Dramatic matches. Dramatic endings. Sounders FC are born from the dramatic cloth of Rave-Green inception. The short turnaround to Thursday’s home match at Qwest Field, means the next chance for Sounders faithful to support their club to the next level of dramatic inception is only a work-night away.
Intriguing home stadium changes will take place Thursday. Same place, different name. Qwest Field will officially be announced as CenturyLink Field. How this name change will be written is up for debate. I see C-Link. Which gives upset traveling fans or disappointed home fans an easy “clink” opportunity. A non issue really, unless Timbers fans are ever handed three points from some sort of Buddle-Juninho-Hassli-esque miracle shot. Sideline whisper: How many more “wonder-strikes” do we give up before these magic goals are renamed Sounder-normal? Back to the blog: Using “clink” against the Sounders will make for an easy cheese-wiz first layer dis, but nothing that sticks too long.
Thursday marks the Sounders Front Office first attempt at opening up the entire stadium. All upper-level seats will be uncovered for an enticing $15.00. It should prove a good first test to see how fans long-awaited “more seats” request works with short notice.
Speaking of wonder strikes. Ranking high among the Sounders growing list of dramatic finishes, is last Saturday’s 90th minute stoppage-time thriller against Toronto FC, by Fredy Montero. Mauro Rosales, fouled at the top right side of Toronto’s penalty box gave way to the free kick. Freddy Montero stepped up with strong intent and purpose. His strike curled over Toronto’s wall and into the left corner of Stefan Frei‘s goal. Barely out of reach of Frei’s diving fingers. It was another winner for what is becoming standard Sounders fare. Late match heroes making late match drama.
One expected fan-thrill, and another Sounders first for Thursday’s match is already certain not to happen. Thierry Henry, the former French National Team, and Arsenal superstar, playing for the Red Bulls of New York, was issued a red card in the 90th minute of his match against the Portland Timbers last Sunday. Any attending fans disappointed by his absence, will likely be thrilled by the Sounders desire to play for no fewer than all three points for the win. New York will be ready to irritate and frustrate Seattle’s attempt to score early and often. Star power aside, the importance of the match wont be lost on the Sounders players.
Eric Hassli, proved Seattle is a good place for aging French strikers to score dramatic goals. With Henry out, a pair of french-kissed strikes are completely out of the question. That is unless Sebastian LeToux is holding an ace in his pocket for when Philadelphia comes to clink one in on Sounders at C-Link later on in colder October.
The Sounders victorious match last week with Toronto FC completed the first half of this 34 match season with a decent 6-win, 4-loss, 7-draw record. The 25 points have the Sounders sitting third in the Western Conference. With most teams close behind and holding games in hand, a string of wins could launch Sounders FC into a successful second half season playoff push. This Sunday is another short home match turn around to face visiting New England Revolution.
The Sounders continue to make lineup adjustments searching for a better winning touch. Fredy Montero, was given an active “Free-Roam” role last week. Which could prove valuable against New York. Michael Fucito, hitting post last week, and being close to striking net so often all season, means he is due to taste joy. Montero, regaining confidence with his dramatic free kick also means he will be a marked man. That is a good thing for Sounders FC. With Fredy heavily marked again, Fucito’s speed combined with Mauro Rosales’s crosses and technical ability to get into dangerous positions, as well as create space for other players to get into dangerous positions, means opportunities for either Fucito speed, or Montero poise are likely elements to ignite 40,000 plus into celebration.
Thierry Henry can come to Seattle riding the Red Bull bench, but he can’t come to Seattle without at least a little DP (Designated Player) conversation. Should your Major League Soccer team have one? If so, how much should your club spend? (See Derek Ciapala’s piece on AS Roma’s Francesco Totti possibly coming to the LA Galaxy this season). The NASL filled itself with aging, and overpaid stars and eventually folded. Major League Soccer’s slow expansion of Designated Players has proven safer and smarter. Some teams do not yet have a Designated Player.
Would Seattle have sold out their first season without Freddie Ljungberg? Possibly not. On the other hand, interest has seen a ground swell beyond famous players. Passion and participation in soccer is common and longstanding throughout the Northwest. Seattle was Broadway for US Soccer before US Soccer had found Broadway. This Thursday’s stadium-wide opening would have happened on its own.
As fun as Ljungberg was at the start, his easy irritability was not easily adaptable for fans. Halfway into his second season was a good time for team and player to part ways. Management brought in Blaise Nkufo, fresh from his Swiss National team appearance in the 2010 World Cup. It was a good half season and he delivered a solid playoff boost for the club. But being a punchbag to absorb Montero’s physical punishment was not a role he desired. So one hour before this 2011 season started he and the club also parted ways.
During the off-season, Montero was promoted to DP status. Like any athlete or team making the cover of Sports Illustrated, it has not helped Montero’s productivity. Before his free-kick game-winner last weekend, Montero had scored only two goals. Some might call that unproductive, and question the Front Office spending. Yet any team with a DP has a list of curiosities with its stars no different from the Sounders. In LA’s case, Beckham has arguably a longer list.
Scoring goals is an expensive habit. Sporting diamonds. 24 carat strikes, like Eric Hassli’s are worth a lifetime to some player reputations. That goal will be a goal of the year candidate. (See it here on my recent post) Spending spectacular Designated Player money is sometimes necessary to acquire a player like Hassli.
Is it more important for teams to find players to entertain, put butts-in-seats, and make us deliriously but joyfully buy their kit? No single right answer exists. In a perfect world, Roger Levesque would posses Ruud Van Nistelrooy goal poaching skill, and a one club career as long as Paul Scholes, of Manchester United. Reality is, we have to learn to cheer on Nate Jaqua. Starter or sub, lifting his spirit to put the ball into the net this Thursday is our job as fans.
Money can’t buy everything, but it does get good entertainment. Entertainment doesn’t last a lifetime. Building fan reputation and players that believe in that reputation, costs nothing and lasts forever. At the end of the day, Sounders General Manager, Adrian Hanaueer is looking for the next soccer guy to sing “Spectacular, Spectacular”. He is also looking for Ruud Van Levesque. He has an unenviable task, but also has a knack for finding players, like Osvaldo Alonso, John Kennedy Hurtado, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez, and Mauro Rosales.
I believe as fans we set the precedent. We build the reputations and passionate spirit. The Front Office finds the role pieces to fulfill the object of our passion. Occasionally a star will fit. But if the money to bring talent is too high or the talent is too high above the club, then there are always ways of developing success outside of Designated Players.
© 2011 by Ryan Sales – Sales on Sounders
Contributions: Fans Look: Could AS Roma striker sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy? By, Derek Ciapala, June 17, 2011