Month – October 2014

Seattle Sounders at FC Dallas With Ghosts in The Head

So it’s Dallas. The twice-crowned Seattle Sounders fly to Frisco this weekend to continue their rendezvous with destiny.

On Wednesday night Dallas coach Oscar Pareja’s team (what is the right verb phrase here? not exactly defeated, maybe slipped by, or advanced past?) “recorded a win” over the Vancouver Whitecaps. Lots of proverbial ink has already been spilled on this topic, but WOW did Mark Geiger really screw up. That was a clear ball-to-hand on an awkward play and yet Geiger called a late penalty to gift the game for Dallas. Stats are sticky, but Vancouver had more shots (10-8) and more on target (4-2) than Dallas. This doesn’t mean they deserved to win, but a team’s entire season shouldn’t end on such a ticky-tacky call. But the game is logged, recorded and in the books, and it’s Dallas that earned the chance to fight the champ.

Before Wednesday’s game, and Geiger’s buffoonery, I wanted Dallas to win. I feel we match up better with them. Sure FCD is the better team, but Vancouver scares the day lights out of me. They have just had anti-Sounders juju for a while now. But watching Dallas play with a healthy Mauro Diaz is a little disturbing.

Remember earlier this season when FCD was on a tear? They were 5-1-1 and led the league in scoring before Diaz got hurt in late April. Their only loss in that stretch was to us in our stirring 3-2 comeback. But Dallas with Diaz is very different and much more dangerous than the team that went 7-12-4 without him in the lineup or only playing minimal minutes. Diaz’s presence, and how Pareja shuffles his lineup around him, will greatly affect the series.

Pareja is a meddler. He loves to get creative in the playoffs. He overthinks things, which, honestly, I am looking forward to. However with Diaz’s return to full fitness, Pareja fiddled with his lineup and produced a dangerous eleven against the Caps. Instead of the flat 4-4-2 with the pacey Gavin Escobar and Fabian Castillo on the flanks, he started a 4-2-3-1 with Blas Perez at the point backed up by a dangerous trio of Tesho Akindele, Diaz, and Castillo. This allowed him to sub Escobar on late to pester with pace, but also left Sounders-killer David Texeira on the pine. We don’t know what Pareja will cook up for this weekend, but hopefully he gets a little crazy. If he stirs the pot too much and puts players in unfamiliar positions, great. Sometimes a series ends before it even begins with overwrought coaching (Shalrie Joseph at forward anyone?). Pareja may be Seattle’s secret weapon in this matchup.

The lone bright spot late last season was beating Pareja’s Colorado Rapids in the play-in game. Including that one-off, Seattle has only won two playoff series in its decorated MLS history and the pressure is entirely on them. But the Sounders have been purging those ghosts in their head all season. I expect nothing less than a mass exorcism this weekend.

Happy Halloween Sounders fans.

The Value of the Shield

shield2

In case anyone forgot, the Seattle Sounders just won the Supporters’ Shield. I’ve been salivating at the thought of the Shield for months. Back on July 13, shortly after decimating Portland 2-nil, I interviewed Clint Dempsey and asked if anyone in the Seattle locker room was talking Supporters’ Shield. He looked at me like I was crazy and said “No. Trophies aren’t earned by talking about them.” I’ve wanted the Shield for a long time, but now that it’s here… it rings somewhat hollow.

As a sports fan, and a diehard, I have only one vicarious championship to my resume, the 2008 World Series. That was a great autumn. I spoke to uncles and cousins, ones I rarely call, and we talked about them Fightin’ Phils. Then the Phillies won 97 games in 2010 and 102 in 2011, back-to-back table topping seasons. But it didn’t mean squat. MLB fans look back at those Phillies teams as failures for folding in the playoffs, despite 162 games of consistent dominance. You Mariners fans know what it’s like.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy. I am impressed. The Shield is an incredible accomplishment, especially for a Western Conference team. But who really fetes and respects New York for winning it last year or San Jose for bossing the league two years ago. Americans respect the plucky and clutch teams that win when the pressure’s on, not steady, consistent winners. As an American sports fan, the Shield doesn’t resonate as much as winning the playoffs. It’s how we’re conditioned. I know table-topping is the traditional crowning achievement in international soccer, but Obama didn’t invite the New Red Bulls to the White House (do they do that in other countries? Did David Cameron host Man City? Or is it just our distinctly American obsession of marrying sports to politics?). Even the Sounders players celebrated the US Open Cup much more. After last weekend’s game, everyone in Rave Green was all business.

