Month – August 2015

Seattle Sounders Dress Eleven to Impress Against Orlando City

The Seattle Sounders face darling expansion Orlando City SC this Sunday in another nationally televised game.

For the sake of wooing indifferent domestic soccer fans, let’s hope Seattle gets out of its little lull (how’s that for euphemisms?). Last week’s showing against L.A. was embarrassing. Sure, we can contextualize the game, but Joe and Jane Soccer-Curious just saw these unique green jerseys get pooped on.

Arguably the two most popular MLS franchises in South America are L.A. Galaxy and Orlando City. LA. is, of course, L.A. Everyone has heard of the city and the big name stars who’ve plied their trade in blue and yellow. Orlando City is a fresh second-place. The team has wide exposure in Brazil, as the city capitalized on their large Brazilian community by signing the former Canarinho star, Kaka. If Seattle wants to increase their brand, they need to impress Sunday night’s TV audience.

Luckily, we’re getting the band back together. After playing multiple games down all three DPs, we should field 2 on Sunday. Both Deuce and Ozzie are still out, but Seattle’s freshest DP, Nelson Haedo Valdez, should start up top with Seattle’s Sounders number 9, Obafemi Martins. It will be great to see Oba back. His creativity and skill should be enough to open the floodgates of Seattle’s impotent offense. And we should expect quick chemistry between the 2 DP forwards.

Haedo Valdez and Martins were strike partners for Rubin Kazan in 2011 and 2012. They both played and tallied goals in 5 games together, in both Europa League and the Russian Premiere League play. In one match, a 4-1 smack down of Shamrock Rovers in Group Play of the 2011 Europa League, Valdez had a brace and Oba a goal. We shouldn’t expect a 100% matchfit Valdez, but we can hope for fireworks.

And Seattle’s defense, which in its defense has played defensibly well, even in the lull, will be even stronger with a good-to-go Roman Torres teaming up with Chad Marshall at centerback. This moving bolsters the backline and midfield as it allows Captain Brad to slot in for Ozzie as CDM. This should be the best Sounders team we’ve seen take the field in quite some time. Hopefully it doesn’t disappoint.

 

Seattle Sounders Signing Roman Torres is a CONCACAF Sea Change

The Seattle Sounders have officially acquired Panamanian captain and centerback, Roman Torres. With this signing, Seattle has added three new international-caliber players in a week. The Sounders like Kentucky, the Huskers and USC before them, don’t rebuild, they just reload.

There’s nothing better than getting a new fancy toy than taking it out for a spin. First off, I don’t really know what to expect from the new Sounders. I am solely an MLS man and have never played FIFA in my life (I guess I’ve been deprived?). I can’t really give you any extra insight into Nelson H. Valdez, Andreas Ivanschitz or Roman Torres. But I am excited. With Torres most of all.

Torres represents the best of the best in CONCACAF. MLS must sign these types of players to become a “league of destination.” If all the PR fluff out of the league office is to be realized one day, MLS has to be able to cherry-pick from its own backyard. This will allow MLS to become one of the premiere leagues in the Western Hemisphere.

Signing CONCACAF stars is a major first step. The league has always scouted for projects (Oneil Fisher and Mario Martinez come quickly to mind) in the Caribbean and Central America, and has even done well signing names like Gabriel Torres, Blas Perez, Alvaro Saborio and Giles Barnes. Most of these players were either young guns trying their hand in domestic leagues (Gabby Torres) or lower European clubs (Saborio and Barnes). Only Perez came over from a quality league, LigaMX, as a veteran. But the recent signings of Giovanni Dos Santos and Roman Torres really raises the stakes.

It is different scouting the hinterlands of the region versus just grabbing established stars. MLS needs to look harder at Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica. Excepting Mexico, these are the better teams in our region. Mexico, is the outlier. MLS can’t expect to poach any and every player from El Tri, and that’s why the Dos Santos signing is huge. The man has played for Barca and Tottenham, has been capped 90 times by Mexico and is only 26 (though he was a little desperate to sign with L.A.). But we should be able to entice any player, even the best, from the rest of the confederation. And that’s why Seattle’s getting Torres is equally huge.

