Month – October 2014

Seattle Sounders Draw Los Angeles Galaxy, Beat Demons

Hell Yeah! The Seattle Sounders drew the Los Angeles Galaxy last night, but it sure felt like a win. These are the Fighting Sounders and they don’t got a bit of quit on them!!

I’ll post more later. I’m too damn stoked to sit tight and write.

Seattle Sounders at Los Angeles Galaxy: Gameday Prediction

Judgment Day: Seattle Sounders at Los Angeles Galaxy. You’ve been looking at numbers, you’ve been looking at highlights, but now all you need to watch is two games. Starting tonight, Seattle and Los Angeles take to the pitch to settle the debate and prove their supremacy.

The Sounders can win the Shield today in Los Angeles. They can’t lose it. This isn’t an aggregate series, so I want Seattle to play with nothing to lose. Attack, attack, attack. We aren’t going to tie in Carson, we’ll win or lose. Our defense isn’t as good as L.A.’s, so we need a shootout. If we can open the game up and pull the Galaxy all out of shape, we can win away. The battle midfield is the heart of this contest. Luckily, Seattle may have reinforcements.

Seattle is a better team with the pedigreed midfielder Gonzalo Pineda on the pitch. He has a stellar soccer IQ, and his creative vision and quality enables him to execute both sharp attacking passes and solid defensive positioning. He should be back in Rave Green for the first time since he suffered an injury in garbage time to New York. Much has been made of Pineda’s similarity to Mauro Rosales: a veteran star who signed as a trialist and contributed much more than anticipated. Hopefully the similarities end now. Mauro always fell quiet in the playoffs. Too much wear and tear just beat his bag of bones down come October. He could never contribute when it mattered, but Pineda may be key to fulfilling all of Seattle’s hopes.

Pineda will be fresh as a daisy for this year’s stretch run. He’s been rested since his injury at New York on September 20th. When the Sounders had a grueling schedule, Sigi had no interest in pacing his stars (remember all that “he needs to rest players” anxiety from a month ago?). Well Schmid may have stumbled into dumb luck, as the ageing Pineda has had a month to recuperate from the last six months of soccer. If the Sounders can combine a peppy and ready Pineda with a hungry Ozzie the central midfield with be a force to reckon with.

Bold Prediction: I hope Marco Pappa gets the start. Brad Evans is the “safer” bet, as Pappa drifts in too much and robs Seattle of width. Evans is also more of a two-way mid, but I don’t care. I want fireworks. Despite the math and logic and science and all that other boring crap, I have a feeling about tonight’s game. I know this is somewhat harebrained, but I am hometown blogger. I get paid the big bucks to through it all on the line: The Sounders win 4-3.

Seattle Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy: 60-point Supertwins

Whether ballyhooed or much maligned, the home and home series between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the Seattle Sounders is set to kick off this weekend. No more distractions, no more excuses, just two teams ready to compete.

At the beginning of the season, the MLS schedule, especially Los Angeles’s, appeared to be made by a drunken bumpkin. In their first five league games, the Gals played Salt Lake and Vancouver twice (the odd game being against Chivas). And the back-to back with Seattle loomed at the end of the season as another odd scheduling anomaly. Well here we are and, well… it’s about to get real.

Seattle and Los Angeles will play for the first piece of MLS silverware, Supporter’s Shield, the top seed in the West, home field advantage throughout the playoffs, a CCL berth and historical vindication. But these teams have been competing all season. Since L.A. turned it on in late May, they’ve only lost three times (the most recent being last week in Frisco) and have been locked in a meta-fight with Seattle for league’s best. Every win brought L.A. closer to the table-topping Sounders. Fans of each team started scoreboard watching over a month ago, waiting and hoping for the other team to stumble. Neither disappointed.

Seattle and Los Angeles are both super teams. Both are on the verge of being historically great MLS teams, Seattle due to their potential win total and L.A. due to their goal differential. But as a pair, these two will also continue a historic trend.

This season is only the fourth time in the non-Shootout era that two teams will finish with greater than 60 points (coincidentally, and you already knew this, Seattle and Los Angeles were the pair that did so in 2011). And this season is the first time that the two 60-point super teams will settle the Shield directly on the pitch.

The shootout era ended in 1999. Beside 2011, 2012 and 2005 are the only other supertwin seasons. With three of these seasons coming in the last four years, we’re witnessing a changing era in MLS play. The consistent uptick in the number of dominant teams will continue as disparity increases. MLS is slowly starting to mirror soccer leagues around the world with more minnows and a few sharks. Expansion is one reason for this change. The talent pool gets thinner as the number of teams increases, thus a team’s scouting and coaching start to show much more. But the advent of the Designated Player rule is the chief cause of disparity in MLS and thus multiple 60-point teams.

