Month – June 2014

World Cup 2014: Costa Rica vs Italy. CONCACAF Til I Die!

Costa Rica represents the CONCACAF region today in World Cup play as they fight Italy for dominance in Group D. Both teams won their first game and another three points would tie up advancement. The prospects for today’s loser would be difficult, as they’d be tied with a surging Uruguayan team that knocked proud England out of Brazil.

As Americans, we talk a lot about Group G being the “Group of Death” but Group D could argue for that title. Italy, England and Uruguay are all former champions and capable of a deep run.  Costa Rica is a strong team despite a lack of history or pedigree, as evidenced by their 3-1 thrashing of Uruguay and strong CONCACAF qualification campaign. The Ticos finished only four points behind the United States and “beat” the USA 3-2 on aggregate in the hexagonal qualification (a 3-1 Ticos result away and a 1-nil Yanks victory at home). The casual fan may not expect much from the small country, but Costa Rica is more than capable of handling the Azzurri.

Bold Prediction: This World Cup has been bananas. Normally I go with the chalk in the Cup, but there’s been too many upsets. Italy wants to bunker and counter, but Costa Rica will push. Costa Rica forces Italy out of their comfort zone in a game that gets sloppy and open at the end: 3-2 Ticos! CONCACAF ‘Til I Die!!

US Open Cup: Seattle Sounders Rout PSA Elite at Starfire

I had the pleasure of participating in my first match at Starfire for the Seattle Sounders 5-0 rout of PSA Elite in the 4th round of the US Open Cup.

First off, I am grateful the Sounders have an urban stadium. Getting to Tukwila from North Seattle was a hassle. My wife and I tried to be sneaky and avoid the 5 until past downtown, but taking Roosevelt from Maple Leaf through the U to the Hill then downtown was an odyssey. I regularly mock all the empty seats in Commerce City and Frisco, but if the Sounders played in Tukwila… it’d be tough.

That said the drive was worth it because Starfire is a gem of a stadium. Crossing the practice fields where the Sounders daily punch the clock you come to the field. The stands are close to the pitch and provide not only an excellent view of the game (though the technicality of the players is impressive up close). The proximity allows an interactive aspect of the game. You can hear the ball pop audibly off the players’ boots. You can yell at the players (or opposing coach!) and know they hear you. The Starfire experience is unique. I mean this in the best way possible, it felt like a high school football game. Or maybe a state fair. The atmosphere in the stands felt down-home. Mrs. Ravinggreen and I bought the $12 tickets and so sat between the real housewives of South King County and love-struck teenagers in the uncovered bleachers amongst the suburban families. We were in a swarm of Sounders swag-clad kidderoos, which was fun. They danced and bounced throughout like good supporters should.

The game was mostly a chance to see fresh faces rock the Space Needle crest. Captain Brad Evans commanded his motley crew of charges deftly, blending experience (himself, Kenny Cooper, Leo Gonzalez) with youth (Aaron Kovar, Sean Okoli, Michael Azira) and underplayed veterans (David Estrada, Cam Weaver, Jalil Anibaba). And Brazilian-born Fabio Pereira earned his first minutes in a game that mattered replacing Evans in the second half. These Sounders made sure to represent well, as they played entertaining and dominant soccer.

The Sounders cruised to victory over their amateur opponents. Their first goal was on a penalty well earned by a hard-working Aaron Kovar. Kenny Cooper played his heart out, earning a brace and almost the hat trick. Sean Okoli and Zack Scott rounded out the scoring. Even Ozzie Alonso, who didn’t suit up, got in on the action catching a ball in the stands like a bleacher creature and received a round of applause. Though Marcus Hahnemann stole the show, swapping his sweaty jersey for a beer from the cheap seats shortly after the final whistle.

Slowly crossing the bridge over the Green River with all the other fans post-game, my wife noticed bubbles breaking on the surface of the water. It was dusk and time for fishing. People sang. Some called “Seattle!” and others responded “Sounders!” I cannot wait to go back to Starfire.

CONCACAF, GDP and the World Cup

Though CONCACAF is traditionally an international soccer backwater, the American, Mexican and Costa Rican National Teams are representing in Brazil.

CONCACAF is doing well for itself despite adverse socioeconomic conditions and poor World Cup history. Mexico looks the strongest after yesterday’s nil-nil draw with host Brazil tied with them atop Group A. Their victory over an uninspired Cameroon proved little, but going toe-to-toe with the Selecao for the full 90 showed quality. Costa Rica looked solid in surprising Uruguay 3-1, and are leading Group D. The Stars and Stripes exorcised some ghosts of World Cups Past by beating Ghana and now sit tied with Germany in the Group of Death. Only Honduras is showing poorly, having been routed by France.

