Sounders vs Timbers – Cascadia Rivalry – Image from Cascadia Trifecta
The more I am involved in the Cascadia Rivalry, the more I find my perspective broadening and not becoming cemented to one perspective. My heart is for only one club. But the passion, humor, and history of the rivalry have engaged me to the point of enjoying other people across team borders.
This afternoon I have the opportunity as a Seattle Sounders fan to meet up with a Portland Timbers fan. Although your first instinct is to call Homeland Security. I assure you it is not needed. This meeting is the rational outgrowth of many Facebook conversations between a Teacher and a Banker. A Timber and a Sounder.
He is a Timbers fan who was once a Sounders fan. I am a Sounders fan with family and friends near Portland. We have region, beer, and soccer to bond with. Rivalry support is separate, but raising scarves, and cheering on our respective clubs each week, turns out to not be the only supporter qualities we share.
If Obama had the “Beer Summit”, I guess you could say we will have the Beer Meet-up.
We take part in a unique Facebook group known as “Cascadia Trifecta”. Involving fans of all three of Cascadia’s clubs from Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver. Jabs are common place, but moments of rational intellect are not filtered out.
Last year the site gained recognition with the creation of a Cascadia kit. The design came from the creative minds and comments of those who regularly participate in the site.
Here is my recent piece in Prost Amerika where I take some of what I’ve gained in my Cascadia conversations. I still wear my Sounders badge on my sleeve, but my perspective has taken on elements of neutral respect.
DC United - Black and Red - MLS Champions '96, '97, '99, '04
This is a payback match for Sounders FC.
Important playoff positioning is at stake, but players don’t always have that on their minds against teams they owe some payback to.
On May 4th, Sounders sojourned to the nation’s capitol and came away rejected as a proposal for finance reform. Losing 2-1 to DC United. A disappointing effort. A match where no less than a draw seemed certain. With playoff fever circling their heads, this becomes Sounders FC payback day.
A playoff contender approaches their schedule broken up into “season series”, rather than each game. The more series you win, the more likely your chances of playing playoff ball in October. At worst, teams hope to split season series and stay at or above .500. At .500 in baseball you always feel like a season has been a successful effort, and your prospects for playoff contention next season seem only a trade or two away.
Same for Major League Soccer. We just don’t say it enough.
One man does. Sigi Shmid.
There are 6 points for a season series. Three for a win at home, and three for a win on the road. Come away with two points, and it means you drew both matches. In soccer with 1-point for a draw and 3-points for a win, drawing both matches is actually below .500. You are better to win one and lose one than draw both. (3-points for splitting a season series. 2-points for drawing both matches)
DC United took the first match picking up three points at home. Win or draw, they win the season series. Sounders win, and they go .500 for the season series. More importantly, it tightens their grip on a playoff spot.
The Sounders have fared well in most of their season series during their 2011 Major League Soccer schedule. They have only lost two season series, while splitting three others. LA Galaxy and Houston are the only two clubs to take season series from Seattle. Red Bulls, FC Dallas, and Real Salt Lake all won once, but Seattle took one back from each, splitting those series.
A glance at teams the Sounders have lost to once in 2011.
To date no team has taken both matches from Sounders FC.
LA Galaxy: Lose, Draw
Houston Dynamo: Lose, Draw
New York Red Bulls: Split
FC Dallas: Split
Real Salt Lake: Split
DC United: Lost in DC, ? (To Be Determined)
Sales on Sounders by Gabi Campanario - 8/5/09 at Barcelona Friendly
The Sounders played to an exhilarating mid-week CONCACAF Champions League win over Herediano. Exhaustion could play against them. On DC’s side they lost star Chris Pontius to an unfortunate season ending injury. Suffering a broken leg in their match last weekend. Something Sounders FC are all too familiar and empathetic for. His injury will challenge DC United. Nonetheless, they arrive to Seattle with confidence and momentum. Dwayne De Rosario, since being traded from New York has been a great spark and their playoff chances have increased with him.
Chris Pontius scored the first Major League Soccer hat-trick in Seattle during their 3-2 win last year. Since Seattle’s 2009 inaugural season, DC United have been one of Seattle’s toughest home opponents. They drew Seattle 3-3 in 2009, and on the strength of Pontius’s hat-trick last year, won 3-2. Chris Pontius has scored 4 goals in Seattle.
Payback and playoffs.
