The Sounders paid an emotional and heart-felt tribute to Steve Zakuani in last Saturday’s match with Toronto FC. The 11th minute tribute for Zakuani’s broken leg received in their previous match by Colorado Rapids, Brian Mullan, was a salute to Zakuani’s #11 kit number (jersey number). The Sounders valuable #11 left winger was missing from the Sounders *starting XI (starting lineup). Zakuani is beginning the long and hopeful road to recovery. The tribute was topped off in the most perfect manner possible. A 3-nil victory. Offensive and exciting for fans with a clean sheet (no goals allowed) for Sounders Keeper, Kasey Keller.
For the Sounders offensive and team spirit the victory meant everything. It combined an emotional show for their fallen teammate and for 36,000 of the most exciting fans in US Soccer. The first goal came from eventual “man of the match”, Brad Evans. A cross that bulls-eyed ”Flaco’s” (Alvaro Fernandez) forehead and found the back of net. Adding to his assist in the first half, Brad Evans scored a brace (two goals) in the second half. Monro slotted a perfectly weighted ball inside and to the right of Toronto’s goal. Evans perfectly timed his run up on the ball for a one time strike curling past keeper and into the left corner of Toronto’s goal. His second, a penalty kick.
For most soccer clubs in the world there is nothing that needs to follow that last sentence. Not in Seattle. Never normal and always a story. Penalty kicks are often considered “given” goals. Not at Qwest field. Until Saturday, no Sounder had ever scored a home pitch penalty kick. In tribute to Zakuani and everything that is remotely normal in the world of soccer, Evans scored the Sounders first ever home pitch penalty kick. It was also Evans first professional brace (two goals).
With the #11 Zakuani tribute successfully put behind them, Sounders quickly turn to a midweek match vs DC United in our Nation’s Capital. The brief, and successful one match home stay is sandwiched between four road games. With Philadelphia’s draw and Colorado’s victory behind them, the next two challenges come up quickly. First is midweek opponent DC United, then another short turnaround to face Columbus on Saturday. Little rest and a growing injury report makes both matches part of a daunting road trip. Already including Steve Zakuani, Seattle’s injury report boasts forwards O’Brian White and Mauro Rosales. Nothing comes easy for Sounders.
Seattle has never lost in our Nation’s Capital. It has become the most successful road stop for Sounders FC since joining MLS in 2009. The Sounders faced DC United at RFK Stadium in the 2009 US Open Cup final winning its first trophy 2-1. A week later, they surprised everyone by coming back for a regular season match and winning again. Last year, Roger Levesque scored a late match winner on a short cross from Montero. The win was part of the Sounders late in form run which launched them into the 2010 MLS playoffs.
In preseason, bench depth was the best weapon talked about when evaluating the Sounders 2011 roster. It will be tested in the next two matches. If Seattle wins one of the next two without taking on more injuries, they will be in good shape for the showdown with Cascadia Rival, Portland.
Heading to Washington DC, it is hard not to think on failing budget compromise, a struggling economy, and recent counter terrorism issues in Pakistan. To paraphrase Sounders coach, Sigi Schmid, *I subscribe to the belief you only have so much energy to give. With so much focused attention on the death of Osama Bin Laden, I propose a midweek break. At 7:30 on the East coast and 4:30 on the West coast the Sounders FC face DC United. It is important to spend two-thirds more energy on your passions and what you love. Even laughter. Osama Bin Lden and terrorism, not to dismiss the value and weight of recent events, are neither what I would consider topics of love, passion, or even laughter. Consider turning to soccer for one night as the beautiful alternative.
Soccer is a simple game. *If you put a ball at the feet of a 3-year-old child, perhaps even younger, that child will instinctively kick. It’s simple, because it is from instinct. Hours of repetition and the ball becomes an instinctive extension of body, mind, and soul. * “While I cannot claim to be more than a passenger”. Soccer is the beautiful, instinctual competitive spirit of the human kind and a recipe for peace. Let’s enjoy the best of who we are rather than focus on the evils that have been defeated.
Never stare into the eyes of Medusa. This weeks battle-classico features a growing cross continental rivalry. If you haven’t turned on a Major League Soccer match recently. It is time. An intense but respectful rivalry is growing between DC and Seattle. Turn your attention to Washington for the beautiful game. It’s instinct really. Focus more on what happens in soccer and terrorism will inevitably fade to black.
A few notes and references
* Starting XI = Starting lineup.
* During Seattle’s inaugural season the team went through a long stretch of fouls. Players were irritated with officials, but were also not helping themselves by adding complaints. Sigi Schmid made the point, that he subscribes to the belief players only have so much energy to give each match. Using it on officials is not the best use of that energy. Since that time the Sounders have gone from the team receiving the highest number of fouls to middle of the league.
*Cliff McCrath, five time NCAA Division II Champions with Seattle Pacific University. Also ran a summer boys and girls youth soccer camp on Whidbey Island. I attended three years as a child. His (almost) weekly soundersfc.com show “Nub’s Nuggets” is where he covers one relevant soccer point to think on each week. During April, 2011 he covered the simplicity of teach kids to play. By setting a ball in from of them they will instinctively kick. Make fun games out of repetitive passing and ball control. Then, sit back, and answer questions when they ask. This is a grain of wisdom in why the game is so beautiful.
* “ While I cannot claim to be more than a passenger”. The Shins, Girl Sailor – Wincing the Night Away
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© 2011 by Ryan J Sales