Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg have both referred to this preseason as longer than most in their careers. At Arsenal, Ljungberg said they would often prepare for the season in three weeks. For a second year franchise in the MLS the decision may prove to be good. For some of the veterans it may become a more grueling hull than in past seasons in their careers. For me I’m going Rave Green silly in the head and “shiver with antici . . . pation.” Portland is in town tomorrow for a preseason match, but my racing heart says as a supporter it is anything but a preseason match.
Now for something completely bloggingly different.
Just to assure you that the above quote, “shiver with antici . . . pation” was an intended velveeta cheese blog moment, let me take this to a whole new level. Name the character and movie that quote comes from and I will draw a name on March 25th, the Sounders FC opening season match v Philadelphia Union. One attempt per person, and I’ll draw one name from all the correct answers. I’ll send something in the festive Rave Green of Sounders FC. Better than “Bluest Skies in Seattle” lyrics, I promise.
Now back to our regularly unscheduled blog . . .
The NFL has a glorious phrase “any given Sunday”. It is rock solid truth and captures everything you could imagine or expect to see from an NFL game every time you turn one on. So perfect is the catch phrase that a good football movie was made with the phrase as the title. I have yet to find a soccer specific quote that encapsulates how impossibly intense and wildly fun a soccer match is. Until I find that gem to promote the game the way the NFL does, I am relegated to the use of examples. I have one such recent example. On March 10th, 2010, Olympique Lyonais (Lyon) of France visited Real Madrid, “Galacticos” of Spain. Real Madrid’s nick name is “Galacticos” for their over 200 million spent in last summers transfer window. The galactic spending spree was to acquire the kind of players that crush teams like Lyon 3-0. On March 10th, the two teams met for the second leg of a home-home round of 16, aggregate goal match. Leg one, won by Lyon at home 1-0 was not too amazing, because Lyon play well at home in European matches. The second leg in Madrid at the Bernabeu, well no way. That would be like the Seahawks winning an NFC championship game in Texas at the Cowboy’s new stadium during a season where the cowboys have 10 pro bowlers, league MVP, rookie of the year, and every imaginable Los Vegas pick to win the Superbowl. Is that clear enough? The bottom line, Lyon is out and Madrid moves on. The last time the French visited Spain and took home something that rightfully belonged to the Spanish, America was an even younger country. It’s not so much “any given Sunday” as it is “excuse me, but no you don’t.” As expected, the “Galacticos” poster boy, international stand out, model, and simply one of the best, Cristiano Ronaldo scored in the 6th minute to even the aggregate score 1-1. Madrid’s plan: Get the early equalizer, then add one more before half, two more after the break, and boom-zop Madrid celebrate crushing Lyon 4-1. Soccer is desperately more insane than that. Gonzalo Higuain, another brilliant Madrid striker and Argentine national had the open net to grab that 2nd first half goal I mentioned. He is an exquisitely brilliant striker, not unlike the kind of player Reggie Miller was for the Indiana Pacers in the NBA. The pace on the ball as he struck for net when the ball left his foot was perfect, but the ridiculously imperfect roundness of the ball and painful aggravation of the perfect game rolled the ball just wide of the post. Madrid’s easy crush of Lyon at home in the Bernabeu would never again look so wide open. So, the wrenching hold of soccer gods took hold of the game clock, and after Cristiano’s expected 6 minute equalizer . . . nothing really happened at all.
You’ve heard of Cristiano Ronaldo. You’ve at least seen highlights of him, and seen his handsome pictures dressed in exquisite European suits advertising hollywood swag. You’ve seen highlights of Higuain, because you’ve heard of Real Madrid, and he’s a fixture there. But unless you are an Olympique Lyonais supporter you have not heard of Miralem Pjanic. I am a fan of Lyon and when Juninho and Fred were there I could name the starting eleven. I think I could only do 4 now. I have not heard of Miralem Pjanic, but I know that in Lyon he is eating free at all the restaurants and toasted as their hero. In the 75th minute, he shot a dagger through the heart of every Madridista. The game ended 1-1, but the two-leg aggregate score was 2-1 Lyon. The draw for Madrid was a loss. The European Championship game is in their home at their Bernabeu, but neither team will belong there.
Senecca Wallace, (I know he’s in Cleveland now) gets brought on in the 4th quarter to replace an injured Hasselbeck in my imaginary Seahawks v Cowboys NFC Championship. He throws a touchdown in the back of the endzone with 8 minutes left to play. Somehow the defense holds on. You’d barely believe that possible, but you’ve seen New England, New York (Jets & Giants), St Louis, and even Pittsburgh against Dallas win those type of Superbowls. So, occasionally in your calm but overheated heart, you know, “any given Sunday” your team can win this game, because hey, it has happened before. Soccer is a little more manic. It is amazing how often teams that are so much better only win 1-0 or worse, they draw 1-1. But the soccer seasons are longer. So, there are more underdog upsets, but there is also little movement year in and year out of who the top 3 or 4 teams are in each European league.
Tomorrow when the Sounders FC face the Portland Timbers in the first ever preseason Community Shield match it will feel intensely like an any given Thursday match. The proceeds of the match go to charity, but the recognition ceremony and photo session for the winning team to hold up the shield at end of the match adds a little edginess. It’s only a preseason match, I know, I keep stating it a lot. The thing is in this little soccer hot bed corner of the US, and slowly getting recognized in the world of soccer, the Sounders FC are trying to be Young Madrid. While Portland is joining MLS next year, so tomorrow they would be fantastically thrilled to be Young Lyon.
That is why I’m up late, heart racing, more nervous and excited for any preseason game for any sport that I can remember. “I’m Sounders ’til I die”. I just hope not tomorrow.