Month – September 2015

Seattle Sounders Stuck in the Blob

The Seattle Sounders dropped points on Sunday at SKC. With an opportunity to separate from the blob of contenders and ascend to their rightful place atop the West’s pantheon.

Seattle rolled out the thunder in the Cauldron. Sigi started Ivanschitz in an attacking four with the three DPs. It wasn’t enough. Deuce, whose always been a streaky scorer, couldn’t finish. His two open looks were frustratingly close, especially considering L.A. and Portland both won.

I was really hoping Seattle could move up to the #2 spot and earn a bye in the playoffs. That is still a possibility, but time is running out.

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Hi Raving Readers. I apologize for the shirt and intermittent posts lately. Me schedule has been nuts lately and eating into my writing time. Thanks for your patience.

Playoffs Becoming A Lock For the Seattle Sounders

Like tumblers in a lock, the MLS  Western Conference is falling into place for a Seattle Sounders playoff run. Teams like SKC, the Timbers and Quakes keep finding themselves on the wrong side of results. This weekend in Kansas City, Seattle can continue to improve their playoff chances.

The 2013 Sounders remember all too well the adage, “games in hand are great as long as you win them.” SKC has been learning that lesson the hard way lately. Sitting pretty on points and games played just 2 weeks ago, Peter Vermes’s side has stumbled hard. Unlike Seattle, SKC has no easy context to explain their poor run of form. The USOC has been a slight distraction, but their schedule hasn’t been too congested. They’ve had a full complement of players but can’t stop dropping points. Their midweek loss against a 10-man Houston Dynamo squad is just the most recent example.

Seattle is finally really clicking. Though the Cauldron has been a tough place for the Sounders lately, I expect all 3 points. With that result Seattle could be tied for second in the West at 48 points. L.A. plays Dallas this weekend and would join us at second with a draw. The last intriguing Western matchup is RSL-San Jose in a battle for keeping hope alive. The Sounders have, luckily, played their way past the hope stage. With a win on Sunday, they’ll be firmly in position to jockey for strong playoff bye.

Roll On Seattle Sounders, Roll On!

The Seattle Sounders whupped the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-nil again last night. Again, something was at stake and Seattle rose to the challenge. Seattle has once again punched their ticket to tilt with the big boys of North American soccer.

The ‘Caps are Shield potentials and Western Conference leaders and Seattle just smacked them around to the tune of 6-0 aggregate over 4 days. Dayum. Remember that march to the sea we dreamed of? Maybe it’s already stared. Furthermore, in the food chain of Cascadian soccer clubs Seattle is the Whopper and Portland is the Whopper Jr. So does that make Vancouver chicken fingers?

A seismic shift is taking place in MLS. Seattle is dethroning pretenders, pillaging silverware and ascending to their rightful place in the soccer hierarchy.

Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders: CONCACAF Champions League

It’s deja vu all over again! Today the Seattle Sounders play the Vancouver Whitecaps in another pivotal match. Just four days after capturing the Cascadia Cup, Seattle will try to beat Vancouver for a ticket to the CCL knockout round.

The big leagues are at stake in Sodo. Any MLS team that fancies itself above the rank-and-file wants to make CCL, advance to the knockout round, beat a Liga MX team and, eventually, capture the crown. Seattle can continue their journey tonight. We win and we’re in. It’s that easy for us. We’d finish with 7 points in the group and advance,

Yes, the ‘Caps could still finish with 7 points (if they beat CD Olimpia in October). However the first tiebreaker is head-to-head points between the  tied teams. Even if both clubs got to 7, we’d have 4 points from our two matchups against their 1. Sigi Schmid put it succinctly recently after practice, “A loss or a tie doesn’t get us anywhere.” If both teams draw tonight, things get weird. We’d be out, but CD Olimpia would be very much alive. A win or draw by Vancouver in Tegucigalpa and the ‘Caps are through; Olimpia is through with a home win. Group F is far from settled, unless of course Seattle wins at home. How the coaches select their respective lineups will be very telling.

Both teams have domestic distractions that will limit their lineups. Vancouver is in the middle of thick fixture congestion and ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson said recently he’ll start the same youthful lineup he has through the previous 2 CCL games. Robinson also didn’t avoid the opportunity to get a little salty with Seattle, saying, “They’ve got a good strong squad and they’ve got depth. You look at their bench at the weekend. They’re bringing Valdez on, international player, 68 caps. We’re bringing Kianz on who’s played eight games.” Maybe the Vancouver coach is just jealous. Sigi, for his part, has been coy about who he’d start, only hinting, “It might not be all young guys, but it might be.” Let’s hope Sigi fields a B+ lineup and we continue to take them all.