Sounders FC will put exhaustion aside for a chance at payback. DC United will put a tough injury behind then, knowing this is a match to keep them in the playoffs. Whose mustard is hotter?
Today’s match in Seattle is what every sports fan wants. Both teams have purpose. Both teams have likable character. Both teams have their eyes on post season play.
Seattle Sounders FC host Columbus Crew tomorrow on the X-Box pitch at CenturyLink Field, at 1:00 pm (PST)
* Be sure to take the Poll at the bottom of this post. Add your comments about how you feel the Sounders will finish this year and what, if any hardware they will add to their trophy case.
Columbus Crew - 2008 MLS Cup Champions
Columbus Crew leading the Eastern Conference and Seattle Sounders FC second in the Western Conference? Considering most people picked talent heavy, New York Red Bulls as clear Eastern Conference champions, along with Steve Zakuani’s broken leg occurring early in Seattle’s season, most thoughts of Columbus and Seattle being significant playoff contenders seemed highly unlikely.
Here we are, eight matches to go and arguably the two hottest MLS teams square off in one of this weekends more compelling matches with significant playoff positioning at stake.
Last Saturday, Columbus defeated Philadelphia 2-1 at Crew Stadium to go four points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference. The same day, Seattle traveled to 106-degree Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas and defeated FC Dallas for sole possession of second place in the Western Conference. It was Seattle’s first win in Texas.
Seattle scores and Columbus defends. At 36 goals, Seattle is among the top five MLS clubs in scoring. A remarkable turnaround from an early season lack of goals. Defensively, Columbus is tied for third in the league at 24 for fewest goals allowed. That said, both clubs are well-balanced at both ends. Columbus has excellent attacking forwards, like US International, Robbie Rogers, Emilio Renteria, and Andres Mendoza. Seattle’s defense went through a July stretch of letting in a few more goals than Keller prefers. In their last three matches, Seattle has only allowed one goal and recorded two shutouts.
Since Sigi Schmid left Columbus in 2008 the Crew have yet to defeat the Sounders. Sigi won the 2008 MLS Cup with the Columbus Crew. Sounders FC lured him to Seattle for their inaugural 2009 season. In this, his third season, he was awarded a four-year contract extension through the 2015 season. In MLS regular season play the Crew’s record against Seattle is 0-wins, 2-losses, and 3-draws. They also lost to Seattle last year in the US Open Cup final.
US Open Cup - Sounders FC 2009, 2010 Champions
Last season featured two significant matches that give the Crew strong desire for pay-back. The first, in September, a 4-nil drubbing in Columbus. Including Sounders FC’s first hat-trick from Blaise Nkufo. The second was a 2-1 US Open Cup final loss at Qwest Field. Seattle’s second consecutive US Open Cup title.
Columbus wants to change the trend. Both Seattle’s regular season wins were in Columbus. While both the Crew’s trips to Seattle ended in 1-1 draws.
What three points would do. A win and the Crew would likely put insurmountable distance over Eastern Conference favorites New York Red Bulls. Significant, since the Red Bulls were preseason favorites to win the Eastern Conference, and the MLS Cup. With a Seattle win, the Sounders would march three points closer to LA, for top spot in the Western Conference. Further securing their second place spot. Seattle trails LA by six points for the top spot in MLS.
Enjoying the possibilities. When I started this site, it was to follow the Sounders rise through Major League Soccer to become one of the world’s most successful soccer clubs. The Sounders are making greater strides towards that goal in their third season than I imagined. This coming Tuesday, August 30th, they face FC Dallas in a US Open Cup semi-final. A win sends Sounders FC to a third consecutive final. In regular season MLS standings, Seattle sits second in the league. Meaning playoff positioning is more favorable than the first two seasons. It also means they trail LA by six points for the Supporters Shield. The Supporters Shield goes to the MLS club with the highest points total at the end of the season. (win = 3 pts, draw = 1 pt) It would be a surprise to pass LA, but the possibility is real. After two CONCACAF matches the Sounders have already doubled their effort from last year. They now lead their Champions League Group D with 2-wins (6 points). The top top teams from each group goes to the CONCACAF Quarter-Finals. (4 Groups with 4 teams in each)
Nothing accomplished. No victory celebrations to report, yet. The Sounders are one of only two teams in Major League Soccer competing as legitimate contenders in three competitions. MLS, US Open Cup, and CONCACAF. The other team is FC Dallas. Matches like this one against the Columbus Crew show how competitive the Sounders have become. Every match feels like it’s 106-degrees in Frisco, Texas. The intensity from heated pressure of each match also brings cool fresh hope. The blue sky is the limit for the Rave Green. I have no idea how many chances I will have to ask this question with hopeful pride. So here goes. Is this the year Sounders win Everything?
