Seattle Sounders Officially Rebuilding

Okay, so I finally have stomached the gall from Sunday’s Debacle in Dallas Frisco, to write about the Seattle Sounders.

“Younger and faster” has been the mantra for President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey since he got here. Earlier this season (though I can’t find a link to the quote currently), Lagerwey specifically said that Dallas wins last season’s Western Conference semifinal matchup “ 9 out of 10 times” because Dallas was younger and faster. Well, the Hoops are still younger and faster. And they beat us again.

The problem is still the age of this roster. I’ve been saying this for a while, but age is great for experience and ability, but it stinks for availability. The minutes lost to sundry age-related knocks and bruises has been disastrous for this Sounders team. We went down to Dallas missing Brad, Ivanschitz and Valdez because of various aches and pains, not to mention Deuce’s ongoing medical situation. Add Ozzie’s hotheadedness and it was a shell of the Sounders.

Silver lining? That shell traveled, on short rest, to battle the class of the league to a near result, and–hell–almost a victory (#geigered).

We are getting “younger and faster.” Jordan Morris will only get better (before he gets his European work visa), Cristian Roldan has arrived, Lodeiro is already the man, and Joevin Jones played his best game in Rave Green Pacific Blue. We can also cheat and say Roman Torres is young’ish (turned 30 this year) for a centerback

If this sounds like I am backpedaling from all my unbridled optimism from last week, well… I am. 1 point from 2 games, and no dance card punched, isn’t exactly what anyone had in mind going into Decision Day. Hopefully we make the playoffs just to spite the Timbers and keep our record going, but MLS Cup… forget about it. Take the long view, we are rebuilding. And if the worst Sounders season in history still sees us in the playoffs, I’ll take it.

Still Fuming Over Ozzie Alonso’s Red Card

Just rewatch the footage. It’s a simple sequence of events: Will Bruin kicks out on Ozzie twice (or rather 1.5 times ’cause the first one was such a limp little attempt), Ozzie get pissed and marches over to get in Bruin’s grill. Bruin doesn’t just bark back, but grabs Ozzie: first by the arm and then the scruff of the neck, and he does not let go. Bruin has has 3 inches and 35 pounds on Ozzie, who swipes at Bruin’s face. The fight is broken up. Bruin milks the “hands to face.” Ozzie gets the red. Totally infuriating.

Seattle Sounders Look To Punch Their Ticket

The Seattle Sounder can book their place in the MLS Playoffs with a win tonight against the Houston Dynamo. Part of me cannot believe I just wrote that.

On July 24th, after falling 3-0 to SKC in Sigi’s Waterloo, Seattle were 9th in the West and averaging a lone point per game.

screen-shot-2016-10-12-at-2-27-09-pmNow, just 11 matches later, we sit at 5th and 1.42 ppg. And if we win tonight we’ll be just a smidge under the magical 1.5 ppg, Sigi’s old standard for making the playoffs.

Bold Prediction: And win we should. Houston stinks. Sorry Wade Barrett, but it’s true. And they really stink away from the Bayou City, as the Dynamo only average .66 ppg on the road (still better than Portland’s whopping DONUT away from the pretensions confines of Hipstertopia). While we’re looking at decimals, check out 1.87, Seattle’s ppg at home this year (and that’s even after we lost our first 2 home games, and 5 of our first 9).

Houston’s troubles are compounded by fixture congestion, as they just played Colorado at home on Wednesday before flying across the country to face their “Western” Conference foe. Also Houston will be missing Alex, who’s on a little goal-scoring run, and Seattle will have both internationals, Jordan Morris and Nico Lodeiro back in Rave Green.

Long story short: Houston is in deep trouble. Seattle emphatically punches their ticket to the dance. Sounders 3-0.

MLS Quick Links: Disparaging Managers

Your Seattle Sounders are enjoying their international break, as is your humble blogger. No worries, I haven’t wandered off into another month-long walkabout.

Some quick hits to tide you over:

Congrats to Bob Bradley on earning the nod from Swansea. I’m proud to see Bradley as the first American manager to rep the Red, White and Blue across the pond (oh wait, their flag is the same colors…) rep the Stars and Stripes, that is.

