Month – June 2015

Seattle Sounders vs San Jose Earthquakes Re-crap

The Seattle Sounders and the San Jose Earthquakes played to a dismal and inevitable conclusion. The Sounders lost to San Jose. Again. The Sounders played a duct-tape and bailing wire lineup. Again.

Our record against San Jose is getting absurd. Our best eleven has trouble with the Quakes, and Saturday a very jumbled and tuckered Seattle side played the Quakes tough, even bossing at times. It wasn’t enough. San Jose was ceding possession for most of the game, just waiting for a chance to counter. It paid off for them. Nyassi’s goal against the run of play changed the game, and MPG’s finished it.

More than anything I felt the Sounders were gassed. In the second half we were just cooked, especially Neagle. Neagle played the full 90 against Dallas, 120 against Portland, and then another 90 against San Jose: 300+ minutes in 8 days. Sigi was clearly pushing Neagle. But isn’t this is why we have Barrett, to play the part of veteran striker when Oba or Clint are out? My only problem with Barrett’s role on the team has always been his age. I am starting to wear out this soapbox, but older players get injured (ask the 2003 Oakland Raiders). I’d prefer a Neagle clone, warts and all, to Barrett. Another younger striker you can lean on to eat minutes. The best ability is availability (as the old cliché goes).

It sucks looking at the standings and seeing Portland in third and us treading water. It feels like late 2013, when the wheels were coming off the Rave Green bus. But everything is cool, man. Bill Walsh used to say something about putting wins in the bank. In the NFL, 10 wins normally punches a team’s ticket to the playoffs. During the regular season, that’s about all you can control– a playoff berth. In MLS, you want at least 50 points (1.5 pts per game) to sneak into the playoffs (which should be even easier this season with the 6th seed added to the postseason). Granted, we’re #hellagreedy and would love to double-dip the Shield, but all we really want is MLS Cup. That is still very attainable. So far this season, Seattle has been outstripping the field. We have 29 points halfway through the season; we are only 20 points from the playoffs. We can afford the hiccups that will inevitably come with our continued roster congestion and injury situation.

Granted we don’t want to be scrambling for the postseason like in 2013, but we know we are a solid team. We will have Clint again. Oba will heal. This week, however, may be rough.

 

San Jose Earthquakes at Seattle Sounders: Attrition

The Seattle Sounders play the San Jose Earthquakes today in a match that I plum forgot about. With the World Cup and the… bizarre? Open Cup loss to the Timbers, this weekend’s game snuck up on me.

The repercussions of Tuesday’s game will be felt today as Obafemi Martins is out 6-8 weeks with a groin injury and Dempsey received a 3-game suspension from MLS for being an American badass (and such a bad role model for children!). Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle, Andy Rose and Michael Azira all played significant minutes in both last Saturday’s and Tuesday’s games. Of those players, the older ones–Mears, Evans, Marshall–should have limited availability, as we don’t need more injuries mounting.

Remember all that talk of age and injuries? We’re seeing our worst fears realized. Last year was a historic success for the Sounders, in part, because none of our 30ish players were significantly injured. This year’s holdsteady roster will suffer if we can elude the injury bug. Now Oba‘s sidelined 6-8 weeks and Ozzie’s been in and out of the lineup with knocks. Chad Barrett is still injured and Pineda is, once again, questionable. We don’t need to add Mears, Evans or Marshall to that list.

And our opponent, San Jose? The oh-so-hateable Quakes come to Sodo to pick on a wounded animal. San Jose is fit as fiddles. The Quakes have played two games since May 30th, and one was an Open Cup match which saw only two starters play. The last time San Jose’s starting eleven took the pitch was way back on June 7th in a 0-0 loss to FC Dallas. It’s not like we have enough trouble against San Jose.

Bold Prediction: I was all pessimistic the last time the Sounders played this shorthanded. But the team played a helluva shift in KC and, if not for two obviously wrong calls, would have left with a result. Without two premier strikers up top, Sigi went to the 4-2-3-1 against SKC. He does the same today. I have been excited to see more minutes for the baby Sounders and now is a perfect time.