World Cup 2014 seems to be holding pattern so far with CONCACAF World Cup history. Mexico is performing the best with America right behind. These two countries dominate the region, followed by Costa Rica and Honduras. Of the 35 appearances by a CONCACAF nation at the World Cup, 65% of those showings were from either Mexico or the USA. Costa Rica is third in total qualifications with four (almost five after a hotly contested qualification-losing playoff loss to Uruguay in 2010), and Honduras now has its third qualification. After Honduras, only El Salvador has qualified more than once and only five other countries have represented our region over the last 80 years.

Mexico has traditionally banged through CONCACAF, but whimpers on the international stage. They have competed in nearly every World Cup (failing to qualify for only three and suffering embarrassing sanctions that banned them from Italy 1990) and haven’t failed to advance from the Group Stage since 1978. El Tri’s consistency in qualifying and advancing from Group Stage play is stellar. And yet they always lose shortly thereafter. Mexico has won a knockout round game only twice, both times with the advantage of being hosts in 1970 and 1986. Mexico has never advanced past the quarterfinals, and their best finish was 6th. America, however, makes the most of its chances. We have only advanced passed the Group Stage four times, but have won two twice thereafter. Our highest finish was third, way back in the inaugural World Cup of 1930. Both Honduras and Costa Rica have skimpy World Cup history. Costa Rica edges Los Catrachos with one more qualification and one advancement from its Group. The dynamics within North American soccer remain stable, but the region is maturing.

CONCACAF teams are no longer World Cup afterthoughts. Mexico has always had population, wealth and ambition invested in their National Team, but has never been good enough to advance very far. Since international soccer is still a study in socioeconomics, CONCACAF has suffered. Most of the Central American and Caribbean countries have severe limitations to growing a dominant soccer program. Costa Rica, the third best country in the region, competes well despite having a nominal GDP akin to Sierra Leone’s, and a population equal to Kentucky’s. The after effects of racism and colonialism are still apparent in the record of CONCACAF qualifying.

America is the region’s outlier, a wildly wealthy nation in an impoverish corner of the world. Only a lack of ambition has held the US back from making a ruckus on the world’s stage. America is now flexing its muscle on the pitch with better athletes, facilities and dedication. As the popularity of the game rises, the moneymen finally see profit in soccer. This influx of cash into all corners of the soccer world: MLS expansion, the rebirth of the NASL, ESPN broadcasting the domestic league and NBC winning the EPL broadcast rights, indirectly feeds the growth of the USMNT. Over the next weeks, well see how these investments pay off.

CONCACAF WORLD CUP AND ECONOMIC STRENGTH:

Mexico

Qualification: 16

Advancement from Group: 7

Knockout Round Wins: 2

Best finish: 6th (‘70 and ‘86)

GDP (nominal): 14

GDP (per capita): 69

America

Qualification: 10

Advancement from Group: 4

Knockout Round Wins: 2

Best finish: 3rd (‘30)

GDP (nominal): 1

GDP (per capita): 14

Costa Rica:

Qualification: 4

Advancement from Group: 1

Knockout Round Wins: 0

Best finish: 13th (1990)

GDP (nominal): 81

GDP (per capita): 71

Honduras:

Qualification: 3

Advancement from Group: 0

Knockout Round Wins: 0

Best finish: last (Honduras has never won a world cup game)

GDP (nominal): 109

GDP (per capita): 135

USMNT Victory Postgame and the Gray Lady

Crazy crazy crazy. They say champions need to learn to win ugly, well the USMNT suffered hamstring pulls and broken noses in their 2-1 exorcism of the ghosts of Ghana past.

One game down, at least two more. It is crazy how we wait so long for only three guaranteed games. It is a little like the anticipation of Christmas morning complicated by the drama of receiving either veal and tube socks or video games and ponies.

I am sure you are all drunk on victory, highlights and postgame analysis. For something a little different, check out this article from the New York Times. It is of a similar vein to the Wall Street Journal article I posted last week. It seems the “elite” media is obsessing on soccer’s domestic fan culture. Sarah Lyall’s article is more fair than the WSJ’s, but Lyall cannot help but take some potshots:

With professional soccer in America reaching new heights of popularity on the eve of this year’s World Cup, scheduled to start Thursday in Brazil, America’s soccer fans have reached a delicate point in their road from the fringes to the mainstream. It is a matter of style, but also a matter of something deeper that speaks to how they, and the country, define themselves.

