 matches of the season, where the team will no doubt deal with more fixture congestion, injuries and International Duty call-ups.
"When I look at the faces in the locker room, when I look at the players on the field giving it their all, giving them chances to win at the end of the game on a couple set pieces and stealing a couple passes, I can’t ask for anything more from my guys," Schmetzer said. "We flew out on two days rest and for them to put on a performance like that, and some guys who played all three games, it was a monster performance."
Up next for Seattle is Sporting Kansas City, dealing with ten players currently on their injury report. That fails to include leading scorer Krisztian Nemeth (six goals) who saw a red card in Saturday's match against Vancouver and will miss next Sunday's bout against the Sounders.
That match will kick off at Children's Mercy Park in Kansas City at 3:00 p.m. with Sporting Radio 950 KJR's Pre-Match Show starting at 2:30. Check out highlights from Saturday's 0-0 draw in Philadelphia and KJR's Postgame Show below.