Before launching into round 12 vs New England Revolution, I would like to recognize and promote North Star Fine Coffee. Who sponsor the Sounders. I was fortunate to meet their owner Bryan-David Scott after the San Jose Earthquakes match. It was a wonderful experience as a passionate Sounders FC fan to meet and talk with another passionate fan who happens to own a company that creates a coffee specifically with the Sounders in mind. The blend North Star Fine Coffee has created is, Kick Coffee and features the Sounders badge on the front. They are looking to bring this coffee to the March to the Match and eventually out to many local youth leagues. I’m taking time to support them because as fans themselves, they are the best example I’ve found of what the Sounders FC has been about since their start. From ownership to fans, we stand for a unique partnership with sport, community and business. The bond promotes Seattle, the Sounders, and all our supporters as the Soccer Capitol of America. The more businesses that follow North Star’s lead, the more well established soccer will become here and all over the US. This advertisement is posted because Sales on Sounders believes in the people and the company who make Kick Coffee. The only currency exchanged in posting this ad is shared passion and an appreciation that comes from good conversation with good people. I’ve had a tremendously enjoyable time talking with Bryan and hope every Sounders fan has the same opportunity.
Curtains up. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen for joining me for Round 12 vs the New England Revolution. There are two mighty games until Major League Soccer takes a respectful bow to this Summers center stage at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa.
Similar to the Earthquakes and Rapids, the Revolution are another of the original 10 clubs formed for the inaugural Major League Soccer season in 1996. Their trophy case is a bit bare compared to other inaugural teams. They hoisted the US Open Cup in 2007. Their logo and branding are not responsible for their mostly empty shelves, but the team logo and badge need a make-over and face-lift. Image is a small, if not insignificant aspect of the game, but it should say something about a team and its sport. Their badge looks more like a crayon drawn political poster than anything representing a soccer club.
Fortunately, whatever they lack in look and feel with their badge they make up for in their coach. What endears me to this team is coach, Steve Nicol. Nicol played for one of my beloved teams, Liverpool FC from 1981 – 1995. He also played for the Scottish National team from 1984 – 1992 earning 27 caps. He played for some fantastic Liverpool squads, winning the English League 5 times, FA Cup (like US Open Cup) 3 times, and 1 European title. Additionally to coaching he has been an ESPN Analyst. He was featured on ESPN during halftime analysis of English Premier League matches during the 2009-2010 season. Listen to him once and you likely find yourself converted like me. It’s partly due to my attraction to his accent. More than a good voice his clarity in how to simply but effectively execute the game makes it easy to see why anyone would be a soccer fan. It is a testimonial to Nicol, that players stay loyal to him. Their star and captain, Shalrie Joseph would have surely left for a more successful club by now if not for Steve Nicol.
Shalrie Joseph is a stud. He plays with enormous intensity and strength. Not matched in MLS in my opinion. He is 6′ 3″ with footwork like he’s 5′ 8″. His arching passes look more like Frank Lampard of Chelsea, than anyone in MLS. Watch Lampard face USA in the June 12, World Cup match. The ball sweetly arcs over defenders and lands at the receiving players feet. He plays ridiculous numbers of roles per match. With his height and strength he plays a central striker up front, rolls out to left-wing, tracks back for central and wide defensive coverage, helps organize the midfield to push forward, and sets the table for other players to score. Yah, I could write that in a less run-on manner but that is not how Shalrie plays. He doesn’t stop his run-on role until the ref raises his hand and blows his whistle. I don’t want him to win, but I don’t mind watching him as closely as any of the Sounders.
Like Sounders FC, New England Revolution has been affected by injuries. Shalrie is coming back from one He’s only beginning to regain full match form.
