Month – April 2015

The Wrong Color Green Episode 2: Dissecting An Ugly Game

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers may have played and ugly game Sunday night, but everything is beautiful in our second podcast! We got a little carried away this week as Bob and I dissect the game, talk Cascadia, bicker a little and preview each clubs next opponent. So kick back in your Subaru, grab a geoduck and a nanobrew and take a listen.

 Enjoy!

The Yin and Yang of Stefan Frei

The Seattle Sounders have always been spoiled at keeper: Burpo, Hahnemann, Keller. Current goalie Stefan Frei had some key saves Sunday night and kept his fourth clean sheet, but he is not yet a complete keeper. And may never be. Frei has a real Yin and Yang to his game.

A keeper’s first responsibility is to his goal, and at this Frei excels. He is a helluva shot stopper. He can get big and snap a quick-reflex save with the best of them. He usually has solid positioning and knows when to leave his line. But a goalie is often starting a team’s attack, whether off a goal kick or taking a backpass to recycle the possession. Solid distribution is a key part of the position.

Think of Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando. He sees the field well and acts decisively to get the ball at the feet of Javier Morales or whomever. Whether he is booting it or not, Rimando usually makes the right decision and executes it. Frei… not so much.

Against Portland, you never knew where the ball was going to end up when Frei kicked it. He booted it straight out of bounds on more than a few occasions. One of the oddest sights from the game was in the dying moments when Seattle had a goal kick. Frei had just sent one straight into the bleachers and as he was getting ready to kick again, all 20 field players congregated tightly around the center circle. It looked like a schoolyard game of 500. Luckily the ball drifted right and ended up with Andy Rose. Again, luckily. It’s pretty bad when you can only hope your keeper will get the ball to someone wearing Rave Green.

Normally MLS Defender-of-the-Year Chad Marshall takes a short pass from Frei and kick starts possession. That’s because Marshall is one of the very best at his position, he does absolutely everything that’s required of him well. His absence Sunday put Frei’s weakness in sharp relief. That said, Stefan Frei has come a very long way since last season, even Sigi pointed this out postgame. Despite the wild kick here and there, Frei is confident and protecting his goal.

 

Sounders vs. Timbers: Not All Chances Are Created Equal

Despite recent reputations, neither the Seattle Sounders nor the Portland Timbers played the “beautiful game” Sunday night.

Fans of both teams have come to expect attacking soccer from the two Cascadian sides. Last season Seattle was second in goals scored with 65 (1.91 per game) and Portland was right behind at third with 61 (1.79 pg). This season the Sounders are lagging a little, but still in second with 10 goals scored in 7 games (1.42 pg). Whereas Portland is sputtering, scoring only .875 pg with 7 in 8. So where was the offensive last night?

Either team could make the argument that they attacked enough to win. 90+ minutes of 22 men making a plethora of decisions every moment regarding a single ball yields a data-rich environment. Anyone wearing Rave Green can find the data points necessary to make their arguments, as can someone in (I don’t really know what they call it) Timber? green.

The overwhelming narrative from the Seattle camp is that the Sounders earned a gritty win by not falling into Portland’s “sit back and counter” trap. We feel we controlled the game and put in enough quality chances to get the win. South of the border, the narrative is (as always) “we deserved better.” The Timbers feel they shut down our vaunted attack and looked dangerous enough to come away with a draw and, honestly, a win would’ve been a fair result as well.

It is difficult for anyone too close to the event horizon of rivalry to be objective here. But us bloggers get paid the big bucks to try, so let’s look at the chances.

Portland had three quality scoring chances and two shots on target. Both Urruti and Chara took ambitious shots from outside the box that forced Frei to make a save. Adi, in the 81st minute, banged a dangerous header off the woodwork. Any of those shots could’ve easily gone in and changed the game. Portland took 8 other shots (some were even from within the 18 yard box) but every single one of them was either competently blocked or sailed well wide of goal. I am not counting Urruti’s offside as a chance, as it was only a “chance” because he was a mile offside.

So many. So wide.

So many. So wide.

Seattle had four quality chances and 3 shots on target. Other than the Rose shot that eventually spilled to Dempsey and decided the game, Neagle took a mean strike right at the end of the first half that forced a save, and Pappa took a shot that sailed justover the crossbar. Very early in the night, Oba found himself with the ball at his feet a mere yard from goalmouth. He danced with the ball, for what seemed like forever, looking for a chance before sending the ball harmlessly aside. Anytime Oba is in your six-yard box with the ball at his feet, you are lucky if he doesn’t score.

The man has a nose for goal.