I haven’t played Guess the Eleven all season and I’ll take a crack today:

Frei, Remick, Scott, Evans, Mears, Azira, Rose, Pappa, Roldan, Thomas, Neagle

It may be all for naught: San Jose is fresh and has our number. I am just hoping the team can leverage the emotion and disrespected grit from earlier in the week and surprise the fresher squad: 2-2 draw.

 

Live from Vancouver: USWNT at the World Cup

old glory out in force. no i am not calling Wambach old ;)

old glory out in force. no i am not calling Wambach old ;)

The USA beat Nigeria Tuesday at BC Place to clinch a spot in the knockout round of the 2015 FIFA World Cup, and your humble blogger was there.

Walking down Robson amid the throngs of red, white and blue was an experience. Mrs. Ravinggreen had hit the party store on Roosevelt earlier and took advantage of pre-July 4th swag, so the lot of us were decked out in jingoistic finery. Earlier in the stroll, still far from the stadium, we received odd glances from the Canadian passersby. As we got closer to the stadium we blended in. The Americans were out in droves. It was a Tuesday. We were from different cities, different states, but we’d skipped work or school or whatever to come together and support our team. The random Vancouverite strolling to the bus after work must’ve thought the invasion had started in earnest.

The atmosphere of the game was… okay. It was no Sounders game. BC Place was a beautiful stadium, easily accessed and understood. But boy was it quiet. I have no idea if the calmness came from tension over the game, or the lack of supporter culture amongst the traveling fans–judging from the license plates all over town the majority of whom were from Washington and Oregon­, so you’d assume they’d bring some raucous energy. There were also many Californians, and families with young kids.

My party was surrounded by kids. They were cute in their Wambach and Morgan jerseys, painted faces and patriotic pig-tails. But I like to get rowdy at games. In the stadium, you set aside your ego for an afternoon and merely become one of many. You channel that visceral monkeybrain to yell at refs or dives or for your team. But this is difficult without the implicit support of your stadium neighbors, and especially with kids around. There was no community at the game. Unlike at Sounders games, I rarely chatted with the stranger next to me. Like in a city, I was self conscious of my place as one among many. I couldn’t dissolve into the game. I had to keep my civilized filter firmly in place.

Maybe this was the atmosphere MLS always intended before Cascadia: Soccer moms and little ones fidgeting in their seats while that after-school, suburban sport was politely taken in. Soccer games in the States are now known for their crazy energy, even the casual sports fan knows us soccer nuts get crazy. But without the feedback of a throng of unfiltered roaring supporters, the energy was dulled. I was at CenturyLink for the WCQ match against Panama and that was one helluva wild stadium (thank you AO Seattle!). At that game, the energy was just as good as the most intense Sounders game and the patriotic fervor definitely took it up a notch. This game… sure it was on a neutral field, but the stadium was 80% star-spangled. You could see the Americans, you just couldn’t hear them.

The crowd lacked energy and the AO didn’t exactly exhort any. Not to be a hater, but the AO representing the heart of American support was the San Diego chapter. They didn’t quite cut it. There were long stretches of quiet at the game, long stretches without a song. In fact, the only song I heard was an early, “We will follow you.” Some of the only chants heard was the old saw “U-S-A” and “I Believe” (the “I Believe” chant really rankled. I am working on a separate post about that).

The game itself played out to a solid, if lackluster, 1-0 conclusion. I’ll write more actual game analysis later. Leaving the stadium was almost more entertaining than the game. Once again, we were in a red, white and blue sea. We strolled through YaleTown to Indian Bistro, meh, then back to the car. The car with the dead battery. We were stranded in our costumes in a chain-linked lot off Davie. Thankfully another group of Americans (a hearty shout out to Margo and Clay) strolled into the lot and gave us a jump. Clamping the cables onto the dead battery, I channeled the most energy felt that afternoon. Strangers were chatting and working together because of a game.