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Sales on Sounders by Gabi Campanario - 8/5/09 @ Barca Friendly
Sometimes when your team is in form, like the Sounders current eight game undefeated streak, it seems like everything in the world of soccer is about your team. As the Women’s World Cup heats up, so does the US Open Cup. As the Women pursue a third World Cup title. The Sounders pursue a third consecutive US Open Cup. Can both succeed? If everything in the world of soccer is Sounders, then the answer is absolutely!
First, there was Sunday, July 10th when the US Women’s National Team came back to defeat Brazil in penalty kicks. Immediately after, Sounders FC came back to defeat the Timbers. Coincidentally, on a penalty kick.
Then today, Wednesday, July 13th the US Women’s National Team defeat France 3-1 in the World Cup Semifinals and move one step away from hoisting their third Women’s World Cup trophy.
Tonight, across the Atlantic, on s small field in Tukwilla, Washington, Sounders FC play their Quarter-Final US Open Cup match against the LA Galaxy. A rematch of last years 2-nil Sounders win. A win earns a trip to the Semifinal vs FC Dallas for a chance to hoist a third consecutive US Open Cup.
Maybe the great play of the US Women in Germany will send soccer waves all the way to the Sounders in Seattle? Maybe it’s coincidence? You decide.
US Open Cup - Sounders FC Defending '09 & '10 Champions
Some Major League Soccer teams question the value of the US Open Cup. Seattle Sounders FC make it a priority. The Cup winner gains the opportunity to play in the CONCACAF Champions League. A tournament gaining international recognition. LA Galaxy and New York Red Bulls are two teams that have questioned the value of US Open Cup. Chicago, Columbus, and FC Dallas join Seattle in taking the US Open Cup seriously. Scheduling and lineup choices are challenges, but what league around the world doesn’t face those same challenges in important tournaments other than their league? The weak effort and hasty excuses from some MLS squads are showing leaks.
Tonight pits Major League Soccer’s league leading, and star-powered LA Galaxy against two-time defending US Open Cup Champion, Seattle Sounders FC. Both clubs have high stake reasons to win. No excuses.
No excuses for watered down lineups. LA Galaxy play a Saturday friendly against Real Madrid. While Sounders FC play an intense weekend regular season match against Major League Soccer defending Champion, Colorado Rapids at home. Sounders coach, Sigi Schnid has the tougher schedule, but will play to pursue a third consecutive US Open Cup title.
Bruce Arena and LA have dominated Seattle with 5-wins and 1-draw in MLS regular season and playoff competition the last two years. His only loss to rival coach, Sigi Schmid and the Sounders came last July in the US Open Cup. Bruce Arena will be seeking revenge for the 2-nil loss. He has no excuses for doing anything other than fielding a high-powered revenge seeking lineup. Sigi Schmid has the tougher job of navigating lineup decisions to have players healthy and ready for both matches.
“. . . to me these games don’t make sense”. “Essentially, it was a reserve game tonight. I think the timing of this competition isn’t right for MLS teams”. ” . . . the competition is watered down due to the fact that each team is juggling players”.
Bruce Arena’s comments, July 2010 after losing 2-nil to Sounders in a US Open Cup Semifinal.
Bruce Arena also made comments about the Starfire field and facility. He may have a point in questioning the Sounder’s Front Office insistence in using the small practice pitch, but he won’t have to worry about lineup juggling or MLS scheduling. The only watered down issue he may have to deal with is his teams preparation for the short, fast, Northwest pitch.
Sales on Sounders by Gabi Campanario - 8/5/09 @ Barca Friendly
Before the Revolution and after Red Bull Run. Sounders 30-year-old for-mid-fender, Roger Levesque, is the most disliked Sounder by Portland Timber fans. His game winning goal followed by his “scuba dive” celebration is sure to plant seeds of disapproval further east in the New York Red Bull camp. ”For-mid-fender” is coach Sigi Schmid‘s creative position title for Levesque, because of his willingness and hustle to do whatever he can to help the team, including playing any field position.