The man has a nose for goal.

Of course chances don’t equal shots and shots don’t equal goals. But if you create enough good shots, eventually the ball goes in. This doesn’t always balance out over the course of 90 minutes, sometimes it take games. Last week against NYCFC, Portland only put three balls on target but got the goal. Going one-for-three is a stellar percentage, but coupled with this week, Portland only has that one in six SOG. That is definitely trending towards fair. And not too long ago Seattle was skunked in L.A. despite taking 14 shots with 10 on frame. Those two games have Seattle at one in thirteen SOG. The numbers will always regress to the mean; which is a fancy way of saying, the Sounders are still owed a couple.

 

Seattle Beats Portland. Again!

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers played gritty in Sodo Sunday night. Renewing their rivalry for the 2015 season, the two teams played a match that was the polar opposite of last season’s barn-burning spectacles. Dempsey’s tap in off a sloppy cover from the Portland keeper totaled the scoring in a 1-nil Seattle win.

It was not pretty soccer. When your opponent is perfecting the art of the square pass while trying his damndest to get a nil-nil draw, it’s tough to hail hydra. Consider: in the 62nd minute Timbers midfielder Dairon Asprilla gave way to Gaston Fernandez for Portland’s first sub of the night. Asprilla (and I need to consult my thesaurus here) trickled off the field. The pace at which Asprilla left is typically suited for a team protecting a lead in the 88th minute, not nursing a draw in the 62nd MINUTE!

Lots of narratives to take away from this game (the steady progress of Captain Brad Evans at centerback; the Yin and Yang of Stefan Frei, great shot stopper, horrible distributor), but the biggest was the apotheosis of Caleb Porter’s cynicism.

What ever happened to playing the right way Porter? Whatever happened to the beautiful game and yadda, yadda, yadda? Caleb Porter used to sneer at long throw-ins, parking the bus, and the 4-4-2. That is all gone, as Porter will do anything for a result these days. Not that there is anything wrong that, professional sports is a results-based business. It just tickles me pink to see him sell-out. Especially when he still loses. Especially when he loses to us.

We are Seattle. We beat Portland.

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Hate leads to Victory

The Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers meet today in Sodo to renew their rivalry. It’s not just a soccer game, it’s not just a marketing spectacle for the league, it’s an atavistic need to conquer your neighbor. What inspired Genghis Khan, William the Conqueror and Tywin Lannister inspires Sounders-Timbers: crush your enemy before they crush you.

Sorry Yoda, but I gotta disagree.

Bold Prediction: As I said in the podcast, today’s game will be key. Since Porter came to Stumptown and made the Timbers relevant, the series has been on a seesaw. 2013 was all Timbers, 2014 all Sounders. Tonight sets the tenor for the early days of the Porter chapter of the rivalry. The pressure is really on him to beat Seattle and prove 2013 wasn’t a fluke. For Seattle, 2013 was one hiccup in a long and successful campaign of embarrassing Portland. The Sounders just want to keep Portland in their cute but irrelevant corner of the American soccer consciousness.

Tonight is a chance for both teams to significantly shape the narrative. The Sounders win and they’ve ahead a serious distance from Portland (13 pts in 7 GP vs 9 in 8 for PDX). However if the Timbers somehow bumbleclutz their way to a rare W, they’yy be a nose ahead of Seattle (12 in 8 for PDX vs. 10 in 7 for SEA). A draw, Porter’s preferred result, would leave the teams quite close.

As to the actual game? Chad Marshall is a big loss. But Evans and Scott kept a clean sheet against Dallas, and I could see that again tonight. Though the Sounders play tight, someone makes an error. I don’t see Portland shutting down the Deuce and Oba show, as we scored 10 goals against them last season (8 in Portscum!) I said it on the podcast, Seattle wins 2-1. Now I am beginning to think I was being a bit too conservative. As Zach Scott said, “We beat Portland.”

 

 

The Wrong Color Green Podcast is Here!

The inaugural episode of the Ravinggreen podcast, The Wrong Color Green, has arrived. This podcast is by Cascadians, and for Cascadians, as it explores the rivalry between the Seattle Sounders and the Portland Timbers. Yours truly represents the right color green and my best friend Bob the wrong color green just in time for the two teams’ first cash of the season.

Check it out!

The Wrong Color Green Podcast Is Coming

Sorry for the delay in posting. I I am working on cutting and publishing the inaugural episode of the “Wrong Color Green” podcast, a show by Cascadia fans, for Cascadia fans. I’ll let you know soon as it’s up!