 

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Detox

Another pivotal chapter was written in the Cascadian Book of Hate after a 3-1 extra time victory by the Portland Timbers over your Seattle Sounders. I decided to hold off on my live USWNT recap due to the wild crazy events that took place Tuesday night at Starfire.

Every Sounders-Timbers match is potentially the stuff of legend. This last one sure didn’t disappoint. That is unless, you are a Sounders fan. Losing to the Timbers sucks. Hard. I hate them, and we sure didn’t need another reason to pile on the hate. However.

It was only the Open Cup. Being knocked out early sinks, but it could be a blessing. The Sounders are no longer dependent on the Open Cup as the opportunity to find quality minutes for the young guns. Not with S2 fully operational. So losing only really keeps us from… winning another Open Cup?

I don’t want to treat “our” trophy lightly, but we’ve won that silverware so many times. I’m still #hellagreedy, it’s just the Sounders have other goals this season. With CCL and the dog days of the MLS season approaching, missing the USOC eases fixture congestion. If losing to the Timbers helps us stay sharp and keep our focus on winning two previously unsummited tournaments, the MLS Cup Playoffs and CCL, then I’ll gladly suffer the loss. But then again we said something similar to this back in 2013 after the Tampa Bar Rowdies roughed us up, and that season fell apart. At least we can point to the boondoggle that was two MLS clubs facing off so early and take solace in not getting shellacked by a JV team.

Speaking of the JV, Sigi started quite the mixed lineup on Tuesday. Perkins, Kovar and Fisher in the back five; Azira, Rose, Roldan AND Leo in the midfield? It doesn’t hurt too bad to lose when you know started a B- lineup. Especially because Seattle’s motley crew lost to a full strength Timbers squad. And Portland needed a 4-man advantage to ice it. C’est la vie. Clearly Sigi wasn’t all out like Caleb Porter. I’m sure those in Stumptown are feeling warm and fuzzy inside but, c’mon guys, you barely beat S1.5. As Sigi said, our boys “fought like lions.”

The only downside to their grit was the amount of minutes logged. Sigi was clearly looking at rationing minutes and keeping guys fresh for the upcoming stretch of key league games. But with the madness of the game, key players like Dempsey, Marshall, and Neagle all clocked serious minutes. And then Oba. Oh lord, Oba. Martins was stretchered off the field after untimely collision with the overrated Darlington Nagbe. Oba underwent an MRI yesterday and the results should be revealed sometime today. Prognosticators predict a bad result (sports hernia, broken rib?). Starting a weak team to save the big boys only works if you don’t end up throwing said big boys into a meat grinder.

And then there is the curious case of Clint Dempsey. Dempsey gets heated. In a game like Tuesday’s, Dempsey got heated. Then he… ripped the logbook from the ref’s pocket and proceeded to shred it. That got him a straight red and possibly a huge suspension. MLS and USSF will need to decide how to discipline his actions, but it could be pretty darn serious.

That said, I’m glad Deuce stood up for Azira. These two Sounders come from a very different pedigree. Azira has played in the USL and Deuce the World Cup. The Sounders all share a tight bond. Upon Azira’s bogus red card, Deuce got heated. He got mad for Azira, mad for Seattle. Dempsey was standing up for Seattle. That was great to see. Not only does it highlight a real esprit de corps within the Rave Green, but also that Dempsey takes being a Sounder very, very seriously. Sure, some people will write it off as Deuce being a punk, but I loved it.

 

USWNT &Seattle Sounders: Rapid Reaction

Tuesday was quite a day for both the USWNT and your Seattle Sounders.

The USWNT won an uninspiring 1-nil match with Nigeria to claim the crown in the World Cup’s Group of Death. They can now rest, regen and rekindle their attack before the next opponent.

The Sounders played a wild and wacky one down in Tukwila losing, with only 7 men on the pitch, to the Portland Timbers 3-1. Battered and bruised at the beginning of a orgh stretch of congestion, we can only hope Oba’s injury was more dramatic than it appeared.

Quick post for now, but I’ll have much more later in the day.