That doesn’t mean the Shield means nothing. Like winning the Preakness, it is a necessary ingredient to a greater accomplishment. We’re already sitting on history: a Shield and Open Cup double. But there’s more. To further Sigi’s postgame metaphor: the thing is MLS Cup, it is the cake. You don’t got much if you don’t got it. The Shield is lovely icing however. I’d love to look back and say, hell we won the Shield on the way to the Cup. Nothing makes you look more like a G.O.A.T., once-in-a-lifetime team than all those historical footnotes. We have 5 games left and I want the good old-fashioned, ‘Murican championship: MLS cup.

But last weekend the Sounders did win a trophy. And considering how we won it: going toe-to-toe with our nemesis and foil, Los Angeles, makes it even sweeter. It is another trophy for our collection and evidence for the growing case that “The Seattle Sounders are the class of American soccer.” Something was up for grabs and we grabbed it. Hell, that’s what winners do: they take ‘em all.

MLS Cup Playoff Predictions

The MLS playoffs start tonight with the Vancouver Whitecaps flying to Frisco to face FC Dallas. So without further ado, I present my MLS Cup Playoff Predictions.

Western Conference playoff predictions
Knockout Round: #4 FC Dallas vs. #5 Vancouver Whitecaps:

The playoffs kick off with an intriguing matchup. Vancouver, streaky for most of the year, is currently one of the hottest teams in the league. The Caps are 4-0-1 in their last five on a 6-1 aggregate. Though gifted with youth and pace, Vancouver doesn’t score a lot of goals. They win with defense, as centerback Kendall Waston and keeper David Ousted has this team’s net near impregnable.

Dallas is a quality side as well. Coach Oscar Pareja has done wonders maximizing the talent of these perennial underachievers. Like Vancouver, Dallas has speed to burn in Escobar and Castillo but they have a potent offense with a quality target forward in Blas Perez and, when healthy, supremely gifted midfielder Mauro Diaz. Dallas has only gone 3-2 in their last five, but that includes impressive wins over Seattle and Los Angeles.

These teams played recently, with Vancouver winning 2-0 on October 4th. Though the Caps seem to be on hot streak, Dallas has too much quality in the end: FCD 2-0.

Semifinals:

#1 Seattle Sounders vs. #4 FC Dallas:

Our postseason officially starts Sunday night in Frisco. Soccer is so illogical. I am much more comfortable playing the better team, Dallas, than Vancouver. The Caps just have our number for some reason, whether coached by Carl Robinson or Martin Rennie. There is some juju about those Canucks that befuddles the Sounders.

Dallas is good, but we beat Dallas. Leo and Yedlin can neutralize Escobar and Castillo’s pace. No one on Dallas’s backline can handle the Deuce and Oba show. EBFG 4-2 aggregate.

Semifinals:

#2 Los Angeles Galaxy vs. #3 Real Salt Lake:

Other than the Sounders, this is the matchup I am most excited about. The Los Angeles Galaxy-Real Salt Lake games promise to be thrillers. RSL has quietly had an excellent season. With all the hullabaloo surrounding Seattle and Los Angeles, Salt Lake just kept trucking with their championship core of Rimando, Morales, Beckerman, Saborio, Grabavoy and Borchers. New coach Jeff Cassar has done an able job of working Joao Plata and Luke Mulholland into the team with stellar results.

Los Angeles has been enjoying a season for the ages. A deadly attack and solid defending combined for a historic goal differential. There ain’t much more to say, this might be the best vintage of Galaxy yet.