Lamar Neagle: Hustle and Goal

I am still in awe of the play of Lamar Neagle from last week. In that one game Neagle should both of his best qualities: pure talent and hustle.

His first goal was a thing of beauty. He had the space and he hammered home a loping shot that hit nothing but net.

Neagle’s second goal was all about work rate and hustle. He crashed the box and was stuffed by Rapids keeper Clint Irwin, but stayed with the play and luckily pounded home the deflection for his second goal on the night.

It’s hard to not like Lamar Neagle: local kid makes good. His story is so refreshing because it isn’t the easily marketable rags-to-riches trope we love so much in American sports. He was a local kid who worked hard and is now a starter on the home team. But he doesn’t have it made. He still has to hustle, and struggle to earn respect. He punches the clock and works hard just like the rest of us. How can you not love him?

Thing is, Lamar Neagle gets a lot of grief from a certain segment of Sounders fans. I know. Sometimes I am one of them. Just the other day I was wishing Neagle was more a third striker than everyday starting midfielder. Every time I convince myself that Neagle definitely hasn’t earned a permanent spot in the starting 11, he goes and has a wonderful game like Saturday’s. He had a solid game last week as well, but that start was more problematic, as he played striker against L.A.

We’ll probably keep questioning Neagle’s efficacy as a striker versus a mid. Sigi knows this opinion exists. In an attempt to dispel the narrative that Neagle only plays well as a striker, Sigi mentioned postgame that Neagle scored his brace against Colorado from his wide mid role.

Maybe we have been too quick to judge, as Neagle only regularly started playing in the midfield last season. It would be great if he was just now mastering the minutiae of the position and is set to break out.

 

Seattle Sounders Party Like It’s 2013

The Seattle Sounders almost fell into bad habits Saturday night against the Colorado Rapids. Some timely first half goals by Lamar Neagle, and an organized second half defense earned Seattle their first three points on the road of the season.

The Seattle defense looked like the Keystone Cops for the first 45, as opposed to the defense that only allowed 4 goals in the previous 5 games. Against San Jose, when we allowed 3, most of the blame was put on the growing pains of Brad Evans at centerback. Last night the Sounders partied like it was 2013. Defenders were lackadaisical. The backline was pushed to the top of the box and attackers were allowed time and space to pick their shots. The Sounders were lucky to be playing Colorado, a better shooting team would’ve scored more than one goal.

The team that fields Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Marco Pappa and Lamar Neagle should never have to worry about offense. But the Sounders went into last night’s game having scored only 3 in their last four games, getting shutout twice. Colorado was a surprising panacea for Seattle’s drought. The Rapids had only allowed two goals in their first five games, so it was nice to see our boys find their shooting boots.

Lamar Neagle tickled the back of the net for the first time all season, scoring a brace. I was glad he got redemption for his oh-fer against L.A. And Obafemi Martins. Obafemi Martins. Obafemi. Martins. I have a buddy who fancies himself a soccer fan. He doesn’t follow MLS because he doesn’t think the teams are capable of the beautiful game. My wife and I have been trying to sell him on the pure poetry that is Seattle’s attack. Last night provided incontrovertible evidence: that pass from Rose, that touch from Oba and the finish. dayum. Dayum. DAYUM!

And of course Deuce was back in Rave Green, seemingly recovered from his USMNT-mandated tweaked hammy. He put in a solid shift, created lots of havoc in the attack, and what did he get for his troubles? His junk stomped on. Marcelo Sarvas has gut punched us Sounders fans before, but this was too much. Frankly though, I am glad we’ll have a pissed off Deuce. It’s Portland week.

 

Seattle Sounders at Colorado Rapids Matchday

The Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids are taking different views of history. Seattle’s sixth game usually triggers a stout run of form, while Colorado has been anything but stout lately against Seattle. Will tradition hold for the Sounders or can the Rapids shatter the status quo? Barring a nil-nil draw, something’s gotta give.

Both teams should both be pretty healthy. Burch and Cronin should be out for Colorado, and Dempsey, though he traveled, still has Klinnsmannitis, a hammy wounded in service to his country. Seattle finally has all options at midfield: Ozzie is back, Pappa isn’t representing Guatemala, and Pineda is back from suspension. Last week’s bridesmaid, Lamar Neagle, may be out of the midfield only because he starts up top with Oba.

Bold Prediction: I am sitting a little higher on the horse (okay actually at my desk (but sometimes I wish it was a horse!)), after acing my dos a cero prediction from Wednesday. Let’s see if the clairvoyance holds: Sounders 2-0. The Rapids outburst was a fluke and Seattle could’ve had 4 last week.

 

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