USWNT vs Nigeria Gameday and Bold Prediction

Woke up in beautiful British Columbia this morning for the USWNT vs Nigeria World Cup match. We’re crashing in a basement apartment in Dunbar rented by my sister- and brother-in-law. Katy is going to gradate school in Vancouver and Matt is a helluva blogger himself.

Fun Travel Aside: India Bistro serves some of the very best Indian Food on the West Coast. When I first moved to Seattle from California, my then-girlfriend took me to the restaurant, Ballard location, under quite a cloud of hype. I was skeptical having just left the cradle of some superlative subcontinental fare. Let me just say that I shut my mouth wide open. They eventually catered the food at our wedding, which was a smash exotic hit to some of my uncles from Philadelphia who were shocked, SHOCKED, to discover weddings where menus dominated by filet mignon and pasta weren’t strictly enforced.

My wife and I moved over to Maple Leaf two years ago. Now we regularly visit the India Bistro in Roosevelt, which is also superlative. There is one more India Bistro, and it is in Vancouver, BC. Having already covered the small chain both west and east of Aurora, we have big plans. Today after the game, we’re gonna hit for the India Bistro cycle! Pakora, pakora, pakora.

Go to Indian Bistro in Ballard and treat yourself. Get some pakora and saag paneer and eggplant bharta and malai kofta say hi to the owner, Mike, he’s a helluva guy.

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Back to soccer: today’s game is the US’s finale in Group D and it should be a doozy.

Bold Prediction: It goes without saying, but both teams have much to play for. Nigeria has always performed well at the Women’s World Cup, but has little success to show for it. They still have a very real chance of advancing to the knockout round with a favorable result today. Nigeria also can play loose, as they really have nothing to lose. All the pressure will be on the USA.

The USWNT is on a mission to win that elusive World Cup. With all the Olympic success, it is hard to believe that we haven’t won the Cup in 16 years. All US supporters are still waiting for the “no worries” performance of this Cup, the one where the team reminds us how great they are. Through two games, all we have are questions and doubts. I don’t see that changing today.

We look shaky and Nigeria capitalizes through the quicksilver, technical attack. But the African champions just aren’t good enough defensively, especially on set pieces, to slow down Rapinoe and Morgan (who plays significant minutes): 3-2 USA.

USWNT vs Nigeria Preview

Happy Monday Raving Readers! Sorry for the tardy post and being incommunicado lately. I’ve been doing more travelling than usual and, with the quarter coming to an end, grading papers. The important travel takes place tonight however, as Mrs. Ravinggreen and I hit the road for Vancouver to watch the USWNT.

Tomorrow at BC Place, the US and Nigeria face off to settle the seeding in Group D. The US can, and should, win Group D with a win. It’s a long shot, but even Nigeria can escape the group if they get a very favorable result against us and between Sweden-Australia.

Tomorrow, the US’s last game in the Group Stage will be pivotal. Aside from the huge contextual reasons for this game’s significance, it will also be my first World Cup game. I am understandably stoked. I attended the WCQ qualifier between the USMNT and Panama at CenturyLink Field back in 2013. That was fabulous: the pageantry, the energy, the result. But this is an actual World Cup game whose result will directly determine seeding for the knockout round.

Being in the stadium to watch athletes of this caliber, in games of such significance is always intense. The heartbreak of the 2012 Western Conference Finals still haunts me. Keane! That handball?! I couldn’t be there last year and so our loss/win to L.A. hasn’t indelibly stained my subconscious.

Long story short: I really wanted us to beat Sweden last week. I wanted the peace of mind knowing our advancement was pretty much a gimmie. But I’ll be honest. When the game was still a draw in the 75th minute, I got hopeful it’d end in a tie. Then we finally started looking dangerous and I found myself surprisingly anxious. I realized I wanted the Nigeria game to be epic, and that if we drew Sweden, it would be. Now we’re all in for this game.

Maybe I shouldn’t push my luck. This World Cup has been topsy-turvy: Teams like Costa Rica and Colombia are looking strong while we’ve looked shaky, Canada’s been bad, France was embarrassed and even the Germans  hiccupped. We should beat Nigeria, and yet we could very much be on the other end of some extremely unlucky history. Here’s hoping we can cheer loud enough to urge the Stars and Stripes on through the perilous fight.