Now that they have a fighting chance of turning this great world pursuit into an American pastime, should they behave the way European fans do and risk coming across as pretentious and patronizing, similar to people who lecture their drinking buddies about what grapes were grown in what soil in what year? Or is there some potentially happy way of incorporating European traditions into a new American fan style?

“I’m not going to pretend that we don’t beg, borrow and steal from all cultures,” said Dan Wiersema, the Outlaws’ head of communications (yes, they have a head of communications). “One of the great things about being a soccer fan in the United States, which fits in with America in general, is its diversity. We try to incorporate as much Hispanic and Latino and Anglo and European styles of support as much as we can, because we can learn from cultures that have a lot more experience being soccer fans.”

Kevin O’Brien, 28, a nursing student well into his beer-drinking program before the game began, said: “This is new for us, so obviously we’re taking it from somewhere. I would say that calling it a pitch is not pretentious, it’s respectful. It seems disingenuous to refer to it as a soccer field.”

It is a fine line. One fan’s authenticity is another fan’s pomposity is a third fan’s bewilderment.

A healthy percentage of people in the capacity crowd at EverBank Field here had only a vague idea of what it all meant.

Why the fixation on fan behavior rather than the game itself or the rising popularity of the game? If both the Gray Lady and Mr. Monopoly (to personify dignified publications) are elbowing each other for the same beat, soccer fandom must be in the zeitgeist. And of course Seattle invented how to be an American soccer fan. And the word zeitgeist.

p.s. USA! USA!

USMNT WiIl Advance!

I would like to address all American soccer fans (and my apologies to Bill Pullman):

“We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore: Timber or Sounder, Eurosnob or MLS. Today we will be united in our common interests. We will once again be rooting for our country… We are fighting for our right to compete. To play. And should we win the day, the country will declare in one voice: “We will not go quietly into the night!” We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to play on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!”

Today the United States has their third chance, in three World Cups, to beat Ghana. The Stars and Stripes have made incremental improvements against the Black Stars each of the last two World Cups. In 2006, we were sent home in the Group Stage, as Ghana used the entire second half to protect their 2-1 lead. In 2010, the teams met in the knockout round and Ghana needed extra time to take the win. This time… we draw.

I do not see our young team taking a quantum leap against a talented Ghanaian squad. I see a gritty, hard-earned draw. But a draw means a lot. It gives the young Yanks a point and confidence going into their “tougher” matchups.

Both Ghana and the US want to win this game, knowing it may be their only shot to upset Group G favorites Germany and Portugal. Neither team will push their luck or the attack, as both suffer from the same weakness: a porous defense. Both the Stars and Stripes and Black Stars can score, as evidenced by Ghana’s 4-0 rout of South Korea in a World Cup tune-up last week. But goalkeeper will be the difference as Tim Howard is far superior to Fatua Dauda Adam Kwarasey. If the US stays disciplined and counters effectively, a draw will be a relief.

Even with a draw against Ghana, I predict the United States to advance from the group. This all hinges on my 2014 USMNT World Cup Campaign Bold Prediction: We will beat Portugal. In the hothouse of the stadium to nowhere, Amazonia Arena in Manaus (which still isn’t complete), we are primed for the upset. The Portuguese will be licking their wounds from a German drubbing, while we surge with confidence from our opening performance.

With four points in the first two matches, the Yanks will face a German squad in position to win the group. Die Mannschaft will be guaranteed a spot in the knockout round and may be on cruise control. Either way, we will have banked enough points to advance. Germany wins the Group with 9 points followed by the USA with 4. Prove me right boys. USA!

I predict the following Group G results:

Germany beats Portugal

USA draws Ghana

Germany beats Ghana

USA beats Portugal

Portugal draws Ghana

Germany beats USA

The World Cup: Bask in Soccer Glory

No Seattle Sounders or USMNT news today, just a little thing called, oh you know, the World Cup. I am a Monday through Friday blogger. But on the weekends I always do a quick Sounders gameday post. I’ll continue that tradition with a quick World Cup check-in.

The first few days have been nuts, as expected. Who saw Spain just getting embarrassed?! Today’s most intriguing matchup is England vs. Italy. This is like a Big Ten matchup of international soccer: two storied, pedigreed teams that grind out results. I don’t care to make a prediction, but will rather bask in soccer glory.

