Through seven games, the Seattle Sounders are on nine points. That’s just two more points than they had at the same point last year — a start most considered to be a near disaster — that served as foreshadowing for a particularly tumultuous summer.
This year’s start is a bit different, though. The primary reason: five of the Sounders’ games have been on the road, including their past three (a year ago just three of their first seven were on the road). But beyond that fact, there are quite a few underlying factors that suggest the Sounders have played better than their total points suggest.
Let’s start with the road games. From those five games, the Sounders have five points. Not outstanding, but within the target ranges of most teams at the start of the season. In fact, if you plotted the Sounders’ season out based on their current road and home form they’d finish with 51 points, three more than they had last year when they finished fourth in the Western Conference.
Based on that alone, you could probably call these first seven games reasonably successful. But the more you dig, the better it starts to look.
Looking at the next most obvious numbers, the Sounders are +3 on goal difference, including +1 on the road. Just four teams in the entire league are better. Similarly, only four teams have scored more than their 11 goals and only four teams have allowed fewer than their eight goals.
The deeper-level stats are even more encouraging. The Sounders rank No. 1 with 14.4 shots per contest (nearly 1.5 more than anyone else). Even though only 4.0 of them are on frame per game, those shots are a big reason the Sounders are effectively tied for the league lead in xG per game (1.674, which is .006 less than the Portland Timbers’ actual league-leading figure). The Sounders also lead the league with a xGD of 4.04. Leading the way are Clint Dempsey, who currently ranks sixth in MLS with 3.56 xG and Nicolas Lodeiro, second in xA with 2.99.
They’re doing this largely while holding onto the ball longer than their opponents, claiming 54 percent of possession — again while playing 5 of 7 on the road — which is second highest in the league. Their 81.6 completion percentage is third best.
Add this all up and the Sounders appear to be poised for a solid run as they prepare to play four of their next six at CenturyLink Field.