A quick dive-down through the key match points. After only 12-minutes Sounders built a 2-nil lead. Sounders 2011 stats would suggest that lead is insurmountable. Then again, this is the crazy world of soccer. New York would half the lead by half-time. Then a Sounders rare Own-Goal by defender Zach Scott in the 58th minute. With the score level at 2-2 in the 58th minute, Sigi Schmid made a surprise early substitution. He sent on Roger Levesque for Michael Fucito. The move replaced short up front speed, with a little more height and up front hustle. The move paid solid dividends. From a well placed Leo Gonzalez corner, Levesque flicked home a headed goal and Seattle took a 3-2 lead.
Then came the moment that has gone internet viral. Red Bull defenders feeling pressure from Levesque and Montero, played a usual ball back to keeper Greg Sutton, who took the ball at his feet and prepared to distribute it up field. Unfortunately for his head, his feet had a momentary lapse. His first touch bobbled awkwardly, and Instead of clearing the ball away, Sutton only managed to bounce the ball in front of his feet. Levesque dove in and was able to swipe away the free-swimming ball. He quickly settled control away from Sutton, and only had to walk the ball into the net. Sutton looked on in broken disbelief.
Brandi Chastain, 1999 US Women World Cup winning PK vs China
Goal celebrations are an important part of sports entertainment. US Soccer, unlike the NFL is not known for many well choreographed celebrations. Two historic examples do stand out. One is Brandi Chastain’s World Cup winning penalty kick against China. Dropping to the ground, throwing off her shirt and raising her hands in celebration. Truly one of the most memorable US Soccer moments. That one made the cover of Sports Illustrated. Almost as epic was Landon Donovan’s 2010 World Cup goal against Algeria. He ran and slid to the corner flag with his teammates following and piling on top.
Levesque’s was not as international. It will definitely make the 2011 top-10 charts and received more media attention than any recent extracurricular soccer affair. Non-FIFA related that is. Running behind Sutton’s shrunken goal, Levesque perched a seat atop the electronic ad-board lining the outside of the field. He put his fingers to his nose, then fell into a pool of celebration. He called this the “scuba dive”. Harmless. But surely not to be forgotten in New York.
Before moving on to Sounder Sunday with Fort Revolution, there was a small soccer gathering in Southern California between El Tri and Team Chicharito competing against the Red, White, and Blue US Boys of Summer, for the 2011 Gold Cup Final. Nearly 100,000 attended the thrilling match. US took an early surprise lead going up 2-nil. Then once Mexico scored, the US defense was never able to regain composure and Mexico found a steady stream of glory. Winning 4-2, this will be remembered as an epic US collapse as well as the most talented and inspired Mexican squad. The Rose Bowl Rendezvous, like Sutton’s blunder will surely not be forgotten.
The Revolution bring back Sounder trouble maker, Shalrie Joseph. His size and skill in midfield is tough for any team to handle. The Sounders are no exception. How to solve for Shalrie? Against New York Red Bulls, Zach Scott put a couple of solid defensive tackles on star Dwayne De Rosario. Shalrie is a bit more retaliatory than De-Ro, so the potential for backlash is greater, but the early effort could help creep a sense of irritation into Joseph’s head. When he roams free and unobstructed he is one of the best in MLS. If the Sounders frustrate him, the door for a third straight win could be pushed open. It will be a physical task. Being the third game in a week doesn’t help. So goes mid-season life for a Sounder.
Qwest Field was officially renamed CenturyLink Field. The introduction was made prior to the start of the Red Bulls match. The first night affair saw the Sounders first ever four goal match, and a new attendance record of 46,754.
The July transfer window is nearly open and MLS rumors of big name signings are piling up. The Sounders are heaped in the middle of the rumor mills. One to watch and one to hope for. Rumored to be attending was Ghana National, Prince Tagoe. Tagoe was part of the Ghana team that eliminated the US from the 2010 World Cup. A hopeful name for this author is Diego Forlan, from the 2010 Uruguay National Team. Both of carry high prices and could easily be silly rumors. It does show that the Sounders attendance gives them enough pedigree to be considered a legitimate home for big name stars.
This contradicts my opinion that developed players are ultimately more valuable than Designated Players, but that is another longer post. Until then, it is off to the Revolution.