Both teams stumbled to the finish. RSL’s last quality win was on September 6th when they beat Dallas 2-1. RSL is only 2-2-1 in their last five, and, surprisingly, so is Los Angeles.

In this semifinal, two proud teams, slightly slumping and looking to regain their edge and honor clash. I predict an echo of 2011. That season Seattle narrowly missed winning the Shied to a dominant L.A. side and went into a semifinal with RSL looking to mop up. We were quickly bounced. I’m calling a major upset, RSL 3-1 aggregate. Maybe it’s Robbie Keane’s quad, maybe it’s a leaky Jaime Penedo, maybe it’s Donovan not having his head right. Something is up with the Gals, and RSL will punish them.

Finals

#3 Real Salt Lake vs #1 Seattle Sounders

No offense to RSL, but everyone in Puget Sound will breathe a huge sigh of relief that they don’t have to face L.A. again. RSL is solid, but Seattle’s down the spine attack, illogically, wrecks havoc on the diamond formation. Esepcialyl when coupled with width provided by our fullbacks. No offense to the Pride of the Wasatch, but this a cake walk for the Sounders: 5-2 aggregate.

Eastern Conferee playoff predictions
Knockout Round: #4 New York Red Bull vs. #5 Sporting Kansas City:

These two just played at KC’s cauldron and New York, terrible away from home, won easily. Expect the same result in New Jersey: NYRB 2-0.

Semifinals:

#1 D.C. United vs. New York Red Bulls:

D.C. is the most balanced team in the East. They have scary depth with Chris Pontius rounding back into form. Bye Bye Titi: DCU 3-1 aggregate.

#2 New England Revolution vs. #3 Columbus Crew:

This is one helluva matchup. Every postseason, some random team gets red hot and makes a run. I can see either of these teams as prime candidate for such a performance. It is a shame they face each other so soon. But MLS fans are in for a doozy. Columbus is 4-1 in their last five and playing brilliant soccer. New England is 4-0-1 and looking equally indomitable. It’s a tough one. My brain says Revs, but my heart says Crew: Columbus 4-3 aggregate.

Finals:

#3 Columbus Crew vs #1 D.C. United

The Crew have style and spunk in spades, and maybe that’ll give them just enough push. Honestly, I am gonna go chalk here: D.C. 4-2 aggregate.

MLS Cup Final
#1 Seattle vs #1 D.C. United

I don’t know the last time both number one seeds met in the MLS Cup final. I didn’t plan it this way, and it doesn’t feel right. But here goes: Eddie versus Dempsey for all the cookies! I do not see Seattle losing in front of 60,000+. No way. We are on a mission this year and there will be a reckoning. Seattle 2-1.

Giddy Yet #Hellahungry, the Seattle Sounders Win the Supporters’ Shield

Captain Brad Evans hoists the Sounders first MLS hardware

Captain Brad Evans hoists the Sounders’ first MLS hardware

A narrative, the Seattle Sounders choke when there’s silverware at stake, was buried Saturday at CenturyLink Field. In gritty and flashy fashion, Seattle won the Supporters’ Shield beating rival Los Angeles Galaxy 2-0.

The game was a deadlocked slugfest (literally at times) until the 82nd minute when Marco Pappa took an Obafemi Martins pass and one-timed it past the keeper, into the pink netting. That first goal was catharsis. I don’t think I’d ever heard CLink louder.

As the game drug into the 80th minute, the pressure became nearly unbearable. A draw seemed more and more likely, but conditioned to expect the worst in sports, I was sure L.A. was going to break our hearts. Sure of it. I could see them stealing one late and not leaving enough time for us to respond. But this year, as they’ve proven for months, the Sounders persevered, rewriting the history books and collective opinion of the club.

If the first goal was euphoria, the second was surrealism. Pappa again struck, bullyragging L.A.’s keeper, Jaime Penedo, into a turnover outside the box. Pappa dodged around the last defender and popped a cheeky chip into the net for the killing blow. I was in shock. I barely celebrated, literally stood mouth agape, until the ladies behind us tapped my shoulder for fives. Marco Pappa provided the sizzle to cap the game, but it was Seattle’s defense that won the Shield.