And if you aren’t pumped for the Stars and Stripes first game on Monday, hopefully this gets your pulse up!

The Stars and Stripes: A Sleeping Soccer Juggernaut

The World Cup is officially underway. Some fine games on schedule for today, the best of which is the rematch of last Cup’s final: Spain vs. the Netherlands. I admit I have a soft spot in my heart for Spain. I watched Euro 2008 from a bar in New York City. The final between Spain and Germany was epic. I loved the call, though I don’t know who was in the broadcast booth, “After 44 years, a nation of 44 million. Spain. Are champions of Europe. AGAYN!” Despite my affection for them, I predict Spain will be second in their group, to Chile. They will then lose to Brazil in the first game of the knockout round, as the window on Spain’s golden generation is closing. Though two European Championships, A World Cup, and an all-Spain Champions League final is a dominant legacy.

****

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article about insufferable American soccer fans. Jonathan Clegg, a Brit I presume, pens a polemic against the imitative posture of elitist American soccer fans:

My biggest gripe is that all of this feels like an elaborate affectation.

Instead of watching the game in the time-honored way of American sports fans—by thrusting a giant foam finger in the air, say, or devouring a large plate of Buffalo wings—your soccer fanatics have taken to aping the behavior of our fans from across the pond.

The scarves thing is an obvious example, but it’s far from the only one. There’s the self-conscious use of terms like “pitch,” “match” and “kit,” the songs lifted directly from English soccer stadiums, and even the appropriation of terrace couture.

Okay. I understand this. I am an unapologetic MLS chauvinist. I do not pull for any club overseas and I also hate the hipster appropriation of holier-than-thou Eurosnobs. However, Clegg doesn’t stop there. He not only condemns American soccer fans for copying everything from Europe, but he goes on to say we don’t copy enough:

These soccer snobs are so intent on maintaining an aura of authenticity that when they make a slip-up or use an incorrect or ill-advised term, I feel compelled to pounce on them with all the force of a Roy Keane challenge.

There’s no such position as outside back! (It is fullback.) The rest of the world doesn’t call them PKs! (It is penalties. Just penalties.)

Not to mention the fact that your fans happily refer to Team USA captain Clint Dempsey by the nickname “Deuce.” Deuce?! This is international soccer, not “Top Gun.”

Ever since a ball was first kicked into a net, it has been an inviolable law of the game that Dempsey should be shortened to Demps. Just like Michael Bradley gets cut to Bradders, John Brooks to Brooksy and Jermaine Jones to Jonesy, or perhaps JJ, at a push. (For the record, Mix Diskerud can still be known as Mix Diskerud.)

You can’t have it both ways. I wonder, I really do, if Clegg protests too much. Does Europe, or maybe just England, fear an awakening American soccer juggernaut? We have the money and the population, just not the ambition. If we ever got inspired, we could become a dominant international soccer team. Think of the Los Angeles Dodgers from a few years back: huge market, huge pedigree, mediocre team. Then the beleaguered Frank McCourt was forced to sell the team to a group of investors including Magic Johnson. The new ownership group immediately flexed their financial and cultural muscle and the Dodgers are now one of MLB’s major power players.

England feels soccer is theirs by birthright, yet have only one World Cup title from the 19 previously contested tournaments. They’d probably hate to see some Johnny-come-lately Yanks build a dynasty.

World Cup Predictions and Fanendo Adi

As if you didn’t know, the World Cup starts today with Brazil and Croatia in Sao Paulo. I’ll have my complete USA preview for Monday, but today I’ll make my bold World Cup predictions:

Group G:

The United States will tie Ghana and beat Portugal to finish behind Germany and advance to the knockout round. Unfortunately, it will be 2010 all over again, as the Yanks promptly lose to Eden Hazard and Belgium.

Final Four:

Argentina Vs. Uruguay and Germany Vs. Brazil: I am going CONMEBOL-heavy here, but Die Mannschaft, even without Reus, is good enough to crash the Latin party.

Championship:

Argentina Vs. Brazil: An instant classic and first World Cup meeting between these two teams since 1990. Unfortunately, Brazil has a history of losing championships as host.

Champs:

Argentina. Lionel Messi, despite rumors of where his heart belongs, is at home on South American soil. He delivers soccer brilliance to prove his doubters wrong.