Mid-Season Poll Question. Add your comments of who you would like to see come to the MLS.
No contributions or detailed references this week. Please follow my link to Prost Amerika Soccer. If you enjoy Sales on Sounders, you will equally appreciate the passion, humor, and intelligence put into that site.
Peter Nowak, has his club playing with excitement and confidence. The second year Philadelphia Union manager has players buying into his defensively physical, but gracefully eloquent pass and possession style.
The Union are the surprise club of the young 2011 Major League Soccer season. With four matches in their books, the Union lead the Eastern Conference with 3-wins and 1-loss. Defeating potential MLS Cup favorite, New York Red Bulls 1-nil last week is evidence revealing they are no surprise. New York and LA are the two clubs most favored to win the 2011 MLS Cup. Instead the Union are turning into a contender to reckon with.
Philadelphia Union - 2009 Expansion
Squaring off twice in 2010, Philadelphia and Seattle became unintended rivals. Hard to do from across the country. Yet both clubs did enough on and off the field to make Chester, PA and Seattle, WA feel like Cascadia Rivals.
Sebastian Le Toux was left unprotected by Sounders FC in the 2010 expansion draft. Philadelphia Union wasted no time snapping him up. It was widely considered the Sounders first Front Office mistake. Those most vocal were Sounders FC’s own supporters. Le Toux joined Sounders FC as a USL-1 club in 2007. He successfully helped the Sounders knock off MLS clubs in ’07 & ’08 US Open Cup matches. He was the US Open Cup goals leader in 2008. In 2009, his assist in the US Open Cup final vs DC United lead to Reger Levesques winning goal and Seattle’s first taste of trophy glory.
Seattle and Philadelphia are the two previous expansion cities. Portland and Vancouver have joined this season. Sounders FC joined in 2009 and the Union in 2010.
Sounders FC ownership launched a franchise with such high marks it makes comparison unfair for future expansion clubs. Winning the US Open Cup and making the playoffs left Philadelphia in the wake of that comparison. The Union’s new soccer only stadium, PPL Park was not completed. So, for a second straight season, MLS granted Seattle the host city for First Kick 2010 vs expansion Philadelphia. Which meant the Union had to go west for their inaugural MLS match at unfriendly Qwest Field in Seattle, losing 2-nil.
If direct comparison hadn’t already lit a spark under this unintended East v West rivalry, then match play and post match dialogue did. During the match, physical play led to strong yellow cards, an ejection, and an injury to Ljungberg. Union’s coach Peter Nowak felt Freddie Ljungberg dove to get a fouls called. Ljungberg ended up injured for two weeks, which was about as long as their mild banter and jabs went back and forth.
Sebastian Le Toux & Peter Nowak
Traveling east in June Sounders FC took their magnetic media frenzy to give PPL Park, in Chester, PA, a grand opening. Hungry for revenge, Philadelphia felt necessary to prove their quality. Pat Noonan, Seattle’s forward for that match took some of their joy out of the occasion by scoring the first official MLS regular season goal at PPL Park. That was enough to twist Union passion up to 11 on the rock-n-roll meter. From that point forward Union dominated and eventually won 3-1. Even when Montero earned a rare Sounders FC penalty kick, Noonan could not finish.
Seattle goes to Chester, PA hot off their first win over the Chicago Fire last weekend. The Sounders unexpectedly slow start, 1-win 2-losses 2-draws, goes up against the surprisingly successful start for the Union. Undefeated in their last 3 matches, a Sounders first away win would put them right on course. Even a draw would keep momentum building on a stretch of away matches that includes 4 of their next 5.
In this Season of the Rivalry, it is important to look beyond regional rivals. Houston and Seattle still have a grudge in the bank from 2009. Seattle knocked Houston out of the Semi Final of the 2009 US Open Cup. While Houston knocked Seattle out of the MLS playoffs with a stoppage time goal in the second leg of their first round clash. LA and Seattle have an ever rising tiff as well. This shows the maturity and growth of Major League Soccer. A maturity directly related to the quality in all its recent expansion clubs and the supporters groups from their home cities.