The Sounders, shockingly, played impressive defense. I don’t know if the game plan was to cede possession and absorb, but it worked. Defense and sitting back is not our strong suit, not how we roll. We attack teams, we punish them as we cram the ball down their throat. And yet Saturday, 58,000 screaming supporters saw Seattle, at home, tell the best attacking team in the league, go ahead hold the ball as much as you want, we won’t let you do anything with it. The Sounders didn’t bunker as ten men weren’t always behind the ball, but ceded the lion’s share of possession and shots to L.A.

This tactic proved brilliant. Much was made of the disparity of shots on Twitter and amongst those that follow MLS. The argument exists that L.A. was the better in the game, and Seattle got lucky at the end. Matthew Doyle, MLS’s armchair analyst, thoroughly debunks this narrative while discussing the expected goals stat. We gave up the ball, but not quality scoring chances.

Our spine is stout. Seattle has the roster to be a defensive power: Ozzie is such a stud, so is Marshall. If we protect the flanks with a reined-in Yedlin and play Evans in the midfield, we have a tight defense. And with Oba and Clint up top, we don’t need to be throwing the kitchen sink at the opposing goal. Stay tight, win the midfield, and link up to your strikers. Then sit back and enjoy the show. This tactic marked Gyasi Zardes to the point of irrelevance, (much like Keane last week), and allowed us to chose quality times to counter.

sigi

Sigi Got His Groove Back

With Zardes quiet, L.A.’s attack was further diluted because they had to respect our transition game. We forced L.A. into a pickle between pushing a weak attack or throwing more bodies up and exposing space for our deadly strikers. L.A. resorted to holding in the midfield and fouling with abandon. Coach Sigi Schmid pointed out how L.A. had 15 fouls in the first half alone, on pace for 30 on the day, an insanely high number. Sigi flat-out outcoached L.A.’s Bruce Arena. Maybe another narrative, Sigi’s not a tactics guy, was also laid to rest this past weekend.

We’ll probably see the Gals again very, very soon (though I’ll be a huge RSL fan for the next two weeks). Will this strategy work with Keane in the pitch? One goal was all L.A. needed, and Keane is coldblooded. Goals change games. The Galaxy had a couple near misses: that glancing strike by Zardes and the balding short timer Landycakes could’ve ended it early. In the x minute he ran screaming on the end of a great ball at the top of our box and snapped a chip that, somehow, Stefan Frei reflex saved.

Chokers no more. Supporters’ Shield champs. Two-thirds to the Treble. All is good in the Soundersphere, and yet we remain #hellahungry. Giddy yet hungry. We still have five games left.

Los Angeles Galaxy at Seattle Sounders Finale, Gameday

Seattle Sounders. Los Angeles Galaxy. Top of the Table. Supporter’s Shield. History. Today.

Bold Prediction: I’ve played it fast and loose with my bold predictions lately, so at this point why try to be right? As a highly paid blogger, it is my prerogative to guess aggressively. Last week I called the Sounders winning a shoot out. I’ll assume my prescience skipped a beat and that’s what happens today: Sounders 3-2. Oba is brilliant, scoring a brace in an MVP-worthy performance.

Omar GONEzalez, or The Importance of Being a Centerback

Tomorrow is a big day for hyperbole. Sounders-Galaxy. Shield. Destiny. But the big question is how will the Galaxy approach the game without Omar Gonzalez?

The Galaxy’s bread and butter is the counter. Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and Gyasi Zardes run the flashy attack, but L.A. relies on having Omar at back to bail them out if they falter in quick transition. Omar’s suspension is a gamechanger. It would be foolish for Coach Bruce Arena to overhaul his team’s entire modus operandi for just one match. And I assume that the Galaxy are too proud a club to do so. However, playing away at a deadly attacking team needing a win without the presence of USMNT star Gonzalez may be enough context to shake things up.