Dominant seasons are directly correlated to the expanding DP rules. Though 2007 was the first year of the DP, 2010’s ruling allowed each team two DPs with a third available via a luxury tax (this limitation was cut in 2012). Now any team with the money can field international-caliber players as a third of their lineup. Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane have driven the Galaxy to their many victories, as have Obafemi Martins and Clint Dempsey for the Sounders. MLS is becoming a DP arms race. After Keane made short work of Seattle in the Western Conference finals, it was no secret Seattle wanted “their own Keane” and pursued Oba. These players all have a legitimate claim to “best player in MLS,” and Oba and Keane are battling it out for league MVP. None of these stars (except Landycakes, of course) would’ve given MLS a sniff if the money wasn’t right.

MLS still has a strict and stable salary cap. Complementing stars with quality non-DP players is still important, as Gyasi Zardes and Lamar Neagle are key cogs for both teams’ attacks. Both are potent scorers whose stats are padded because of the attention opponents need to pay to the stars. However, the CBA expires at the end of this season and rumor has it that the salary cap will increase greatly and a potential fourth DP will be allowed. If this occurs, we can expect more supertwin seasons, and maybe even a big four-esque status quo.

Whether MLS will be ballsy enough to schedule future supertwins in a home-and-home series to end the season remains to be seen. This season, we are lucky. Seattle and Los Angeles get to settle a season long debate. And the Sounders get a shot at revenge.

Jurgen Klinsmann Vs. Don Garber For America’s Soccer Future

Jurgen Klinsmann and Don Garber are fighting for the future of soccer in our country. On Monday, USMNT coach Klinsmann, one of the stewards of American soccer, again expressed his displeasure with Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey’s return to MLS:

“I made it clear with Clint’s move back and [Bradley’s] move back that it’s going to be very difficult for them to keep the same level that they experienced at the places where they were, Klinsmann said. “Reality is that both players making that step means that you are not in the same competitive environment that you were before.”

Yesterday, MLS commissioner Don Garber fired back, saying:

“I feel very strongly…that Jurgen’s comments are very, very detrimental to the league,” Garber said. “They’re detrimental to the sport of soccer in America … and not only are they detrimental, I think that they’re wrong.

“Sending a negative message to any player that signing with Major League Soccer is not going to be good for their career, or their form, is incredibly detrimental, incredibly damaging, to the league. … I am demanding that [Klinsmann] refrain from making comments critical of our players and damaging to our league.’’

My opinion of Klinsmann is public and not glowing. Frankly, I think he is an overrated dick. His comments about Bradley, Dempsey and MLS were boorish and inflammatory. While Garber’s response was rushed, overly defensive and, unfortunately, only served to legitimize Klinsmann narrative, in that, now we are all talking about it.

I am glad Garber said something. I’d rather he defend his league then shrug and go, “Yup, we have an inferior product. Our soccer ain’t no good and never will be.” Garber has made no secret about this desire to see MLS become an elite soccer league. And he is actively working toward this through expansion and television contracts. All it takes is enough money to start the ball rolling, and no one pimps marketing and chases profit like America. With our country’s population and wealth, MLS could soon become a destination league. If not the best, one of the best. As one of the stewards of the game, Garber needed to say something. To allow the head coach of the USMNT to bag on his league and two of it’s premier American players, would be unconscionable.

MLS is not a top shelf league. Maybe top ten, but not even close to the big boys. Everyone knows this, so hearing it from the premier soccer boss in the country is no big surprise. Many Americans, let alone Europeans and South Americans, still scoff at MLS and those that follow it. But MLS just had a great year with Deuce and Bradley’s return, expansion, and Klinsmann selecting almost half of his Brazil roster from the league (in fact, with the arrival of Damarcus Beasley and Jermaine Jones, 7 of the 11 starters from the USMNT’s final game against Belgium are rostered in MLS). MLS’s star is rising. During the World Cup, a broadcast watched by billions, the word “MLS” was said multiple times (as were team names Seattle Sounders, Los Angeles Galaxy, etc.). This is huge exposure for a league fighting for legitimacy.