Sales on Sounders by Gabi Campanario - 8/5/09 @ Barca Friendly
Sales on Sounders would like to recognize a pair of supporter based blogs. I recently had the pleasure of meeting a fellow Sounders supporter and blogger at Tat’s in Pioneer Square, prior to the Chicago Fire match. Jacob Cristobal, the editor of, Jibber Jabbin’ Jacob, shows tremendous knowledge of the game, and a sharp eye for key elements of matches. Follow the link above to his site. In addition to great taste in sport, his sense for locating a quality watering hole and amazingly authentic Philly Cheese Steak in Seattle is spot on. Traveling to Seattle and wondering where to grab a good bite? A supporter from Portland or any other soccer city and want to know what to eat and where to go? Tat’s is close to Qwest field, so look no further. In as PG-13 a manner as I possibly can, you only need 8 inches. As good as 12 inches sounds, you can share it but you can’t finish it. Looking to get a fresh intelligent take on the weekly MLS club Power Rankings? Please take a look at Derek Ciapala’s, Weekly MLS Power Rankings. Derek is an LA supporter, but his knowledge of what is shaping up throughout the league is objective and more engaging than most sport site’s Power Rankings.
After losing MLS First Kick last Tuesday, 1-0 to LA Galaxy, a good Sounders friend said, “hey, 33 more matches to go, with a total possible of 99 points. Up Sounders”. One thing Seattle fans are always good for is seeing sunny possibilities from dreary results. When your NFL team is the first to have a losing record in winning its division, then knocks out the defending Super Bowl champions, it’s fair to say you live someplace where people work hard to find the emerald on a cloudy day. The 1995 Mariners slogan “Refuse to Lose” seems technologically, if not socially engineered into our Pacific Northwest makeup. Up Sounders indeed!
Saturday, March 19th, not even one week into the new MLS season and we are off to the Big Apple for the New York Red Bulls home opener. Thiery Henry, the French superstar and Arsenal icon will be starting his first full MLS season. He wears a bullseye on him larger than the one Sounders FC wears as a franchise. if he fails, then who else would come to MLS from abroad? It may not be as harsh as that, but to US soccer starved faithful, and a surrounding critical sports culture it feels that way. More people say they would watch MLS if there were more good stars. There are few names that carry the iconic wight of Henry. The Sounders just faced two others, with Beckham and Donovan, in last Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to LA. The Red Bulls feel pressure to “Win Now” same as Sounders FC. With their home secure in Harrison, New Jersey and second season in their beautiful new soccer only stadium, they have a need to win now. Especially since Major League Soccer has made it clear they want the 20th MLS club, after #19 Montreal in 2012, to be the former NASL, New York Cosmos. A championship would help carve out their longtime niche, in that global supermarket sports city. Big Apple teams flow by the dozens, so a golden season would be delicious.
Oh come on, I had to. You know you’re laughing. You’d have done the same. I mean this isn’t the New York Times. Give me that one.
OK, apple puns aside, what can be said about an early season match like this? Blaise Nkufo is gone! Barely an hour prior to the
Former NASL giant, New York Cosmos
home opener vs LA, the Sounders and Blaise Nkufo parted ways. How his DP (Designated Player) status equates to value is not fully known yet. Mauro Rosales, the best Sounders last name yet, was picked up from Argentina last week. He was wearing #10 in practice, meaning his skill is clearly on par with current starters. When Sigi brings him in he will most likely play a central attacking midfielder role helping to set up strikers and wingers for more goals. His bio includes time on classic Dutch side, Ajax, and recently with Argentina’s, River Plate. He was also part of the Argentina Olympic Team in 2004.
Preseason injuries to Nate Jaqua, Brad Evans, and Michael Fucito continue to linger. So the departure of Nkufo and addition of Rosales adds more questions than answers. Rosales did trial with Sounders FC during preseason, but has little game experience with them.
What I see from this still young, third year team, is a sense of not being shaken. They want goals bad, but they haven’t lost their poise. After literally absorbing Tuesday’s drenched loss, I watched the match again. Seattle held better possession, attacked more, created more chances and outshot LA. The loss was more about missing close chances than being outplayed. The goal
New York Red Bulls
Sounders gave up to Juninho was defendable. Slow reaction. An issue? Yes. It would have been negated had, O’Brien White finished off his sitter, (a sure goal) or Eric Friberg hit the inside of the goal post instead of the outside. Those shots will come. Freddy Montero was unlucky as Josh Saunders stole his goal with the save of the match. Josh Saunders, LA’s replacement keeper ended up the rightful “man of the match”.