Torres is the captain of a CONCACAF power. He is in his young prime (29) and was steadily climbing the world football ladder. Torres choosing Seattle is a power shift for MLS. It isn’t a “name” player sputtering in Europe settling for the States (*cough* Dos Santos *cough*), it is an ascending player choosing MLS as his career destination. Toress leaves a respectable CONMEBOL club, Colombia’s Millonarios (sound familiar?) to come to Seattle.

MLS needs to have these players: every captain of every CONCACAF power. MLS should be able to sign a Bryan Ruiz-type player. Ruiz is the attacking captain of the Costa Rican team. The Ticos rocked the 2014 World Cup and that helped Ruiz jump from Fulham to Sporting Portugal (say hi to Fredy for us), but left MLS in the dust.

Coincidentally, another dominant CONCACAF player is Honduras’s Noel Valladares. The keeper and captain is one of the most capped players in his country’s history. Sure. he’s 38 and not exactly an MLS target now, but he should’ve been playing his trade stateside for the last decade. And us Sounders fans will get to see him twice in the next 10 days when Seattle plays home-and-home with CD Olimpia. Hopefully Garth and Chris have their eyes peeled in identifying new CONCACAF talent.

 

Seattle Sounders Get Ready to Wreck the West

The Seattle Sounders only have ten games left to collect points and position themselves for silverware.

I apologize for my short posts lately. Things are a little hectic at Chez Raving Green. The wife and I (with a lot of help from our friends) are demolishing the basement. We lucked out and bought our house in the depths of the Seattle housing market, but it was a fixer-upper. What a fixer-upper.

The basement was “finished” by a previous homeowner we affectionately think of as “Crafty Grandpa.” With no vapor barriers, insulation, or waterproofing, the basement was a dank and musty mold hole. But the man was an artist with wood. It was his medium, to the exclusion of all else. But he only used wood he salvaged or got cheap, or so it seems. And he always used four jig-sawed pieces when one would do. Everything down there is a monkey-puzzle of shims and joints. And yet, lo and behold, mold between the walls, closets opening into terra firma and the “stations of the bathroom.” Let me explain: three closest cover the western wall of the basement. Closet number one is a dank little corner with a lone toilet; closet number two is a dank little shower stall, and closet number three has creepy fluorescent lights and the world’s wee-est vanity.

Hence the distraction from regularly posting, as we’ve been busy with sawzall and sledge hammer. But there is so much to discuss. Questions I am chewing on while I am ripping out drywall: what does Seattle’s ideal eleven look like after the three recent signings? Where does Evans play? Does Torres’s signing say more about the severity of Ozzie’s injury than anything, as it allows Evans back in the midfield (potentially as a CDM)? Will we ever see Pappa in Rave Green again? And most important, how good will it feel when we start whupping on teams again? I hope as good as it feels to brace your legs and swing a sledge hammer from the hips.

 

Seattle Sounders: That Wasn’t Too Bad, Right?

With another underwhelming lineup, the Seattle Sounders lost, again, to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

You know you’re acquainted with losing well when you can see the huge silver lining from yesterday’s 3-1 defeat. To wit: L.A. fielded 4 DPs to Seattle’s 0 and still looked pretty damn shaky.

I didn’t exactly see the game. I was out at the cabin in Belfair and had to bust out the ol’ wooden Westinghouse radio. So I didn’t see Gerrard in the midfield against the likes of Friberg or Rose. I didn’t see Dos Santos teasing Zach Scott either. But I do see the light at the end of Seattle’s tunnel and it has 4 DPs and abuses Ricketts in the Western Conference Finals.

 

Seattle Sounders at L.A. Galaxy Gameday

Today on national TV, the Seattle Sounders face the Los Angeles Galaxy. I don’t need to tell you this is THE premier matchup in MLS. I do need to tell you my bold prediction.

