Round 14 vs Philadelphia Union
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.
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.