Harmonica. Lederhosen. And a tour bus.
Driver wanted for greatest heist since Pink Panther. Objective: Champions League, and Cascadia Cup trophies. From Vancouver to Munich. Cross Atlantic travel required, not optional.
Last time Seattle Sounders FC crossed the border to Vancouver, Canada the trip included a memorable 3-1 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps. The stellar performance earned a priceless Cascadia trophy for the Rave Green faithful to take home. So dramatic, the loss caused the Whitecaps to close their home pitch. Forever.
The Major League Soccer era for the Cascadia Cup began in 2011. The first year with all three Cascadia rivals in Major League Soccer. Seattle joined MLS in 2009, with Portland and Vancouver launching in 2011. Seattle won the first MLS edition of the Cascadia Cup. Including two thrilling draws at home followed by highlight worthy wins from both road matches in Portland and Vancouver.
The first Cascadia Cup winner came down to the match with Vancouver. Their final appearance at historic Empire Field. The Sounders pulled together a stellar 3-1 performance against the Whitecaps. The win was enough for the Sounders to go undefeated throughout the Cascadia Cup. It was also the last match for the Whitecaps at Empire field before moving to their current home at BC Place. Which they opened a week later in a 1-nil loss to Portland.
All rivalries are fun. Some are epic. Dedicated Timbers Army supporters drove the Cascadia Cup from Pottland to a match their club wasn’t even participating in. Sounders fans showed how exciting and passionate all three clubs are in traveling to away matches as much as being at home matches. Emerad City Supporters voices were loud and easily heard in Vancouver
Vancouver and Seattle Cascadia ties have a French connection.
Sounders FC’s first player signing was Seabastian Le Toux. Le Toux joined the Sounders in 2007 while the club still resided in the USL. Fans latched on to the Frenchman attempting to find an American soccer home. Philadelphia snatched him away in their 2010 Expansion Draft. Le Toux was left unprotected by the Sounders. Clubs can protect eleven players. The rest are available for expansion clubs. Philadelphia made no hesitation in grabbing Le Toux for his tenacious work rate. He immediately became a Union fan favorite. Helping the Union to a successful 2011 season. Making their first playoff appearance.
Union coach, Peter Nowak shocked the MLS nation. Trading their leading goal scorer Le Toux to the Whitecaps before the season. The trade was not popular in Philadelphia but has worked well in Vancouver. Now paired with fellow Frenchman, Eric Hassli, they make up one of the more dangerous tandems in the league. Likely the most difficult attacking assignment the Sounders steady-7 defenders have faced all season.
The French tandem haven’t connected for much yet. But if Wednesday’s wonder-volley by Hassli is any sign of what the Sounders may face, a potential firestorm of French connected goals are on the way for the Whitecaps.
Hassli scored a pin-point volley against Toronto, in Wednesday’s first leg of the ACC (Amway Canadian Championships). The second leg of the Amway Canadian Championship final is next Wednesday. The score from the first leg is 1-1. The winner plays in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Prior to Saturday’s first installment of the 2012 Cascadia Cup, and across the Atlantic, with a french step-over to Germany is the 11:45 am (PST) kickoff of the UEFA Champions League Final. The Bavarian region of Germany is the site of the largest football match in the world so far in 2012. The UEFA Champions League Final features English Premier League power Chelsea against Bundesliqa juggernaut Bayern Munich. The match site is in Munich. Bayern’s home stadium, the Allianz Arena.
During the 2006 World Cup in Germany, I looked for a player I didn’t know. One I had never heard about. I looked for a player to captivate my attention. During the Group Stages, I noticed the French kept deploying some guy out on the right-wing. Nothing fancy. Just hustle and finesse. The guy kept beating midfielders and defenders in 1-vs-1 challenges for no more apparent reason than he wanted it more than the other guy.
I found my man. Franck Ribery.
I wasn’t alone in noticing Ribery. Bayern wasted no time in luring him from Southern France’s, Ligue-1 club, Olympique de Marseille. Ligue-1 is the top league in France.
In short order, Ribery has gone from being a relatively unknown player to one of the top performers in Europe over the last 6 years. All with Bayern Munich.
Everyone has a favorite player. Ribery is mine. Whether you are in Chelsea Blue, or Bavarian red-and-white gingham, Ribery is a player to watch. He plays more from Bayern’s left-wing than his French National Team right side. Watch for how positive his possession of the ball is. Always gliding forward. Leading teammates into attacking spaces. Sandwiched with as many as three opponents, don’t be surprised to see him work the ball free, or safely pass the ball out. Goals? He is one of Bayern’s best goal getters. And still looks for the assist first. His goals, if he gets one, always have flare. The kind that launch every sporting viewer into the air. You may root for Chelsea, but you must watch Ribery.
The Sounders come off a tough loss at home to Real Salt Lake. They still bring fresh confidence. Their 1-nil loss to Real Salt Lake was preceded by a quick succession of 5 matches in 15 days. Over the previous six matches, the Sounders went 5-wins and 1-draw.
Coming into BC Place, Saturday’s 2pm (PST) match with Vancouver Whitecaps, the Sounders have a 7-W, 2-L, and 1-D record. Third in the west with 22-points. Vancouver is 5-W, 3-L, and 2-D. Fourth in the West at 17-points.
The Western Conference is heating up. Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes lead the way. With Seattle and Vancouver working close behind. Colorado Rapids, and FC Dallas chase steadily in the 4th and 5th spots respectively. Either is capable of moving higher in short order. The western table fills out with LA Galaxy, Chivas USA, and Portland Timbers. Defending champions, LA Galaxy, have yet to show a defense of their 2011 title. That is no doubt a dormant monster waiting to attack this Summer. Chivas USA made player acquisitions this past week to show they are working to improve as much as rebuild. Portland rests at the bottom. In my humble, and only slightly scientific opinion, they are a hibernating team. If their defense solidifies, shoring up leaks, as seen in the two previous draws, then combined with their offensive knack for early leads, they may become the 3-D creature that shocks the standings.
The unbalanced 2012 MLS schedule means Cascadia rivals will face off six times this year. Sounders travel to Portland and Vancouver twice each. Hosting both only once. A tough road to defend their inaugural MLS Cascadia Cup.
While Europe celebrates a new champion, Cascadia will feature two offenses heating up. One distinctly French, and the other more South American. Don’t move your UEFA chair. Order another pint and take in the nervy and wild 2012 Cascadia Cup ride.
© 2012 Sales on Sounders by Ryan J Sales