BOLD PREDICTION: Seattle is being run ragged with fixture congestion. L.A. is killing it at home. Seattle doesn’t have the band back together yet, L.A. keeps getting stronger. I want a result here, but expect a loss. L.A. wins 2-0.

BOLD PREDICTION #2: This is Seattle’s last loss of the regular season. Mark it.

BOLD PREDICTION #3: If, somehow, Seattle gets a result in L.A., I will credit it firmly to Pitch Black Magic. The last time we started a game wearing Pitch Black (didn’t finish) was the USOC debacle vs Portland. Then the terrible run began. We finally earned a result in another non-MLS game against a Canadian rival. Coincidentally in a game where we started and finished in our Pitch Black Kits. Hmmmmmm. I am hoping for some #PitchBlackMagic today in Carson.

Seattle Sounders Going Deep Part 2

The Seattle Sounders are now built to run away with the West. Bold words, I know, but New England lost 8 straight last season before representing the East in MLS Cup. Seattle can win now because they have talent and depth.

As I discussed yesterday, the signings of Ivanschitz and H. Valdez created depth from the top down. More numbers at the top of the roster means more numbers in the middle of the roster. Sure, signing a Dos Santos or Drogba would’ve been a sexy quick fix, but Seattle needed more. Literally.

Why are two A- players better than one A+? The answer is two-fold, 1) Seattle didn’t need one more all-world player to depend upon, and B) midseason transfers.

Seattle doesn’t need more all-world talent. When everyone is healthy, we’re serious contenders. What we needed was more talented guys. If Oba is injured, you have Clint, sure. But if both are out, you have… Barrett? Now we have Ivanschitz and H. Valdez and Oba and Clint. We can afford more injuries/suspensions from our attacking players without having to dip into the 18.

MLS midseason transfers are fraught. The trials and tribulations of these players are well documented (see Dempsey, Clint). When a club throws a lot of resources and hope into one guy and he struggles in a new country, league, team, it can slow a team’s steam. With Seattle’s recent signings, neither of these two players are expected to be the franchise. If they struggle, it won’t derail the (already derailed?) season.

However Ivanschitz and H. Valdez are only the two newest signings this year. Seattle has added 6 players since the season started: Craven, Fisher, Thomas, Friberg, and Ivanschitz and Valdez. Again, yesterday’s graphic of the Sounders roster broken into tiers. Take note of the new players (denoted with yellow) and where they fit.

yellow denotes a new player

yellow denotes a new player

These signings give Sigi more quality to choose from on game day. Both Ivanschitz and H. Valdez are borderline top tier. The argument exists that they could be MLS 11, but I nudged them down a click because we don’t know yet how they’ll translate to MLS. Both men are DP-types, and would’ve easily carried that tag in recent seasons (the evolution of the DP from Flacco to Tiffert to Oba to Clint is astounding). Erik Friberg is also a starter on most MLS clubs. Adding three players of this quality in a month gets a team deep fast.

Lastly, we added Thomas who is firmly in the 18 and should challenge for the 11. No one runs at a defense with the ball at his feet like him. But he needs to continue to adapt to MLS. Craven and Fisher round out the bottom of the 18. I don’t want to see them starting or getting quality minutes any time soon, but both showed they belong in the league.

The Sounders have injected talent players throughout the roster, but mostly at the top. Increasing their elite-type players puts them soundly in position to dominate the next 11 games and finish the season strong. The only other team that’s also gotten this good this fast is L.A. Galaxy. Looking forward to Sunday.

 

Seattle Sounders Going Deep: Part 1

The MLS transfer window closed yesterday and the Seattle Sounders got (or will soon get) their man. Or men. With the signings of Andreas Ivanschitz and Nelson Haedo Valdez, the Sounders opted to add quality and quantity.

The Sounders had a problem with their top-heavy roster. The Sounders had 6 MLS elite players: Dempsey, Martins, Marshall, Alonso, Mears and Evans. Seattle was running away with the league with everyone healthy and giving quality minutes (which should happen when over 50% of the starting 11 is top talent). And yet, the composition of the team was dependent on quality minutes from those players. There was little depth.