*****

Of course the last MLS game to catch my attention before the break was TPFC against Dallas. It was an expected result, if disappointing. Draw City drew again in stoppage time heroics, though they needed a two-man advantage and some questionable calls to do so. Dallas had taken a 2-nil lead deep into the 78th minute before Will Johnson buried his penalty kick. Recently signed Portland forward Fanendo Adi drew the penalty when Dallas’s Je-Vaughn Watson tackled him in the box. In extra time, Blas Perez was his annoying self and got sent off for roughing up the insufferable Pa Modou Kah. The Timbers didn’t need more help from the refs up two men, as Kah, annoyingly, delivered the winner.

What really has me tweaked is the prominence of Adi. My wife and I were leaving Century Link after the 1-nil win over San Jose and caught the tail end of the Portland-Columbus match at a local bar. It was Adi’s first game and those insufferable Timbers announcers were lauding the big Nigerian. He was single-handedly responsible for Portland’s result in that game and has gone on to tally four goals and two assists in his five games.

Before this season started I was confused by Caleb Porter’s dumping of Ryan Johnson. Many of Portland’s goals came off the target forward’s head, but Porter was fine running out a whole bunch of flashy converted flankers at forward. My secret fear was Eddie Johnson would sign with Portland (like T.O. to the Cowboys!). Eddie would’ve fit nicely into the Timbers’s attack, if not their locker room. But hey, Portland loves Will Johnson, so maybe the Providence Park locker room is welcoming to schmucks. That single personnel decision, dumping Ryan Johnson and not signing a replacement target forward, had Portland off to a terrible start. Porter’s boys had only ten points, and one win, through their first nine games. However, in the last five games, since signing a new big-bodied target forward, Adi, the club has gone 3-1-1. Portland has quadrupled their win total and nearly doubled their points. Things were easier when they just plain stunk.

Seattle Sounders: MLS Midseason Report and Prognostication

Your Seattle Sounders are the 2014 MLS Apertura Champions, their first of many titles! Ok, so that’s a fake thing, but in this lull between Sounders soccer and the World Cup, I’d like to provide my official Seattle Sounders Midseason Report. Technically game 17 is the exact middle, but with the break, and inevitable post-World Cup signings changing the league, this is a perfect chance for reflection on the first half of 2014.

Previous incarnations of the Sounders can be succinctly categorized thusly:

2009: An auspicious beginning. Plucky, upstart expansion team revolutionizes the league and makes the playoffs.

2010: A forgettable season. Rough, rough start that Blaise Nkufo saves post-World Cup to keep the playoff streak alive.

2011: The beautiful game. Slow start before a strong finish from a beautiful attacking team, with a surprisingly solid defense, consisting of: Flacco, Montero, Rosales and Friberg.

2012: The Eddie and Fredy show. Arguably our best team yet, potent offense and stingy defense yields our first a playoff series victory. A dicey handball call ends this promising season.

2013: The team that couldn’t run through walls. So much potential, Oba, Eddie, Dempsey, Deuce, that just fell flat.

2014: How will we remember 2014? Let’s take a look at the numbers (click to enbiggen):

mid season report

Through 15 games, the Sounders have the most points, the most wins, the most goals for, and the best goal differential in franchise history. Our 32 GF doubles the GF we scored in 2010 and 2011, and 2011’s team was no slouch. Our goal differential more than doubles that of 2012 and 2013, two other very strong Sounders teams.

The team’s only real problem is the goal against. 22 GA is our second worst in franchise history. This dubious number puts Seattle at 14th overall in MLS with only Portland, Chivas, Dallas, Chicago, Philly and Houston worse. And Dallas, Philly and Houston have all played one more game than Seattle! That said, Portland, Chivas and Chicago have terrible, turrrible, defense as they have played as many as two games less, but shipped more goals! I’d worry about this stat, but our goal differential is sublime. Seattle has committed to a “we will score more goals than you” mentality. As long as we can win barn burners, we’ll be fine.

It may be early for such prognostication, but I firmly believe the Sounders can keep up this championship pace. Coach Sigi Schmid’s teams are traditionally strong finishers (2013 excepted), and I see little reason why that can’t continue in 2014. Our chemistry is super, our team is deep, our sports science/conditioning seems light years ahead of previous seasons, and Dempsey and Yedlin are coming back. Who knows, maybe we sign an awesome post-World Cup centerback and we make that defense match the record-setting offense!

