If you’re a Union fan and somebody asks you about the team’s defense, you might point to how they traded or loaned away top center backs Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes and Bakary Soumare over the past year-and-a-half. Or that they’ve struggled to find a natural left back after sending away Jordan Harvey and then Gabriel Farfan. Or that they’ve decided the best course this season was to put a natural midfielder (Amobi Okugo) at center back and a natural right back (Ray Gaddis) on the left side.
You might even harken back to the dark days when the Union finished their inaugural 2010 season with the absurdly low total of two shutouts. Or perhaps you’d bring up how they’ve twice let in five goals in a game this season while giving up four in another one.
What you might fail to mention is that, heading into Sunday’s nationally televised showdown against the San Jose Earthquakes (11 pm ET, ESPN2), the Union have already matched a franchise record for shutouts with 10, a total that’s tied for second in the league.
Gaddis – who’s started at left back most of the season but filled in at right back for last week’s scoreless draw against the Montreal Impact – believes that shutout total “gets overlooked a lot of times.”
“As a defensive unit, we don’t necessarily get enough credit,” Gaddis said. “But we are okay with that.”
Perhaps one reason why the shutout number gets overlooked is because the Union have conceded 37 goals this season, the second-worst total in the Eastern Conference. But the main reason for that is because of those few games when the floodgates have completely opened.
For them, one of the most important defensive metrics is shutouts. In fact, one of their preseason goals was to get 10 clean sheets, which they thought was part of the formula to make the playoffs.
Does it simply come down to the Union’s tried-and-trued mantra that they don’t get enough leaguewide respect?
“If they don’t respect us, they don’t respect us,” Gaddis said. “Of course you feel that maybe we should get some more respect. We’ll just go out there and continue to do our job.”
And their job, Union defenders have said time and again this season, is to get shutouts. Remarkably, the Union have held the opposing team scoreless in five of their last seven games. And if they can do it again Sunday, it would be quite the accomplishment, considering Okugo is suspended for his second straight game and the Earthquakes feature a strong attack led by 2012 MVP Chris Wondolowski.
But maybe then, people will begin to pay attention to those shutout stats.