The work Nicolas Lodeiro put in during the week paid off in a game-winning goal Saturday.
Lodeiro scored in the 18th minute, and the Seattle Sounders extended their club-record start with a 1-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.
The Sounders (4-0-1) almost grabbed the lead when Brad Smith’s cross to Will Bruin was barely out of his reach at the right post. But the ball stayed in play, and Cristian Roldan gained control on the right side of the penalty area.
Roldan floated a high cross toward the left side, just over the head of Salt Lake defender Marco Silva. It landed at Lodeiro’s feet, and he one-timed it into the left corner, past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“I tried that during the week when I trained with Preki and Gonzo (Pineda),” Lodeiro said of his work with two of Seattle’s assistant coaches. “Today, I got lucky, too. It was a good goal, an important goal.”
Until this year, Seattle had never been unbeaten through its first five games. The team’s previous best record through five was 3-2-0, during its inaugural 2009 season.
But securing Saturday’s win took an extended defensive effort, as Real Salt Lake (1-4-1) had a handful of dangerous chances, including Jefferson Savarino’s shot from just outside the right of the penalty area that banged off the near post at the outset of the 74th minute.
“Over the course of time, this club has always been a really good defensive club,” coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We have a commitment to defending, and that starts with the guys up front. I’m pleased that with the amount of attacking players we have — maybe we should have had one more goal to make the game a little easier for them defensively — I’m glad they’re buying in.”
In addition to Savarino’s near-miss in the second half, Real Salt Lake had an opportunity to get even just before the end of the first half. With the ball bouncing loose at the top of the 6-yard box and Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei still scrambling back to his feet after knocking down a cross, Sam Johnson had a wide-open shot. But the ball skimmed just past the right post.
It helped Frei preserve his second straight shutout and third of the season.
The Sounders had been shut out three straight times by RSL.
Salt Lake coach Mike Petke made clear that talking about coming close in the course of four straight defeats is getting old.
“It comes down to this: I’m getting sick and tired — and I’m not faulting my players whatsoever — after these games of coming back and saying we deserved more out of it and did enough. I just talked to the team about it, and they all understand and agree: We all have to grow up a little bit.
“The days of saying we’re a young team, which we are, have to be pushed into the past,” Petke added. “We have to get a bit more savvy in situations. We have to get more clinical.”