We know as Sounders fans how missing a key CB can have repercussions on your whole scheme. Remember the last Sounders-Galaxy match at CenturyLink field, the 3-nil drubbing we suffered? That was our first game without Chad Marshall and L.A. exploited it. We still had stalwart Zach Scott but we paired him with Jalil Anibaba. Anibaba is no slouch. He is a fine MLS starter, but he is no Chad Marshall. The same could be said of L.A.’s potential centerback replacement Leonardo.

Leonardo, like Anibaba (though I’d take Anibaba any day of the week and twice on matchday), is a fine MLS starter. Statistically, Leonardo does a good enough job. The Galaxy’s record when he plays this season is 13-4-6. Those four losses are all by only one goal. And a lot of those poor results could be chalked up to L.A. being in their annual early season funk, as the team went 3-3-5 through May. Not bad right? But when Omar Gonzalez slotted in as a permanent fixture following the World Cup, the Gals ran off a crazy 10-3-2 record, a killer 2.2 pts per game.

Centerbacks are huge difference makers. Especially in MLS where talent disparity is the rule: a $6 million striker will destroy a $40k centerback. In NFL parlance, centerbacks are like cornerbacks: defensive players whose success and failure is nakedly obvious. Everyone notices when a CB screws up. And in a fickle game, that one player or play can change the entire result. Having a stud centerback is key, so L.A. signed Omar to a fat DP contract, and the Sounders brought in Chad Marshall.

Chad Marshall is a stud. There is a fine and glowing review of Marshall up right now at MLS’s main site, detailing how he allowed the Sounders to rise to the precipice of elite. With all the Galaxy bugaboos haunting the Sounders going into last weekend’s game, Chad Marshall was the exorcist. Robbie Keane was on a Marshall Island (seehwhatididthere). The preferred cliché for a centerback shutting down a striker is “he put him in his back pocket.” Marshall didn’t just pocket Keane last weekend, he ducttapped him in a box, drove all the way up Aurora past the Everett Mall and locked him in a storage unit by Cypress Lawn Cemetery. Marshall put Keane away.

If we go back to that last Sounders-Galaxy match, the one without Marshall, we see Keane at his best. Because heat maps are fun:

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 2.22.53 PM

Keane was working mostly in the left of the attacking third atop the box. Here’s the heat map for the centerback he was abusing:

jalilGuess who it was? Less-than-stellar centerback Jalil Anibaba who, in vain, chased Keane around the park. With the absence of Omar, the Sounders are hoping to return the favor.

Frankly it’d be great to bookend this series with a good ol’ fashion butt whupping. If we just trounce L.A. tomorrow, thereby returning the favor from earlier in the season when we didn’t have our star centerback, it would even the regular season series: two trouncings and a draw. All while setting the stage for a potentially epic Western Conference final. SOUNDERS!

Like Sunshine and Shadow: Seattle and Portland

The Seattle Sounders are a few days and ninety minutes away from hoisting their first MLS hardware in club history. As fans who’ve suffered through 2011’s heartbreaking playoff crash and last year’s sudden sputter, Saturday’s match with the Los Angeles Galaxy is potential vindication. Club management is already calling the game the biggest in franchise history, and the MLS media (all four of them) are in a lather hypeing this regular season finale. However, I want to avert focus from the upcoming game and all associated glory to focus on the misery that must be being a Portland Timbers fan right now.

You’re a Portland Timbers fan. Coming into 2013 you were full of hope and joy because the first year of the Caleb Porter regime was a smashing success: you won the Western Conference, thus earning a berth in CONCACAF Champions League, and won a playoff series against your hated rival the Flounders. But this season hasn’t gone according to plan. Your team has sputtered all year and now sits outside the playoffs with one game left. You were thoroughly beaten three times by the Sounders, one loss knocking you out of the US Open Cup competition. Worse? That rival, those stupid Flounders, is the class of the league, having put together a stellar season where they already netted one trophy and are in line for a second and possibly the Treble.

The cherry on top of the thought of the Treble is the sweet, sweet schadenfreude at the expanse of Timbers fans. Maybe I’m evil (and it’s been said), but I love when calamity befalls those hipsters down south. Even on the eve of our apotheosis as Great Team, I’ll still take the time to revel in my hate of the Portland Timbers. It’s like sunshine and shadow. I want the Sounders to win it all. And that is further complemented by Portland utterly failing. I will be ecstatic if Portland gets nothing out of this season.