The Guardian has a tidy write-up. I believe that Bradley is absolutely the right man for the job. He’s used to hardship, financial constraint, and rebuilding. Give ‘em hell Bob.

In other managerial news, Bruce Arena thinks flying commercial is a joke. He tells his players to not rock their logos when they fly Southwest to not damage the image of the league. C’mon again? Sure I get optics and branding, yadda yadda, but seriously? This is what Bruce Arena is worried about? I guess when you repeatedly rely on the scraps of descending international stars (Keane, Gerrard, Dos Santos, et al) to build your roster, it’s tough to sell coach.

Too bad Klinsmann or Caleb Porter didn’t say or do anything really asinine recently. About the worst I got was Porter claiming that Colorado’s “belief” won them the game last weekend. Normally that’s Klinsmann’s bailiwick, chalking up losses to New Age-y Neoplatonic bullshit like “heart.” I am heartened to think that Porter is regressing into a Klinsmann.

Portland is having their worst season under Porter. Even if they win out they’ll finish with only 47 points, just under 2014’s playoffless 49. Portland’s not gonna win out. As much as Portland winning MLS Cup before Seattle chaffed my very soul, if Merritt Paulson keeps an underwhelming Porter in charge for 5 years too many, riding on the coattails of 2015 (much Like Klinsmann is still milking his run to 3rd with Die Mannschaft in 2006), and he runs the franchise into the dirt. Well then. Seeing Portland win the Cup last year just might be the best thing that ever happened to Seattle.


Seattle Sounders Win a Wild West Showdown

The Seattle Sounders beat the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Wild West showdown last night at BC Place. The game was good, bad and ugly. The good: The Sounders, terribly undermanned, took all 3 points away. The bad: Captain Brad’s return from injury was marred by a stupid red card that will keep him out against Houston. The ugly: Olympic White kits.

sounders_goodbaduglyWith everything going right for Seattle, the first 25 minutes of last night’s game were terrifying. I had some serious early-2016 PTSD when Ivanschitz was a late game scratch (a little Oba-esque, as in “oh were you counting on selecting a player only to find him unavailable at the last second?”). Then Flacco got injured early (see the Sounders’ early injury ward woes), then Fisher pulled another boneheaded play (First Kick against SKC, ugh.) Then the zebras were giving away free PKs to the ‘Caps (#geigered).

But these are not the Sounders you remember. These are the Fightin’ Schmetzers, and no Nico, No Deuce, no problem. Seattle dug deep into its depth, and Schmetzer rolled out a formation that took advantage of it and we held on for a gritty win against an old foe. Now Seattle sits comfortably above the red line at 5th place.

Sounders fans don’t need to ask anymore if we’ll make the playoffs, but rather wonder how high we’ll seed. 4th place is looking very do-able, especially with the RSL matchup to close out the season. And 3rd place is even within our reach. If L.A. continues its horrible run of form, the Gals only have 2 wins in their last 12 games, and just 5 points in their last 5 games, and we take care of business at home, the #3 seed is ours. Both Seattle and L.A. would sit at 50 points, and we’d take the tiebreaker with more wins.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but with the international break all we can do is hope and hype. Damn it feels good to be a Sounder.

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps: Bold Prediction

The Seattle Sounders lucked out Saturday night as the MLS Western Conference decided to roll out the red carpet. The Sounders now have a clear path to the playoffs and may even host in the knockout round.

Portland, Sporting Kansas City, L.A. and RSL all lost last night. The Timbers, hoping to nip our heels, fell 1-nil at Colorado, and SKC, the team directly above the Sounders, fell 3-1 to the redhot Revolution in New England. The icing on the cake was that RSL, once upon a seemingly untouchable at 4th in the West, fell 2-1 to San Jose. After these three results, Seattle not only seemingly has the playoffs on lock, but could potentially leapfrog all the way to 4th place.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-41-39-amNot too long ago, Seattle sat mired in 9th place in the West. Back then, San Jose and Seattle were competing to see which cellar dweller could leverage their games in hand and mount a push for the red line. On August 12th, the Quakes were on a torrid pace, unbeaten in 5 games while taking 9 points. We sat behind San Jose’s 31 points with 27, but had had just started to turn our season around as well, with three straight results.