Seattle is on pace for 72 points. That would break the lofty record of 68 points held by the 1998 LA Galaxy for Supporters Shield by points (68 at 2.12 ppg). At 2.13 ppg, we are just a fraction of a sliver of a hair over their pace. Wow. And we’re doing this in the modern MLS with Dempseys and Henrys and Bradleys, oh my!

Enjoy this MLS break: brag, dance, giggle and fart. The Sounders cannot be knock form the top for three whole weeks. How do I hope to remember this season?

2014: Seattle delivers their first, of many, MLS championships.

Seattle Wins the Triple Crown

The Seattle Sounders, Reign and USMNT won the Triple Crown. Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but on a day that California Chrome couldn’t deliver, your favorite soccer teams did.

On a gorgeous Seattle Saturday, I posted up at the George and Dragon with some visiting friends to watch the Stars and Stripes take down the Nigerian Super Eagles 2-1. Jozy Altidore finally looked like Jozy Altidore (funny how some players can go through cold streaks, but still deserve to be on the National Team), and the backline, though shaky, held firm in not conceding a single goal from the run of play. Though I’d have loved to see Brad Evans get the nod, Fabian Johnson continues to impress for the USMNT. He is solid with his defending, 1v1 and positionally, but his true contribution is adding dimension to the attack. Almost every goal scored goes through him. The Yanks are finally playing modern, fullbacks-keying-the-attack soccer. The only moment of concern came, when Captain America Clint Dempsey went down hard on a rough Nigerian challenge. Luckily, he popped up and looked none the worse for the wear. Though physicality and injuries were to be a theme for the day.

The Seattle Sounders beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 in their final match before the World Cup break. Mrs. Ravinggreen soon joined me on the patio, as my buddies ambled off to a different bar (to watch the hated Timbers!). After the final whistle for the Yanks, I quickly switched from red, white and blue to Rave Green and Cascade Shale.

We watched the oddest Sounders game I’ve seen in a while. It was a physical game with eight bookings (two reds) and 32 fouls (60% of which belonged to Chicago). No surprise considering Chicago coach Frank Yallop made his name as the goon maestro in San Jose for the last six years. The Sounders were looking like the superior team, and spurned Super Eagle Obafemi Martins played like a man possessed, scoring a brace. He scored a gorgeous goal on a twisiting pivot in the box before earning and nailing a penalty seven minutes later. The lovable but errant Jhon Kennedy Hurtado lived up to my expectations and saw red on the Martins foul.

Up two and with a man advantage, the Sounders looked ready to romp. Yet Rookie of the Year-candidate Harry Shipp scored a brace and showed his quality. After his first goal, everything went bonkers. Dave Clark was right, things just stopped make sense. All I know is, there was a melee in front of goal and, somehow, Martins was sent off. The teams went into the break even at 10-men with only a goal difference. Thankfully the Sounders continued to weather Chicago’s physicality and Lamar Neagle delivered the win.

Neale’s patience on the go-ahead goal was stellar. Everyone in the bar was screaming for him to one-time the deflected cross from Marco Pappa. Pappa delivered a gorgeous ball into the box that Kenny Cooper served up with his head. The ball ambled in a slow parabola towards Neagle at the far post, spinning in infinity. Neagle calmly let the ball bounce before tapping it once with his knee, as everyone at the pub is standing and screaming. The ball bounced once more off the grass before Neale whacked in a curling shot that the Chicago keeper was powerless to prevent. The bar erupted with joy and the surging Sounders have now taken 32 points in 15 games to stand alone atop the table.

After ordering some meaty refreshments, we settled in to watch the Seattle Reign continued their winning ways with another a stunning come-from-behind victory. The women of the Reign beat the Chicago Red Stars 3-1, in a game that was much closer than the box score indicates. The Red Stars seemed to be following their brother club’s penchant for physicality, as cards were handed out like candy at a parade. Captain Keelin Winters took a worrying blow early in the second half. She was woozy after the hit initially, and tried to keep playing before having to come out.

Two of Seattle’s goals were off penalty kicks. Both of which came off egregious fouls in the box. Sydney Leroux was seriously hit, almost like a defensiveless receiver crossing the flat in an NFL game. She, surprisingly, popped up and finished the game strong. She delivered, arguably, the most beautiful goal I have ever seen just before her hit. Superstar Kim Little found Leroux with space in the box and Leroux put the ball on an elevator, quickly up and quickly down, right into the back of the net. It was a thing of beauty on a beautiful soccer day. The wife and I settled the bill, stated on soccer.

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