Klinsmann has massive gravity. He just championed a great run at the World Cup, and soccer in this country has never been more popular. A whole generation of young soccer players wants to make his rosters: U20, U23 and the senior team. So when he speaks, people listen, especially aspiring American soccer players, listen. When Jurgen craps on the domestic league, he is doing a great disservice to American soccer. Sure, Klinsmann’s only job is to win games for the USMNT, but the metajob here is growing soccer in the States. His comments actively undermine that by comprising MLS’s pipeline of domestic talent. After all the positive publicity MLS received this summer, a Jordan Morris might’ve been inclined to say, “You know I can go to MLS and chase my dream. I can do this.” After Jurgen’s comments, the Morrises of the world may think, “Sheesh, I better go to Europe.” This is not good for our country’s growing soccer culture. If we want to win a World Cup, we need a strong MLS.

Humor me a moment. I am from Alaska, and my home state suffers a brain drain. I left. Most of my friends left. There just aren’t enough opportunities back home: education, career, etc., so people leave. This does not help Alaska progress. An exodus of ambitious young people does not help Alaska foster the vibrant society and economy that could retain these people. I’d give almost anything to make a life back home, it’s the most goddamned beautiful place on earth. But I just can’t make a go of it, and neither can many of my fellow statesmen. So Portland and Seattle and the Lower 48 benefit at Alaska’s expense. We do not want an American soccer drain. We can’t be content to always lose our most talented to cities overseas. Klinsmann’s comments were so 2004. We need to change this paradigm. MLS is pretty good now, but we need people who’ll work to make it better. Then, and only then, with a strong MLS and a crowded pipeline of young American talent, will we one day be kings of the world.

Seattle Sounders 2: Practical, Uninspired

Not a single ball was kicked, but yesterday was a big day for the future of the Seattle Sounders. Team management held a press conference to announce the launching of Seattle’s much awaited USL Pro affiliated team. The team will call Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila home, and will have a 20% stake owned by fans through an organization called the Sounders Community Trust. But you know all this. You’ve read the news, watched the videos, etc. What I really want to talk about is the name of the club.

Much to the chagrin of this blogger, the team will be called “Sounders FC 2” or “S2.” I know the name of the thing is a lot less important than the training, minutes, competition and experience it affords young, developing players like Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar. But sheesh. For such a slick group of suits that pride themselves on one of the best expansion launches in US sports history, that name is a clunker. A dud. It stinks. Okay, maybe I am being harsh. The name is just like a pair of khakis: practical but uninspired. And that disappoints the most, as I am used to fireworks (literally, and flame throwers) from this club.

I understand we followed Los Angeles’s lead by launching a USL Pro team, but we didn’t need to copy their naming strategy. I don’t understand the uninspired branding here. Why didn’t we give them their own name, like Tukwila FC? MLS tries hard to honor the culture of the world’s game while also staying distinctly American (the playoffs). It is a red-blooded American tradition to give minor league teams their own identities. The Tacoma Rainers anyone? How cool would it be to wear the distinctly unique kit or scarf of a minor league club. Too bad S2’s logo is just a whited out Sounders crest that looks like a bloated snow crab. The name was bad enough, but that crest just floored me. Hopefully they’ll never rock that on their uniforms.

I'm delicious with butter

                        I’m delicious with butter

With a chance at being progressive and setting a new standard in American soccer, Sounders FC, usually infallible at this kind of thing, really underwhelmed today. The pressure is on us, the supporters, to create their real name. We need to see this team in action and bestow them with a true identity, not some soulless brand.

The Seattle Sounders And My Crisis of Faith

The Seattle Sounders lost a game they have no excuses losing. They were rested. They were at home. They had a fit roster and were playing a lesser opponent. Seattle had everything to play for, but came up short. Friday night’s loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps felt disgusting.

This Sounders team had so far exceeded all expectations. They were playing like a soccer fanboy’s wet dream. To start the season, Seattle looked pretty normal. Some funs wins, some stupid losses. The debacle at the death against Columbus at home, when we left Justin Meram unmarked for the winner was evidence the Sounders were mortal, or worse, mediocre. The very next week, down in Portland, the Sounders were just plain ugly. Then after falling behind 4-2 with over half an hour to play, something clicked. This team turned it up way past eleven and started killing Portland. Then they did it again and again and again. At Dallas and Salt Lake at D.C. and Dallas again. Sure there were hiccups (New England and New L.A.), but when it counted, they delivered. Throughout all those USOC games, all those Portland games, the Sounders persevered… until this past Friday. With precious few games left and the Cascadia Cup on the line, the Sounders failed. Absolutely and utterly, for the first time this season.