Of course you make your own luck and Seattle has been on a tear lately. Since August 12th, Seattle’s taken 14 points from 7 matches while San Jose has gotten merely 6 from 8. Now we’re firmly in control of our playoff destiny, while San Jose has to settle for morale victories like last night’s.

Cliché disclaimer: none of these results matter if Seattle doesn’t take care of business today at BC Place. Though Seattle is looking primed to pounce, we haven’t clinched anything yet. A big win today in our last Cascadia derby could all but punch our ticket to the postseason.

Bold Prediction: Wow. It feels good to be boldly proclaiming again. Frankly, today’s game won’t be pretty. Nico Lodeiro is suspended due to yellow card accumulation meaning Seattle will employ only a half a DP (sorry Valdez). So even with J-Mo smooth tearing up the league, our attack will be stifled. Thankfully Vancouver has been atrocious lately, with only 5 points in their last 9 games while being shut out 6 times. The ‘Caps did manage 3 goals in 3-3 draw with Colorado last week, but hopefully that is just a fluke.

I see Seattle, tired from fixture congestion and often stymied by our neighbors to the north, settling for a 1-1 draw. J-Mo strikes again and has his eyes firmly on Cyle Larin’s rookie record.

Seattle Sounders Brave New World

In direct inverse to the 2016 Seattle Sounders, Raving Green, the little blog that could, winds down not with a bang but a whimper.

This blog has been shuffling off to obsolescence these past months. Outside of the Copa America tournament, I’ve written little since April. Aforementioned reasons for putting the blog on the back burner: a basement remodel and new job, both of which were necessitated by my wife and I welcoming our own little Sounders fan into the family, August Bryan Knudson Schaeffer (and believe me, she is a cutie in her Rave Green onesie).

But sadly, I only have few weeks left to write about the 2016 season. In my last Sounders-specific post, waaay back on April 19th, Seattle had just beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. That got their record up to 2-3-1, a modest 7 points in 6 games but, more importantly, Jordan Morris scored his first MLS goal in that game.

J-Mo. He’s so hot right now.

Though Seattle was enjoying a mini run of 3 straight results with that win against Philly, things would fall apart. Seattle would lose 9 of its next 14 games, culminating in Sigi’s Waterloo at SKC. But what a world the Sounders were in back then. Look at their lineup:

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-08-amWe were still playing a 4-3-3. Oalex Anderson started. Sheesh.

Though some things stayed the same. Here’s the lineup that beat L.A. in L.A.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-42-amIn my April post, I noticed that J-Mo up top opened our offense, especially with Ivanschitz playing wide. That combo is now interim coach Brian Schmetzer’s default (of course with a certain Uruguayan pulling the strings in the center of the pitch).

Back in that post I wondered how the 2016 Sounders would fare and wrote: The key to surviving the marathon MLS season is: health, depth, and focus. Depth and focus, I’ll write about later.

Seattle’s health hasn’t been great. We don’t have too many names on the injury list (KNOCK ON WOOD!), with only Evans nursing a nagging knock (and he should play against Vancouver) and Aaron Kovar out since July (Kovar, sadly, still hasn’t seen the pitch yet. For a long time he was my favorite whipping boy. Whenever I saw him in the lineup I puked a little in my mouth. But in this, the season of our discontent, when he was called upon, Kovar produced. I was really starting to enjoy his development when he broke his clavicle in the Open Cup loss to L.A. Pouring one out), one big name is injured.

Clint Dempsey was the king of Seattle soccer. While scoring a brace in downing the hated Timbers, he capped three straight wins for the reborn Sounders and all looked good in the world. Then, completely unexpectedly, the man’s health took a frightening turn and his 2016 season is over. Missing Deuce hurts. Though aging and curmudgeonly, Deuce is simply the best field player the U.S. has ever produced. The man just scores goals. You don’t replace him. Period. We dropped our first points (and suffered our first loss) of the Schmetzer era without Deuce in the lineup.

If you had told me back on April 19th that we’d be above the redline for the very first time this season, but wouldn’t have Dempsey to close the year, I’d be anxious. Recent run of form aside, I still am anxious. Sure we won our last 3 games. But outside of the miracle in Carson, we only have two gritty 1-0 wins over underwhelming Vancouver and Chicago. Even with J-Mo and Lodeiro, how potent can our attack be?