The Sounders were deep as a desert puddle, as one insightful tweetster noted.

Granted, no team is going to dominate, let alone perform, saddled with the injuries, suspensions and call-ups the Sounders faced. But Seattle plain stunk. We were cellar dwellers without our studs, as Sigi was forced to start guys who were firmly entrenched as merely 18ers. Even worse, we constantly started developmental guys as well (that Philly game, sheesh). When you are starting your “depth,” you aren’t very deep. Thus the wicked string of defeats.

Below is the Sounders roster broken into tiers.

yellow denotes a new player

yellow denotes a new player

The top tier is MLS 11 quality, next is MLS 18, then The 11, The 18, Late Minutes and Training Pitch. The top two tiers are fairly simple: these players deserve to be considered for MLS Best 11 and 18. The third tier, The 11, means these players deserve to be starters for most MLS clubs. Ditto for The 18. Late Minutes contains players who occasionally see the 18, as they have high ceilings and high floors. They deserve minutes in garbage time to taste first-team action and develop. Training Pitch is reserved for players you only want to see at Starfire.

As much as the last two months stunk, we’re lucky the front office identified this problem before November. Eschewing the temptation of a flashy name and quick fix, Lagerwey opted to build quality depth. Instead of breaking the bank on another singular talent, we brought in two A- players: Ivanschitz and H. Valdez. Neither man is merely a bench player, as “building depth” may suggest, but rather they allow players like Rose and Barrett and Roldan to remain merely in the 18 (where they currently belong). In the last 48 hours, Seattle has become a much, much deeper team then we were last year when we nearly won the Triple.

 

Seattle Sounders Score a Goal!!

The Seattle Sounders scored a goal!! Big news! The Sounders didn’t lose!

Last night at BC Place, a double rainbow sprouted from the head of a yeti in Brigadoon. Your Seattle Sounders scored a goal in CCL play against the Vancouver Whitecaps. It was Seattle’s first goal in over 400 minutes dating back 33 days, just their second goal since June 14th!, and it couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.

The Sounders, though dominating the ‘Caps for most of the game, found themselves behind with less than 20 minutes to play. Again. Vancouver had taken a 1-0 lead on their first shot on goal (another cheeky backheel from a CB). But the boys in famous green kept pressing and finally Neagle, on a re-started corner, knocked in a ball from Rose to equalize. A forward took a ball in a goal-dangerous position and converted. It was glorious. Then the defense held steady like it had for most of the terrible run, and the Sounders left the opponent’s pitch with a result.

And this goal really counts. If this had been an MLS game, a tie and a goal would’ve been swell. But this goal was especially sweet because this was the CONCACAF Champions League and every result matters. The Sounders only get 4 games to rack up points and punch their ticket to the knockout round. Seattle wants to win CCL and earning a point on the road is a great first step. If this club fancies themselves contenders for kings of CONCACAF, they need results like last night’s and sustained excellence in the CCL.

The Sounders played with grit and heart, but the game could’ve been prettier. Both teams fielded weaker lineups, and this may have benefited Seattle. Their JV has gotten lots of minutes together. Seattle trotted out only 3 members of their ideal eleven: Evans, Remick and Neagle (and who knows if all three are still regular starters given the team’s recent signings). Seattle even put little used Kovar and Fisher in the 11. Hell, even Andreas Correa was in the 18. Maybe, just maybe, there is a positive to take away form all the motely lineups over the last 2 months.

And maybe the curse is broken. This is silly, but I got to thinking: the last time Seattle started a game wearing their Pitch Black kits was the USOC debacle against Portland. Of course, they finished that game in a Frankenkit fashion catastrophe: gray practice tops and Rave Green shorts. In the second half, that game fell apart into a red-cardapalooza and the Oba injury. Maybe the Sounders just pissed off the sartorial soccer gods? I can only hope that starting and finishing a game in Pitch Black reversed the curse. I don’t want to push my luck, but a result in L.A. will make me a believer in some Pitch Black Magic.