I do not want the Timbers to make the playoffs. If Portland fails to climb above the red line, we’ll get to pat ourselves on the back for pooping the bed against Vancouver. That loss, though seemingly disastrous at the time, may be a Sounders masterstroke.

Seattle losing ensured Vancouver stayed ahead of Portland. The Caps still only hold a point lead in the playoffs race, they’d be two down if we didn’t roll over. Didn’t that game feel weird and somehow out of our hands? If we had to lose to Vancouver (with the security of knowing L.A. would also lose) to keep Portland joyless this year, I can rationalize that.

At the time I was seriously distraught by our loss to the Caps. I felt it was just the latest example of Seattle crumbling under pressure, like in 2011, 2012 and 2013. But what if the Big Sounder in the sky took a longer-term look at things? The Big Sounder may have had us lose, coupled with L.A.’s loss to FCD, to set the stage for both: The Sounders winning the Supporters’ Shield AND the Timbers missing the playoffs. Delicious.

Granted, it does hurt that the loss was in the Cascadia Cup final. I’m bummed we didn’t win that Cup but, honestly, that derby is a little diluted by Vancouver. I really have no animosity towards the Caps, does anyone? All I really care about, rivalry-wise, is seeing Portland fans cry.

There are more tears in Stumptown after the Timbers’ Tuesday night loss to CD Olimpia in CCL play. After trouncing their opponents for the majority of Group Play, Portland lost 3-1 in Honduras to Olimpia. The loss knocked the Timbers out of the CCL. It was brilliant. The Timbers lost in spectacular fashion, hemorrhaging two goals in the first four minutes. Not advancing to the knockout round of the CCL is just another failure in a season full of them. Portland won’t receive more notoriety or legitimacy as a club, and, more tangibly, they won’t get any more allocation money.

CCL success is key to a club’s further development in MLS. It’s all about the Benjamins. A CCL berth grants you allocation money, advancing to the next round gets you even more money. Teams need allocation money to work around the byzantine salary cap restrictions of the league. Seattle, L.A. SKC and RSL have become consistent winners mostly due to their accumulation of allocation money (hell even D.C. United used their fluke run last year to jumpstart this year’s progress). Success literally breeds success.

Portland forfeited more allocation money by falling apart in Honduras. They lucked their way into the CCL (when MLS changed how berths were granted) and were starting the tough climb into the upper tier of MLS clubs, only to be smacked back down. It may be a helluva while before Portland again gets in Champions League. Too bad.

All is right in the world. Seattle is winning and Portland is losing. Enjoy it.

Robbie Keane and the Mystery of the Disappearing MVP

Sunday night’s match between the Seattle Sounders and the Los Angeles Galaxy painted a dichotomy of teams. L.A. seemed lazy and, at times, complacent, while Seattle played with piss and vinegar. Seattle was ready for a rumble. L.A. thought they could stroll in for a coronation. The Sounders were committed to fight and scratch for a result, as both Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey credited their willingness to commit tactical fouls in the midfield as key to their game plan. This savvy gamesmanship in the midfield helped Seattle stop the Galaxy from igniting their quick transition game. Which in turn shut down Robbie Keane.

The most surprising aspect of the game wasn’t the come from behind result ( though L.A. hadn’t stumbled holding a two-goal lead at home since May 2012), Seattle’s been doing that for months, but rather the Sounders’ ability to take Keane and Donovan out of the attack. So other than the professional fouls, how did they do that effectively?