How do you stop a player like Sharie? Not easily. He will require the full attention of Seattle’s defense. Here is my blog-chair coaches take. Shalrie will get winded. Likely requiring a 70-75th minute sub. If the Sounders run him down that will Solidify Coach Nicol’s decision to give Shalrie a late game rest. At full strength if you give him 5 yards of space he’s like any top NFL receiver with enough room to catch, juke, and break for the end zone. Put your body right up into his. Ask him to dance. Man-up to him. He may run over you, but it will remind him you are here to dance with him all night. Get on him right when he receives a pass. It will get you into his head. Give him one moment in a game, and that moment likely turns into a series of passes that lead to one game losing goal.
One of the Sounders more unexpected players scored a goal last night. Leo Gonzalez, worked his way up field, inside the top-left of the Revoltion penalty area. He drilling a glorious, curling, left footed shot that veered around the Revolutions back-up Keeper Steve Shuttleworth, for a 5th minute goal. Leo Gonzalez, (Gonzo) is the Sounders regular starting Left-back, from Costa Rica. He came to the Sounders last year and has played on the Costa Rica National Team. The spectacular early goal set the attacking tone of the match earning him, Man of the Match honor. Holding up other teams forwards and midfielders from attacking their right flank is his usual job. He’s one of the best in the MLS at doing it. For him to have a goal and assist in the same game is all sweet cream. He added an assist on Montero’s third goal.
Coming into last night’s match Sounders were 1W-4L-1D in their last 6 games. Goals felt like nostalgic memories in a season of forgotten dreams. Leo woke things up early, electrifying 36,000, and maybe, just maybe reminded the team a potential champion lives and breathes within this squad.
Sounders FC have been difficult to write about the last few weeks. I’ll start with a reasonably sensible pre-match overview. For the majority of each match they play the way you think they will. Then comes the furiously frustrating and only momentary nap-time. In a seemingly insignificant instant, one goal is in, and the complexion of the game turns against them. Teams end up out shot, out played, and victorious. The stats have not added up. Last night, Leo may have turned it all around on one wonder strike.
Tale of the Mohawk
The greatest soccer players, like Zinedine Zidane, are all a little, you know, crazy in the head. They have to be. In terms of bodily-kinestetic intelligence they work the soccer pitch at an unmeasurable IQ. What seems crazy to us, is part of their secret language of sanity on the pitch. The best way to see it is to smile in wonderment as a spectator, and enjoy. Freddie Ljungberg, is one of those players. He helped Arsenal win two Premier League titles, three FA Cups (similar to US Open Cup), and was the English Premiere League MVP in 2002. During one of his hot goal scoring streaks for Arsenal he sported a red mohawk. Not his sexiest look but added drama to his on-pitch attitude and flare. The last few games many critics and fans alike have complained about his complaining too much. He throws his hands in the air at Refs when he doesn’t get calls his way. So, at age 33, on a beautiful June evening in Seattle, Ljungberg sported a mohawk. He came out wound up, flying all over the field, making everything go Seattle’s way. In the second half, ahead 3-nil, he started throwing a tizzie. He even threw his water bottle at his own bench, cutting Sigi Schmid’s arm. He kept up appearances with the Ref and let the world know he wasn’t happy. He also set the table for no fewer than two more goals that did not get finished. As I saw it, he was the player of the match. He was the best player in MLS last night. He was the sexy stud in a mohawk. The problem, the real serious problem here, is whether he should be allowed to cut his hair, or be required to sport it as long as Sounders win. The complaining, arm waiving, and mohawk created a Sounder perfect 3-nil storm. CAW, or complaining arm waiving, and mohawk are simply 3 means to identifying Ljungberg’s on-pitch intelligence. He is footballer, I am spectator. In him is champion. I hope it’s Sounders before I die.
Goal – 5th minute – Leo Gonzalez, assisted by Steve Zakuani
Goal – 24th minute – Steve Zakuani, assisted by Brad Evans & Freddie Montero
Goal – 42nd minute – Fredy Montero, assisted by Pat Noonan & Leo Gonzalez