Whether or not we make the playoffs, whether or not we survive the MLS marathon, we must earn results without Deuce. Hell, we may never see him in Rave Green again. Welcome to the brave new world of Seattle Sounders soccer.

Hope Solo Punished For Refusing To “Play Like A Girl”

Hope Solo has not only been suspended from the USWNT by the US Soccer Federation, but her contract terminated. Essentially her career stands publicly on the gallows cause she said an opponent had played “like cowards.”

You already know how I feel if you saw my tweets:

There is no “persistent infringement” clause in professional sports. Any argument that justifies this decision to suspend her and terminate her contract by taking her priors into account is bullshit. An athlete is judged on the severity of each individual criminal act and dealt with by their organization accordingly. See Mike Vick, Johnny Manziel, Ray Lewis, Adrian Peterson, Michael Irvin, et al.

This reeks of sexism. Our society still expects women to be good little girls. And the cognitive dissonance between strong, dominant women excelling at athletic competitions while revealing their drive, grit and anger is something we haven’t learned how to digest as a culture. We’ll allow women to be athletes, and great ones, if they are graceful (and scantily clad) swimmers or gymnastic (and besparkled) pixies. But god forbid if you play rugby or basketball and sweat and grunt.

Take Michael Phelps for example. A classic “repeat offender” of misdemeanors:

2004 – Arrested for drunk driving

2009 – Cited for public marijuana use

2014 – Arrested more drunk driving

What is Solo’s record:

2007: Insulted her USWNT teammate and fellow goalkeeper Briana Scurry, who shipped 4 goals in the World Cup semis: “There’s no doubt in the world I would have made those saves.”

2012: reported herself a victim of domestic abuse, later dropped charges

2012: insulted former teammate, and then tv analyst, Brandi Chastain “Lay off commentating about the game until you get better educated.”

2014: arrested for alleged abuse against her sister and nephew. charges originally discredited, but now reinstated pending appeal.

2016: Said Sweden played “like cowards”

So Solo has one criminal transgression, potentially was the victim in another, and runs her mouth. That’s it.


Guess what? Athletes run their mouths. Michael Jordan and Larry Bird were infamous assholes. So was Ty Cobb. Richard Sherman was recently lauded (after some initial racist bullshit) for speaking his mind and publically disparaging his opponent on national TV calling a specific opponent a “sorry ass receiver.”
Terrell Owens may be the closest comparison to Solo. He was rarely in real legal trouble, but often in the headlines for odd things (OD’ing on sleeping pills in a was it/wasn’t it a suicide attempt) and running his mouth. He called one teammate with the 49ers gay in a magazine interview (saying “if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, by golly, it’s a rat)”, then questioned the masculinity of another, and the blackness of another (calling him an “Uncle Tom”). His antics like stomping on the midfield logo of certain teams, and mocking specific opponents with jeering dances were seen as the colorful antics of a “diva” receiver.

Aside from the serious criminals here (Mike Vick, Ray Rice), few of these men received the public censure and discipline that Solo has received. And some have come through legitimate legal troubles embraced by public opinion (Ray Lewis, Michael Irvin).

America’s sexual double standard is grossly apparent in sports. Women are allowed to be winners as long as they are ladylike first. Solo herself noted this in her autobiography saying, “In order for the world to pay attention in 1999, a female athlete had to be a role model loved by everyone. In 2012, she doesn’t. And that may be a weird form of social progress.” It seems she was wrong. Even in 2016, a women needs to be a lady first and foremost before she can be anything.


Sigi Out

Oddly, heartbreakingly, finally, ill-timedly, and refreshingly, Sigi Schmid is out as the Seattle Sounders head coach.

I know my posts have been as rare as a Sounders W lately, but I got lots to say on the subject. More soon.

USMNT in the Semis!!

The USMNT played liked they gave a damn last night against Ecuador in the Copa America quarterfinals, earning only their 4th knockout win in a major tournament, ever.

It was the first time in a long time that the USMNT looked dominant. We belonged on the pitch against a quality foe. Lots to talk about and dissect. Today I leave you with this, poor spelling and all:

I'm not having second thoughts, yet.

I’m not having second thoughts, yet.

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