 

Seattle Sounders Check-in

The Seattle Sounders came back in the second half to down FC Dallas Saturday night 3-0.

I’m swamped this weekend and not 100% plugged in. But I am excited to head north for the USA-Nigeria game in Vancouver. I also look forward to catching up with Sounders news. Evans at CAM anyone?

USWNT vs Sweden: Bold Prediction

The United States Women’s National Team plays Sweden today in a key Group D matchup today in Winnipeg.

After one round of games the US leads the group with 3 points and a +2 goal differential. Things have started strong for the USWNT. Despite a mediocre showing against Australia, we still won in a commanding fashion. Another win today would all but clinch advancement to the knockout round. But don’t forget this is the “Group of Death” for a reason.

Sweden is ranked 5th in the world and coach by our old friend, and former coach, Pia Sundhage. Sweden led Nigeria 2-nil at the half before hemorrhaging three goals and settling for a draw. This proud team will want a better showing. And Sundahge just may be the person to exploit the US’s weaknesses.

A sloppy backline, a disconnect between forwards Leroux and Wambach, and the disharmonious midfield of Rapinoe, Holliday, Lloyd and Press is on tape for Pia to pick apart. Plus the US was saddled with two yellows by an exceptional vocal ref on Monday. Though the US only had 4 more fouls than a fairly physical Australian side, the Matildas didn’t receive a single booking. In this tournament, two yellows gets you suspended for a game, and infractions aren’t cleared until the semis. That means one more card for either Holliday or Rapinoe and we’ve lost a star for a match.

Star power is what wins the US games. The individual brilliance of Rapinoe and Hope Solo were the difference against Australia. But we’ll have to be a much better team to punch our ticket to the next round.

Bold Prediction: Jill Ellis will be outcoached by Sundhage and the Stars and Stripes play shaky again as they learn to play together as a team. Neither squad gets what they want: 2-2.

 

Raving Green in Red, White and Blue

Meanwhile… in Seattle.

This is a Seattle Sounders blog, but I’ve been remiss about commenting on the Rave Green, as I’ve gone all Red, White and Blue. But even the Sounders have caught the international bug lately.

As you know Brad Evans was key last night in setting up Bobby Wood’s game-winning goal against Germany. Former Sounder DeAndre Yedlin also acquitted himself well in Cologne and (maybe?) future Sounder Jordan Morris saw significant minutes as well.

The Rave Green in Stars and Stripes will continue as Captain Brad and Clint Dempsey were named to the preliminary Gold Cup roster, along with the aforementioned Yedlin and Morris (Marco Pappa was also named to the Guatemalan team).

It seems Seattle has proven itself to be quite the pipeline to the national team, whether you are a veteran like Evans or a prospect like Morris. The academy, the coaching, the culture of the Seattle Sounders is key. And yet where is Seattle’s representation at the U-23 and U-20 level? Both teams recently recorded exciting wins (U-23 2-1 on penalties over England and U-20 1-0 over Colombia in the World Cup). I’d love to see Kovar, Mansaray and Jones get regular minutes in such high stakes games.

Of the three, only the youngest, Mansaray, has gotten capped on a US team. He has made 6 appearances with the USMNT U-18s, most significantly in their 1-0 win over Ukraine last August. This experience is key to his confidence and exposure to world-class talent. Young players need quality minutes. They need pressure. Yedlin would be just as obscure as Kovar if not for Adam Johansson’s untimely preseason injury back in 2013. But the opportunity arose and he seized it. Sure there were growing pains, but he hustled and made his name and now plays in England.

Kovar needs that opportunity. I worry less about Jones, as he played three seasons of collegiate soccer, two at the D-1 level. But Kovar dropped out of college and the only competition he has known is in the academy and S2. I am not saying (or hoping for an injury) to start him on the first team right now, but a spot on the U-23s sure wouldn’t hurt. Come on Sigi, bend your boy Jurgen’s ear a little harder.

 

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