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We need to talk about Sounders’ home form

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The Sounders are on a four-game winless run and have won just 5 of 12 at Lumen Field this year.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

When the Seattle Sounders lost to the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Sunday it continued a couple different frustrating trends. For one, it was the sixth straight regular-season game in which the Sounders failed to beat their southern rivals at home. Frustrating as it is — and it’s definitely annoying — I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to take away from it, especially given how the Sounders have been almost as inversely dominant on the road against the Timbers.

Of possibly more concern is the larger home trend. This marked the Sounders’ fourth straight home game without a win, a stretch in which they’ve claimed just a single point. They’ve now played 12 matches at home this year and have won only five, which averages out to just 1.58 points per game. That’s not awful — 10 teams are doing worse — but is well below what you’d expect for a team leading the Western Conference and second in the Supporters’ Shield standings.

If the Sounders continue on this pace, they’ll finish with the worst home record in their MLS history.

The explanations for why this is happening are mostly anecdotal but do follow some logic. One possibility is that the Sounders’ three-centerback formation is better suited for transition play. On the road where they are apt to give up possession, that has worked well. But at home, where they might feel more pressure to dictate play, they’ve struggled to break down teams.

It also seems to be worth noting that during this four-game home winless run, the Sounders have only scored two goals and just one of them was from open play. Against the Timbers, most of their most dangerous chances came off set-pieces. Six of the Sounders’ 14 shots were off corners and that accounted for more than two-thirds of their Expected Goals.

Despite their struggles at Lumen Field, the Sounders remain on pace to finish with their highest-ever point total (66) based on current home and road form.

The reason the Sounders are in such a strong position overall is that they’ve been exceptionally good on the road. Their 23 road points are the most in MLS and their 2.30 points per game are 0.48 better than the second-best team. If the Sounders were to maintain this pace, they’d break the MLS record for most away points (37 by the 1998 Galaxy).

Still, the Sounders are well aware that they need to play better in front of their fans and not just for entertainment reasons. The backbone of the Sounders’ playoff success has been their play at home, where they’re currently riding a 15-game playoff winning streak that includes a 12-0-0 record under Brian Schmetzer.

Not since 2011 have the Sounders failed to win at least 10 home games in a 34-game season. In order to get there, they’d need to win their final five at Lumen Field. That will need to start on Sept. 11 against Minnesota United.

Sounders home record during MLS era

Year W L T PPG points
Year W L T PPG points
2021 5 3 4 1.58 19
2020 7 1 2 2.30 23
2019 11 2 4 2.18 37
2018 10 5 2 1.88 32
2017 11 1 5 2.24 38
2016 10 5 2 1.88 32
2015 11 4 2 2.06 35
2014 12 4 1 2.18 37
2013 10 2 5 2.06 35
2012 11 4 2 2.06 35
2011 9 4 4 1.82 31
2010 8 4 3 1.80 27
2009 7 2 6 1.80 27
Total 122 41 42 1.99 408