Last time Chicago’s Fire visited the Emerald City, it marked the return of Freddie Ljungberg. The passion for vengeance burned high. Fredy Montero‘s late winning goal was among the Sounders 2010 season highlights. The Sounders won both games against the Fire in 2010. Their match with the Chicago Fire this Saturday becomes critical after yielding two season points from four matches, while only producing three goals. Their record is 0-wins, 2-losses, and 2-draws. All four matches were entertaining, but entertainment alone does not define a winning season. One draw came at home against the Houston Dynamo. The other last weekend in the thrilling 2-2 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes. Losing this Saturday would not be fatal, but it would leave a heavy emotional burden for fans and team both. A draw would be manageable, but a bitter and underlying level of frustration would creep into the club. A win would not put the season right, but it would ignite momentum and confidence.
Last year Seattle traded Ljungberg to Chicago for six points in return. The two wins helped propel the Sounders to a 10-win, 2-loss, 3-draw record in the second half of 2010. That was the best record in MLS during that period leading up to the playoffs. That is the significant momentum possible from a Saturday win against the Fire. The Sounders have shown no lack of confidence only a lack of goals. Thrilling as they are with improved play on the pitch, it is when they discover their need for victory, and not just an accumulation of shots that will earn them goals and wins.
With goals hard to come by in soccer, the Sounders FC have managed some interesting goal stats, or lack of goal stats, in their first four matches of 2011. Sounders FC have scored three goals in four matches, while allowing five. At first glance those numbers seem soccer normal, right? Under the microscope, those figures show Sounders FC amassing 64 shots, with 36 on frame. Which works out to 9 shots-on-goal for every 16 shots taken per game. What can be made from that? It is generally considered normal for a club to score one goal per every ten shots. Barcelona hits net at an astonishing pace of 1 goal per 7 shots. At times even less. The Sounders are scoring 1 goal for every 21 shots taken. Troubling numbers considering the improved quality in their play. (see last post, Rave Green Blues)
I don’t like statistics because they raise more questions than answers. I live for the story. Recent events have tickled the whiskers of my curiosity. Now I have questions about these curious stats.
“Mr President, I know you are busy with Libya and Budgets, but regarding the Sounders, . . . uh, no sir, they are a soccer club, like Landon Donovan, not a basketball team. . . . Oh, no, no, no we do not play in Oklahoma”. Well, that didn’t go well.
Lionel Messi, is not answering my calls. Pele, wont respond to my e-mails. I can’t find Zidane on Twitter, and Zeus is “apparently” on vacation. So, I have hired a private detective to explain the probabilities involved in tallying only 3 goals in 64 shots.
Breaking News: My soccer private detective just quit. Apparently, he was called away for a more pressing assignment to uncover missing Portland Timber’s midfielders.
Statistics and kidding aside, if the Sounders, albeit miraculously, were to amass another 64 shots in the next 4 matches, they will score no fewer than 6 goals. Even if half are own-goals scored by the other team. I’ll put a pint on that!
What does it take to score in soccer? Skill, patience, poise, precision? All are good terms. Do the Sounders lack these qualities in their strikers and forwards? You could conjure up an argument for that. Eventually, I believe you would come around to realizing the qualities in these Sounders players are more like league goal scoring leaders, than explaining their slump. Any argument against them, would be hard pressed to get past the argument for them. I wont defend their numerous missed opportunities, but there must be some strange manner to explain how so much creativity and opportunity has missed its home target. Maybe the explanation comes from a willing need, or a little Luck. if the Sounders shoot 64 shots in the next 4 matches, luck alone will muster no fewer than 6 goals.
“Put the ball in the net”. Screams a Sounders fan standing in front of my brother-in-law, Thomas Breuler, and myself. No ringing endorsements for this to become a regular chant. It does sum up everything fans and team alike want to see change soon. What is keeping the ball out of the back of the net? Need? Some all-encompassing need? When the Sounders finally need to, they will find a way to score goals. Some teams play with momentum, energy, passion, or various skills, and so-on. Some clubs are just lucky. Other times in sports, the gods of games burden you with the challenge to become something more than what you are. Saturday, Sounders FC face their own fire. They are on the cusp of a self sacrificial barbecue, or a heroic surge. If the 2011 Sounders FC are to become a team seeking a deep need to win, then Saturday is when that desire needs to show on their home pitch.
Sounders FC players and staff appear encouraged and upbeat. Fans are still singing, “The Rave Green Blues”. Yes, I’m being over dramatic here as Saturday is only game five. Yet four of the next five matches are on the road. So, I don’t feel it’s too early to quote my good Sounders friend, Todd Hodges, who commented that “April is becoming a do-or-die month”.
It is time for the boys in Rave Green to need victory.
For, Luis Sanchez, a faithful Chicago Fire supporter. Our passions support opposing teams. Our respect is mutual. Together from separate cities we support MLS and the growth of soccer in the US. One day we’ll meet at Al’s Italian Beef.