Too often focusing all your energy on an opponent’s stars merely frees up chances for the third or fourth attacking option. As Sounders fans we see this all the time. When teams try to shut down Clint and Oba, Neagle or Barrett pop up and bury one. I assumed Gyasi Zardes would’ve been a large factor in Carson, but instead it was Baggio Husidic and Marcelo Sarvas (scoring only his third this season- sheesh). I’d need to rewatch the game, and hell that sounds like a lovely distraction, to do this justice but my first inclination was to take a peek at Keane’s heat map:

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.45.13 PMWeak sauce. A little action at the corners of the box, but most of it at the midfield stripe. Keane continually dropped into midfield to find the game. Seattle was sure doing something right forcing the aging striker to fall back to help cycle the ball. This despite L.A.’s vaunted supremacy in the midfielder. Seattle effectively pushed back the danger man and forced him work out of his comfort zone.

For a quick comparison, here’s Keane’s heatmap from L.A.’s last home against TFC.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.45.24 PM

Keane has always been about economy of movement, he floats and strikes. Here you can see him working more centrally and 15-20 yards farther upfield than he did Sunday (for the record he had two goals against TFC). Ever picture tells a story, and Sunday’s draw is exemplified by the sheer afterthought Keane (he of the 19 goals and 14 assists) became.

For a quick comparison, compare Dempsey’s heat map next to Keane’s. Deuce set himself up right in his wheelhouse, up the spine of the defense. He could dictate the attack from the sweetspot behind the midfield and in front of the backline, just what he wants to do.

 

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 11.46.39 PMIn postgame interviews after the result, The Galaxy seemed content to chalk this game up to what they didn’t do. A classic tactic from an egotist unable to acknowledge his opponent’s quality. Sunday’s result had less to do with L.A. being complacent and more with Seattle fighting and winning. I guess when you live in a town where it’s 75 and sunny dammed near every day; maybe you learn to take things for granted. In Seattle, we work when it’s gray. We work when its cold. In Seattle we get the job done. Ninety more minutes boys, ninety more. And I hope it’s raining.

Seattle Sounders: And an Antihero Shall Lead Us

Don’t call it a comeback, we’ve been doing this all year.

The Seattle Sounders willed themselves to another result last night, earning a 2-2 draw with the Los Angeles Galaxy. Just a draw on the pitch and in the stats, but a victory in the mythology of the Heroes of the Rave Green.

As Sounders fans, we’ve often wailed and gnashed our teeth that our team is soft. That they lack the grit it takes to win big. Having won only a single two-legged playoff series in five years, and losing big when we lose, takes a psychic toll. The front office was frantic to correct this, signing scattershot quality players. We’ve seen plenty of DPs come and go here in Seattle, and the team’s attitude remained the same.

Then we signed Clint Dempsey. Deuce is an antihero, more Wolverine than Captain America. And he brought a certain “screw you” attitude to the pitch that rewired the makeup of this club. Seattle was no longer driven by the mercurially talented Montero, or the neurotic genius of Eddie, but rather a badass mother who is going to kick and foul and fight and win. Dempsey’s addition spurred the team to unprecedented heights all season. The Sounders acted like winners and played like it. This season’s earlier dominance went a long way to dispelling the older Sounders narrative. Then Vancouver happened.

After losing the Cascadia Cup at home, while seriously jeopardizing our chance for the Shield, I feared we’d finally be revealed as pretenders and phonies and wannabes. Then last night in the 60th minute, the other shoe was about to drop. Seattle looked nearly flatlined. Having given up sloppy goals right before and after the break, away at a historically great opponent, the game was seemingly over. Sounders fans’ deepest fears were finally manifest.

But then again, they weren’t. Another Sounders team would’ve given up. A different team would’ve packed it in, but these Sounders are winners. They’ve done this before. It felt like it was April and I was at a bar in Bellingham watching the comeback against Portland all over again. I felt like it was last month, and we were icing the US Open Cup in extra time. These Sounders come back. These Sounders ain’t got a bit of quit in them. Lead by Deuce and Oba, Seattle scored two stellar goals to earn the draw. We attacked, we defended, we set the tempo.

Seattle is playing for more than Supporters’ Shield and a the #1 spot in the West. They are playing for posterity, the mythology, for the collective unconscious of Sounders fans everywhere. We are a flashy team, with sharp kits and big names. But we want to be known for more than that. We want tales told of our glory. We want to be remembered as champions.

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