We had every reason to be pissed and disappointed in our team. Amongst the Sounders faithful, much wailing and gnashing of teeth followed Friday’s loss. But then come Sunday, L.A. lost at Dallas. Just like that, all is good in the Soundersphere. But it isn’t, nothing is all good. We just got super lucky that L.A. stumbled. That doesn’t change the fact that this team isn’t the team we thought they were. The Sounders have been off for some time now, but we waved it away with excuses of injuries, travel, fixture congestion. There are no more excuses.

L.A.’s loss at Dallas is no cause for concern for the Galaxy. Sure L.A. expects better of themselves but, playing away at a quality playoff contender, a loss was the mathematically expected outcome. Seattle’s loss, however, is a major red flag. The Sounders were at home playing a good-but-not-great team. We were expected, both in the hearts and calculators of MLS prognosticators, to win big.

I’ve said it before: a scheme exists to beat Seattle. If an opponent has talent they can execute it and this isn’t a secret anymore. Our opponents know it, and we know they know. But we still couldn’t break Vancouver down. We tried lots of crosses from the wings, ’cause width is the supposed antidote to Sounders-Repellant, but to no avail. Sigi better figure this out, and fast. The Sounders need to think differently or these last two games are going to be very, very painful.

I wanted this time to be an all-time great. That ship has sailed. We need to lower our expectations and hope, at least, for a true contender. I’m nervous. My faith is shaken, but I want to believe in this team.

Quick Shot: Vancouver Breaks Our Hearts

Just flew back from a wedding, the fifth and final of the summer/fall, and haven’t got a post up yet. Though when I do it will just be vomit about the disgusting job the Sounders did on Friday, at home, in front of 50,000+… still pissed. BUT Los Angeles pooped the bed in Frisco and we are still in the driver’s seat. Let’s push that peddle to the metal and take first place from that balding short timer.

For the Glory of Casacdia: Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders Gameday

Tonight the Seattle Sounders face their old Cascadian foe, the Vancouver Whitecaps. Seattle has been the class of Cascadia in MLS play and even Portland had their moment in the sun, briefly, last season. Only Vancouver has been the lone Northwest underachiever. The ‘Caps snuck into the playoffs in 2012 and were soundly thrashed by L.A., and that’s about the biggest accomplishment in their recent history. They did win the Cascadia Cup last year (while finishing 7th in the West with only 48 points), and looked to repeat this year.

Earlier in the season, Vancouver had the Cup seemingly sewn up. Back on August 24th, Seattle had 8 points in 5 games played, while the ‘Caps had 7 in 3. We owe the Portland Timbers and their recent thrashings of the ‘Caps for the chance to play for more silverware. Maybe we repay the stinky timbers by helping them a little in their playoff push? Strange bedfellows indeed.

You can say what you want about Vancouver not being too scary, but I’m worried about this game. Many things about Vancouver scare me. They’re hungry for points and are fighting to stay above the thin, red playoff line. Their recent form has been stellar, beating two quality western sides in RSL and Dallas by an aggregate of 4-1. Also Seattle does not match up with Vancouver well. Over their last six matches, going back to 2012, Seattle only has a 1-2-3 record against Vancouver.

Vancouver is a stellar counter-attacking team. They have speed in droves: Kekutah Manneh and Darren Mattocks are arguably the fastest players in MLS, and they’re not even starters. The ‘Caps employ a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Erik Hurtado ain’t the fastest, but he has quality and a nice touch. Lone talented strikers don’t affect Seattle too much, as Chad Marshall is a stud, but Vancouver’s attack starts in the midfield.

Coach Carl Robinson likes to clog the midfield with talented players with Russell Teibert, Matias Laba, Sebastian Fernandez, Pedro Morales and our old stalwart, Mauro Rosales. It is Morales who pulls the strings, as he has ten goals and ten assists on the year. Vancouver is a Seattle slayer: a counterattacking team that clogs the midfield. They excel at what MLS has figured out to be the perfect hydra repellent: boss the midfield, clog the top of the box and patiently wait to spring a deadly counter. Seattle will need to stay in shape and not force the game.

Bold Prediction: Both teams have a lot to play for. Vancouver is fighting for their playoff lives and Seattle for the glory and honor of Cascadia, a 20th win, and Supporters’ Shield. In a knock-down-drag-out Cascadia classic, both teams trade goals. We see brilliant play from Obafemi Martins and Mauro Rosales. Sounders win 3-2.

No DeAndre Yedlin, No Problem: Sounders D Should Stay at Home

Tomorrow your Seattle Sounders play for the glory of Cascadia, the history books and vindication. With a win, Seattle will reclaim what is rightfully theirs, the Cascadia Cup. With a win, Seattle will be the first post-shootout era team ever to reach 20 victories. With a win, Seattle will inch one step closer to being the team this city wants them desperately to be, champions. How do the Sounders win?