Continuing to attack in the manner they did Tuesday and create more of the same opportunistic chances, while defensively closing down better may give Sounders FC a surprise chance to overtake New York in its home opener. Time will tell how the season plays out. Early season challenges mount. Hopefully Sounders FC meets these challenges head on, just like 36,000 rain-soaked fans did on opening night. Seeing the proud emerald through the foggy haze is what this city is good at. Hopefully Sounders FC will continue to represent.
Have you had enough vuvuzela? And what’s up with the dancing Jabulani ball? How do you keep yourself together during all the World Cup hoopla? One sure way to keep focus is when the Sounders FC take the pitch Sunday against the Philadelphia Union for their maiden match at their new home, PPL Park, in Chester, PA. As Major League Soccer recovers from its two-week World Cup fever, the crazy Jabulani will not leave us. Apparently we better get used to its extreme quirkiness. Major League Soccer has a deal with Adidas to use it ALL season.
In addition to celebrating World Cup fever, Major League Soccer opens a second soccer specific stadium this year. The Sunday match will played at Philadelphia Unions new soccer specific stadium, PPL Park. The Union’s first two matches were held at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The New York Red Bulls opened Red Bull Arena in March. Soccer is definitely on the upward move in the US, with growing numbers of new US soccer stadiums, a 19th expansion team (Montreal Impact – 2012), and a successful run in the World Cup. Fan support may reach new highs for all MLS clubs by the end of this season. Our US National Team players who are not already in Europe, will be soon. Additionally with our new found levels of success and recognition is the great news that players you and I have heard about from around the World Cup are coming our way. Look no further than Seattle. Blaise Nkufo, from Switzerland, made the pass that led to the goal defeating Spain in a World Cup opening round shock upset. Nkufo is on his way here. He’ll draw both national and international attention, which not only places attention on Seattle, but more importantly soccer in America.
For the Sounders, the World Cup was an injury recovery break. An opportunity to recharge and focus on a difficult coming schedule. Including the defense of the US Open Cup which starts Wednesday in a rematch of last years thrilling 2-1 US Open Cup victory over Portland on their home pitch at PGE Park. Not to be forgotten, is the Sounders first ever CONCACAF Champions League match. First up, is a rematch of Sounders opening day 2-nil victory over Philadelphia Union.
Watching Michael Bradley brilliantly poke in the equalizing goal against Slovenia, and of course Landon Donovan’s, Prayer in Pretoria, the winning goal over Algeria, set the table for what is missing in Sounders matches. Hard fought, sweat to the end, fight for everything, gruelingly tough, leave it ALL on the table GOALS! More people in the US than ever before are aware of what Sounders fans already know. It is astonishingly, even punishingly emotional to cheer your team in hope and prayer for one goal to win it all. Do you remember Round 4 vs Kansas City, The Fucito Finish? That was not a World Cup victory, nor a MLS Championship, not even a playoff match. It was simply an early regular season match that finished with a goal that felt like the Sounders won the Milky Way Galaxy Champions Cup of the Universe. A parade with Michael Fucito leading the team through the solar system was planned for the next day. It may not have been quite that big, but it was water cooler fab-jab, for even the casual Sounders fan on Monday. Everyone knows the emotional power of what soccer is capable of. Everyone knows you never watch alone. It is the beautiful game. Brutal on mind and spirit, divine bliss in its glorious release of victory as the goal net swells then settles the obsessive ball. Every game for the rest of the Sounders season will feel like the joy in drawing with England, the anguish of a refs stolen victory over Slovenia, the frustration in not beating Algeria after 90 minutes, or the elation and amazement at suddenly finding a rabbit in the hat of extra time.
The Gunners - Est. 1886
There is a lot at stake in this back from the break, mid-season match. It is a rematch of the Sounders opening round 2-nil victory. A game where Union’s manager, Peter Nowak claimed Ljungberg embellished his falls. Only to realize, Ljungberg did not take Nowak’s words lying down. The bruise on his lower spine served as proof. Nonetheless, Union supporters, Sons of Ben will send vociferous jeers of disapproval Ljungberg’s way every time he touches the ball. Here is what I hope no one tells any Union supporter before the match, that is exactly what Ljungberg thrives on. He played for Arsenal of the English Premiere League. He heard much worse years ago at White Heart Lane, when traveling with Arsenal to bitter rival Tottenham Hotspur. The Sons of Ben are in season one, so their “shock and awe” chants are not
What to look for?