 

Seattle Sounders Signings Put Sigi Schmid On the Hot Seat

Sigi Schmid is the face of the Seattle Sounders. Sure we just officially signed a legitimate baller (Ivanschitz) and probably will sign another (Haedo Valdez). The team’s website has Dempsey and Oba mean mugging, but the decorated head coach is still the brand.

Sigi was our first big signing. We stole him from Columbus, immediately announcing Seattle as a club that plays for keeps. The city was in love with Schmid until The Collapse of 2013. #Sigiout was trending and the coach’s relationship with the team was seriously in doubt. Sigi was desperate to turn things around, but he lost the locker room and started Shalrie Joseph at striker.

There is a weird relationship between a coach and his team. In the good times, it is a symbiotic relationship, the two feed off and help each other (Sigi’s long-term project of developing Brad Evans). In rougher times, the relationship gets parasitic and one usually destroys the other (re: Eddie Johnson). At the end of 2013, Sigi and the team had to reassess their relationship.

Story has it that after The Collapse, Sigi held a meeting with Evans, Deuce and Ozzie. They met in a hotel and talked about the future of the team, and in this meeting Sigi consolidated his control, showed a clear vision and eventually the team re-upped its faith in him. He said he’d win with the right team and last year’s success seemed to validate that faith.

The narrative for last year’s USOC and Shield Double was that Sigi finally got his guys. Schmid had wanted to reunite with Chad Marshall for a long time and Chad Barrett was another Sigi disciple. These were both guys he knew, guys he trusted. Sigi built his 2014 squad with trustworthy, team-oriented guys. And as owner Joe Roth put it, the team finally had “more plumbers, less dancers.” Or so the narrative goes.

However. That narrative conveniently forgets the contribution of out-of-nowhere trialist Gonzalo Pineda and the good fortune of getting Marco Pappa through Allocation. And, oh yeah, a year of Dempsey and Oba rested and working together. Now the plot twists. The team is struggling again and someone, either the team or the coach, is going to get got.

Sigi, a passionate man, is dying to bench people. His frustration has shown as he’s rotated the midfield like mad: Rose, Roldan, Pineda, Thomas, Friberg. But he’s been stuck with Neagle and Barrett at striker. For a hot minute it looked like Craven, before his untimely injury, would push for minutes. “Plumbers” are great, unless that’s all you got.

Only Sigi can write the narrative for 2015. It is going to take a heroic coaching effort to get this team out of its historic slump. It will be a herculean task to get this team from this moment, right now, to hoisting the MLS Cup. I believe in Sigi, but the pressure is on. Sigi must win.

The front office invested in the coach before. Adrian and co. turned the team over after 2013, and now they’re doing it again mid-2015. With these fresh-off-the-presses signings and the recent additions of Thomas and Friberg, the roster has significantly changed. This shows a lot of faith in Sigi. He’s got better players, or rather, we’ve added “dancers.” For Sigi’s sake, the Sounders better see better results.

 

Seattle Sounders Signings Soon!

I am interrupting my regularly scheduled post becasue big news is afoot!

The Sounders are expected to sign two new players, one from Europe and one from South America, according to Sounder at Heart.

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UPDATE:

The European player has been confirmed. Levante attacking midfielder Andreas Ivanschitz has signed with Seattle. The Austrian is in his prime, at 31, but is signing only a “discovery player” contract. So we have still have a DP slot left.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE:

Nelson Valdez, Paraguayan national teamer and Bundesliga veteran, is rumored to be the next Seattle signing. Valdez brings quality and a nose for goal to the midfield.

UPDATE:

I found a video of Ivanschitz’s presser when he signed with Levante 2 years ago. He says he can play multiple positions, CAM, F and LB. I know we are all excited for a CAM, but another Brad Evans is a great thing for a club playing across multiple compeittions. Hell, maybe we can call him the Austrian Army knife.

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