Vancouver is a pacey team. Kekutah Manneh and Darren Mattocks run faster than fat in a pan. Normally Seattle can deal with speedy attacks like-for-like with DeAndre Yedlin, but Yedlin’s been called up by USMNT Jurgen Klinsmann. However, I think the lack of Yedlin may help Seattle.

Seattle gets whupped by teams that wait for us to overextend in the attack before countering quickly and efficiently. When Seattle plays a tighter backline and doesn’t rely on the fullbacks for width, we don’t open gobs of space for a speedy counter. This weakness needs to be assessed before the playoffs. Tomorrow’s match against the ‘Caps may be the perfect time to experiment.

Seattle is so attack-oriented we don’t need our fullbacks foraying forward. My wife noticed during the recent Colorado win that our fullbacks seemed to be staying at home more. Which is odd because Yedlin’s unique strength is his ability to join the attack and Brad Evans is a midfielder first. I checked the heat maps from the matchup, and yep, the fullbacks stayed mostly behind the midfield stripe. You can see Yedlin (the top) pushed a bit farther upfield than Evans:

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 12.23.01 PMI compared this to our recent 3-2 victory over Real Salt Lake and, sure enough, Leo Gonzalez (you’d assume less offense-minded than Evans) and Yedlin were much more involved in the attack. In this win, the fullbacks repeatedly crossed midfield to push the pace of the game (notice I flipped the pic for easier comparison):

rsl flippedThis is a single comparison, and static clouds my thesis: the win against the Rapids was sewn up early, so the backline could settle in and just defend; against RSL, the Sounders were chasing the game more, having fallen behind and then not wanting to settle for a tie. All this could be true… or coach Sigi Schmid could have a renewed interest in keeping his backline back and not exposing tantalizing space for counterattacks. Let the front seven handle the attack, we have loads of talent up there.

The Sounders will be a more balanced team, staying goal dangerous but defending better, if they commit to keeping their fullbacks at home.

Sacramento Republic FC and Final Thoughts on Expansion

Maybe I am just distracting myself from the fact that two trophies will be decided in the next three weeks, but I can’t stop thinking of expansion.

That passion for professional soccer clearly exists in the West: Sacramento, Boise, Las Vegas. However, each of these cities has a potential problem. Boise, though able to mobilize many to sway an online vote, is a very small market. Las Vegas is a big enough city, but has complications both temperature-wise and Puritanical-anti-gambling-wise that will always hinder it. Sacramento may be the Goldilocks of the bunch. It has supported an NBA team for decades and may be just right.

Sacramento has a successful and vibrant lower-division team, and has pulled together investors hoping to make an MLS bid. Dale Kasler, in a recent article in the Sacramento Bee, discuss the city’s MLS ambitions:

It was largely out-of-town money, from Silicon Valley and beyond, that bought the Sacramento Kings last year and kept them from leaving town.

The quest for Major League Soccer, by comparison, is almost strictly a local affair.

Having an array of wealthy Sacramento investors also helps bolster the argument to MLS that the market is worthy of big-time professional soccer. “It’s important to have local ownership involved,” said Lisa Parker, head of an aircraft-parts manufacturer and a new minority investor in Republic FC. “There’s no question we have a strong enough group to be awarded the (MLS) franchise.”

The strength of the ownership group assembled by Nagle could be a tribute, in part, to the recovering economy. “Once you get a city on its feet … these are the natural things that happen,” said new Republic FC investor Scott Powell, president of Sacramento Jet Center, an aviation-operations company. “You naturally get things like the MLS.”

MLS and its footprint will evolve over over the next decade or so. There will be unbalanced growth and teams swapping back and forth between conferences. Towards that end, I propose a solution. I know it’s crazy, but I envision MLS splitting from two conferences to four divisions, each geographically dividing the nation (almost like the power conferences in college football). MLS could have the Pacific, Atlantic, South and Central divisions.

Screen Shot 2014-10-07 at 11.43.17 PM

I realize this is completely harebrained. This model kills traditional rivalries: DCU vs. NYRB, RSL vs. the other western powers. I was just spitballing a pure geographic realignment. This would limit travel and ensure a better playoff. The playoff proposed in this system would see each division sending its top two teams. The A teams would be seeded according to points, followed by the B teams. A1 plays B4, A4 plays B1, etc. Each season would end with a little knockout round-esque bracket. What do you think?

Devil's Club © 2015 Frontier Theme