The 2011 Major League Soccer season starts tomorrow in Seattle. First Kick, Major League Soccer’s premiere season opening match is hosted by Seattle Sounders FC for the third consecutive season. A tribute to Seattle’s established Rave Green fan base. Sports reporters across America are setting their NCAA brackets aside for a few minutes to take in this spotlight US Soccer match. No wonder, as Major League Soccer finally shows off a primetime cast of stars:
Landon Donovan: Hero of the 2010 US World Cup team.
David Beckham: Considered the biggest drawing name in the world of soccer.
Kasey Keller: The 41 year old US Soccer hero turning legend.
Freddy Montero: The Colombian First Kick hero from Seattle’s 2009 Inaugural Match and First Kick 2010 victory.
Steve Zakuani: Seattle’s inaugural season rookie sensation.
. . . and of course, the largest and loudest US Soccer fans.
This is a rematch between LA Galaxy and Sounders FC from the MLS playoffs last November’s. Edson Buddle‘s long range wonder
strike proved the difference maker. LA beat Seattle twice in regular season, and twice in the playoffs. Seattle defeated LA once last year in a US Open Cup match. So the Sounders come hungry and inspired to play for victory.
Starting in only its third season, Sounders FC are not looking for curtains to hide the mounting pressure to succeed. Two consecutive US Open Cup titles demonstrate moderate success. But the front office wants more, and has made it clear the goals are higher. Fan support is top among Major League Soccer cities, including New York and LA. So, Sounders FC owners want to reward fans with an MLS Cup. Anything less in season three means it’s time to find a new drummer. The band will break up. Everyone from coach Sigi Schmid, Kasey Keller, owner Adrian Hanauer, MLS.com, Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated.com, and just about anyone following Major League Soccer is in agreement on this one Sounders topic. Win now, or personnel changes will happen.
I’m not a fan of the “win now’ attitude. Not that I’m opposed to the front office of my team, I just don’t believe “win now” is good in sports. Yet when you step back taking the high altitude Everest perspective, Major League Soccer appears to be lacking spark and electricity. The first thing you notice is a single giant spotlight coming from one city among the current 18. There are a couple new flickers coming from nearby Portland and Vancouver. Salt Lake City has a fun hazy glaze, but there is no telling whether that is fleeting or long-lasting. If you were the front office of a popular club willing to sacrifice a little of your integrity for the larger perspective of a league, like MLS, then would “win now” become a more easily adaptable campaign strategy? Memories of a failed NASL still surface for many sports writers and fans who are hesitant to embrace soccer. To gain more interest and better media exposure one might consider what Sounders FC brass is doing as tactically business savvy and smart. Play the “all in” make it or break it card. It means every match at home or on the road is crucial. It’s publicity 101. It’s TV time, advertising dollars, and definite Rock-n-Roll tactics for bigger exposure. Will you be laughed at and taunted? You bet your “Sex Pistols” you will. Is an epic failure likely? You bet your Charlie Sheen sitcom it is. Is it worth it in the end? You bet your Pearl Jam World Tour it is.
“Win now” is not the best way to tell a story about your passion to children. The beauty of the story fades into business rhetoric and the names of people and their amazing efforts and accomplishments become diminished or completely overlooked. Soundbites wipe away prose. The ethos is lost forever in a sea of statistics. Business takes passionate, creative, aesthetic qualities and spits out cheap ad campaigns. Yet on rare days everything comes together and perfect moments are created. Henry V, addressing his brave but weary men-at-arms before fighting the mighty french at Agincourt. Joe Montana finding Dwight Clark at the back of the end zone. Maybe tomorrow is that time for Sounders FC. A perfect moment that comes together when all the outstanding ownership business efforts, all coaching tactics and practice pitch drills, and 36,000 of the loudest Rave Green supporters come together to form the start of a victorious season. This is time for Sounders FC to “win now”.
OK, I admit Qwest Field is no Agincourt, and Sales on Sounders, no Henry V. But if I were to make a speech at the March to the Match when supporters and Sound Wave band gather in Occidental Park, this would be my Henry V like speech. I hope you enjoy the speech and tune in to the primetime match.
Brothers, Sisters, Sports-fans, tomorrow we March to the Match. Our young Rave Green welcome the mighty veterans of Las Angeles into Rave Green Hell. A place we call our home. Using the chanted power of our loudest voices we will inspire victory. There will be no more tomorrows, there will only be time for victories. We will win now!!!