The Seattle Sounders are off to an uncharacteristically poor start and now face one of the most challenging portions of their schedule. But with the club appearing healthier following a layoff after their first victory, they'll try for a second straight win Saturday on the road against the Philadelphia Union.
It marks the first of three games in three different time zones over eight days for the Sounders (1-3-2), the first of three such stretches for them this season.
"For us, it's an opportunity to get nine points," coach Sigi Schmid told the team's official website. "The challenge for the group is to be focused on every game and doing the right things to regenerate between each game."
Seattle's rough start has it in an early hole at the bottom of the Western Conference after the team posted at least three wins by the end of April in three of its first four seasons. The Sounders have limited opponents to five goals and own a 235-minute shutout streak but have also scored only three, getting blanked in half of their games.
They scored three goals in their first match alone in 2012.
However, the team is coming off its first win, a 1-0 victory at Colorado on April 20. The two-week gap between games also appeared to come at the right time for some injured forwards.
Obafemi Martins is closer to 100 percent, having missed a game with a knee injury. David Estrada (eye) and Eddie Johnson (hamstring) - responsible for two of the team's three goals - are also set to play after missing the last two contests.
"We're starting to get guys back," said Johnson, whose 14 goals paced Seattle last season. "I know I've been out of it a while and I'm feeling good and looking forward to getting back and playing some of the good soccer we've been playing lately."
The Union (3-3-2) have gone through their own slump, winning one of their last five matches, though four of those came on the road. The latest was a 2-0 loss at New England last Saturday with Jack McInerney failing to find the back of the net after scoring four times in his last three games.
McInerney, who is tied for the league lead with six goals, was named MLS Player of the Month.
But the bigger concern would appear to be on the back end considering Philadelphia has allowed four total goals on an average of 16.5 shots over its last two games. The Union yielded eight goals in their first six while holding teams to 10.7 shots per match.
"It's kind of gone the other way. We want to try to find the way we played in the first six," manager John Hackworth told the team's official website. "We have to kind of shore up some of our defensive holes that allowed D.C. and New England to get those opportunities in the first place. That's something we've worked on in training this week."
Each team has won twice in five all-time meetings, with Seattle taking last season's at home on Mauro Rosales' goal.