What can you take away from Sounders FC‘s first three matches of 2011? The Sounders record looks more like an expansion squad than an experienced one. No wins, two losses, and a draw. Is it time to sing the Rave Green blues? Reflecting on results from last year, the Sounders 2010 season low came against LA Galaxy on Independence day. Losing 3-1, the loss dropped Sounders FC to 4-wins, 8-losses, and 3-draws. The Independence Day collapse also sealed the fate for, Freddie Ljungberg. That was the low in a 30 game schedule. With the addition of two Northwest teams in 2011, MLS has expanded its schedule to 34 games. The Sounders are still nowhere near that 2010 low. Losing doesn’t polish any gold brick-laid road, but the first three matches of 2011 offer more hope for glory than reason to sing the blues.
“It’s always too soon to quit”, said Cliff McCrath, in his Sounders weekly video, “Nubs Nuggets”. His successful coaching career at Seattle Pacific University is not lost on Sounders FC and coach, Sigi Schmid. Sounders FC have a weekly video featuring McCrath’s coaching perspective, and his nuggets of advice in handling adversity while challenging yourself to be successful. Sigi, has taken the same approach, saying a slow start like this is no reason for “doom and gloom”.
Soccer is often more about a mentality of how you play, than it is winning. Success is no doubt critical to a teams viability, and winning the best drug. Yet, isn’t winning important in all sports? A “winning” mentality in sports is just a nice way of saying that winning rights all wrongs. Soccer forces that type of thinking to go outside the box. It starts with how teams earn one point for draws. Draws give teams incentive to keep level with an opponent. Earning its first point last week in a draw against Houston, Sounders FC and fans felt the winning mentality move toward more positive results. Notwithstanding, it is important to review the first two losses. More significant than the draw with Houston, or disappointment in their losses, was the quality of play on the pitch in the first two matches. In Seattle’s previous two seasons, a common criticism was how often they allowed teams more possession. Attacks came in strong frenetic bursts sandwiched between stretches of defending. Against LA and New York, Seattle showed an improved focus on owning possession. More quality passing gave way to better buildup in their attacks. In the first two years, attacks often petered out without any shots. This year has seen no lack of shots, just a lack of luck. Sigi brought this point home saying, “I’d rather have bad luck than no luck at all”. When you are creating exciting chances then it’s only a matter of time before results match up to your effort or a little luck.
What stands out so far, is the Sounders playing style and momentum of their first two home matches. More completed passes, more positive
touches, more possession, more shots. Possession against LA and Houston strongly favored Seattle. Shots on target, twenty-six against Houston, have decisively gone the Sounders way. Both goals given up to LA and Houston came from single momentary lapses in concentration. Correctable moments as the season progresses. Soccer is a long season. The Sounders are well within striking distance of all playoff positions. So the key to survival during this challenging early stretch, is maintaining a positive mentality and repetition. Recognizing an improved team through a losing record is hard work. It’s like trying to pick out hand-packed sausage in a supermarket world of coupon hotdogs. Winning is the easy abundance we strive for. If you’re not first, you’re last.
Going up against a quality team like, San Jose Earthquakes is a tough way to turn things around. What the Sounders can do is continue to out possess through quality passing. Use the possession to build attacks and keep the shots flying. Twenty-six shots against Houston? I guarantee another effort like that will earn a second goal. Even dumb luck agrees.
When Seattle plays with this entertaining quality it has demonstrated so far this year, then win or lose against San Jose, that mentality will build future winning results in 2011. Even when listening to heavy blues as it reaches its pining climax, it makes you want to raise your hands and dance. What the Sounders are playing right now is a quality that entertains the eye, and challenges the soul. It is the aching beauty of sport. The Rave Green blues.
Well, well, well, it’s a little after three,
and I’m on my way to San Jose.
I feel something down inside,
it’s pointing me this way.
Oh, I’ve got the Rave Green blues. Oh yah-Oh yah.
Oh, I’ve got the Rave Green blues. Ah-ha-Ah-ha.
Well, I’ll curl, I’ll whirl, I’ll hurl
To get a shot on frame,
and if I don’t get a goal
I’ll never lose this pain.
Oh yah, I’ve got the Rave Green blues. Uh-huh-Uh-huh.
Oh yah, I’ve got the Rave Green blues. Alright-Alright.
Oh sweet Pele I’m crazy ’bout my Rave Green blues,
if we don’t score a goal
I’ll be buried in these blues,
these Rave Green blues.