Enjoy the beautiful game’s new-found rise in attention in the States. What is wonderful about soccer is its relatively short span compared to most other American viewed sporting affairs. Take in the intensity, sweat out the result, then enjoy the rest of your Sunday. I’ll be back after the game and for the rest of the season, with the story of the game. The ongoing story of the Sounders regular season, US Open Cup defense, and inaugural voyage into CONCACAF where the door to being the number one club in the world exists.
Thank you ALL for following my story. Especially to all the ongoing readers and wonderful addition of new readers in the last two weeks.
Fredy Montero scored 3 goals against New York last year. Including the first Sounders FC goal in that beautiful 3-0 inaugural game. Juan Pablo Angel is one of the leading scorers in MLS over the last 3-4 years. He wants revenge. The Red Bulls only won 5 games last year. They won their first of this season last week. New York Red Bulls are a challenging team to understand who they really are in order to evaluate them. They are a best to worst team. They went to the MLS Championship in 2008, and had only the 5 wins in 2009. So who are they? Talented, fast, excellent on the attack, and organized. Hans Backe, their new coach, like Sigi Schmid, is experienced and has a great reputation that gives the team a new energy. Not unlike Sigi did for the Sounders in their first season. Players are responding to Hans Backe well. They also have a fantastic new soccer only stadium. So, for New York, it is not unlike Seattle circa 2009. It’s been all things New York. But this new taste Red Bull has not faced a team like Seattle. Seattle is also a more organized team. Seattle is an improved passing team. The creativity up front is starting to compliment their natural attacking talent. Most importantly, New York has not played against a team with as organized a defense as Seattle. For the New York to prove who they really are, they can not keep anything hidden tonight.
So, here are the keys to the match:
Seattle’s back four with Alonso adding that extra defensive midfield presence, allows one to believe a statement like, “is it possible to not give up a single goal in a season?” The realist; “No! Duh.” The Sounder in me; “Wow . . . maybe!”
There is also defending by attacking. If the Sounders keep pressure on New York’s defense then New York will make enough mistakes for Seattle to take the game. That leads to the next key. Seattle left more goals on the plate last year than any team in the MLS mess hall. Hopefully some of the preseason Kitchen Duty focus on the attacking third will pay off. If Seattle cleans off even 1 or 2 of these chances, which New York will serve tonight, Seattle will have its helping of total game control.
Nonetheless, New York has its shiny new stadium, high-octane energy boost attack, and their new “everything looks Big Apple dandy” outlook. They are going to fly into Seattle with wind at their back. This means the psychological key to the match is endurance. Seattle will have to find a way to endure and survive New York’s pressure, then capitalize on counter attack opportunities. Once the Red Bull energy high has fallen, the Sounders will have their chance to throw one or two knock out punches. If patience is a virtue and Seattle plays that card, then expect 65 minutes of split nerves and at least 15 minutes of victorious joy.
O, how do I not embarrass myself here. If you have played any of the recent FIFA video games on X-Box or PS-3 you know this match. You out posses, out pass, and out shoot an inferior ranked opponent, and they beat you on some silly deflected corner kick that bounces fortuitously to a striker, who almost apologetically bloops the ball up, which barely finds the net after deflecting off the top crossbar. But all your calculated pass possession building up into the attacking third, littering the goal with riveting well placed shots, only ends up emitted as noxious gas. Somehow, your Pele brilliance is recycled away from net rather than bicycled into net. I’m actually fine with this loss. Completely calm. Second game in and 28 to go. Hey, taking the calming perspective approach, Real Madrid lost to a third division Spanish team and were knocked out of their version of the US Open Cup, the Copa Del Rey.
What was impressive was the Juan Pablo Angel looked invisible and Steve Zakuani again looked near a scoring binge. The man of the match was no doubt, Bouna Coundoul, the Red Bulls keeper. Zakuani broke down the left side of the box, eluded a defender, put the ball up to his stronger right foot and struck a powerful shot across the face of goal. Any other night, any other keeper, Zakuani would have opened his 2010 Sounders goal account, but this one was parried away beautifully by Coundoul and flung safely out over the end line.
Alright, enough blog-crastination, that loss stung. Mostly because it was at home. How do the Sounders make Quest an invincible fortress?
Sigi, Sigi, Sigi, Oi, Oi, Oi! Sir, I have a question.