BOLD PREDICTION: We have less wiggle-room than the ‘Caps who can play for a tie. I see Sigi sprinkling in some serious studs, at least in the 18 (Oba, Valdez, Ivanschitz). This is a home game and those tired legs won’t have to travel. And the ‘Caps are just happy to be in the CCL: Seattle wins 3-2, and advances.

 

Seattle Sounders: KINGS OF CASCADIA!

The Seattle Sounder are Kings of Cascadia! In dismantling the table-topping Vancouver Whitecaps 3-0 at BC place, Seattle earned a picture perfect victory (seewhatIdidthere?).

Winning the Cascadia Cup feels great. Sure it doesn’t mean as much as other silverware, but it is good to be king. I am proud of Cascadia and proud of Cascadian soccer. I wanted that cup dammit and it’d been far too long absent from the Emerald City.

The bigger implications of the victory are the 3 points earned and the 1.5 ppg Seattle is now averaging. Oddly, they are only 3 point out of the Shield lead. Though winning the Shield is a longshot, it feels nice to be back in the thick of things after a stone cold summer. The Sounders are now sitting very pretty at a firm 4th place in the West.

In the Cascadian massacre on Saturday night, the Sounders looked to be in top form. They look like a team that can make a ruckus come fall. Seattle possessed well when the Caps yielded and they defended well when the Caps pressed. This was no “we’re gonna ram the ball down your throat and get burned on the counter” game plan, but rather a disciplined, dare I say “champion-worthy”, performance.

Ivanschitz was the schitz. In the Austrian first start for the Rave Green, he provided a calming presence in midfield as he confidently moved the ball. He provided dangerous set pieces (a weakness of Seattle’s all year) and finished with a feather-soft first touch before hammering home the opening salvo from a very difficult shooting angle. Ivanschitz, Oba and Clint are starting to fire on all cylinders, but it is the supporting cast that could win us the Cup.

Gonzo was a stud on Saturday. I was surprised he got the call in midfield but he delivered. At times he felt he was slow with the ball on his feet, but he kept cycling the possession, looking for men in dangerous positions, and of course scores his first goal with a patient and powerful finish in the box. And Zach Scott was stellar at CB. His performance allows Brad to remain in a stacked midfield that easily handled a very dangerous Vancouver team.

It’s good to be king, but Seattle remains #hellagreedy. Bring on SKC.

 

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps: Battle for Cascadia

Big game in North Cascadia today! The Seattle Sounders clash with the Vancouver Whitecaps in a game dripping with consequence.

Seattle and their Cascadian rivals have really been slugging it out this year. In addition to all three clubs being playoff contenders in a wild Western Conference, extracurricular competitions have added even more intensity and emotion to the Cascadia Cup.

Everyone involved in American soccer banks on Cascadia. US Open Cup officials set Portland-Seattle as the only all-MLS matchup in the 4th round. CONCACAF Champions League officials put the ‘Caps and Sounders in the same group. It was the first time two Cascadian teams qualified for the CCL and CONCACAF didn’t miss their chance.

The games are wild, well-played passion plays. Though MLS keeps adding Eastern-based teams (Houston in the West??) and even wants NYC wants to host some stupid game every year, it is clear that the bets soccer is played in the West. And the best Western soccer is played in the Cascades.

Today’s game will settle who is the best of the best. What could happen today:

Sounders win. Seattle wins the Cascadia Cup for the first time since 2011 and guarantees 2015 silverware. Seattle jumps back to 4th place in the West at a solid 1.5 ppg, Sigi’s magic number. All is good in the Soundersphere.

Sounders draw. We still win the Cascadia cup. However. The day could end with us tied, once again, for 6th place in the West, tenuously holding on to a playoff berth.

Sounders Lose. Holy crap. We lose the Cup, again. And at the end of the day we could be out of the playoffs for the first time all season. Panic buttons shattered.

Bold Prediction: Midweek, Vancouver had a game against CD Olimpia. They rested many starters while still getting a result. Mauro, Ousted and Morales all got a much needed break and time to freshen up. Seattle just got horrible injury news.

Vancouver is one of our bugaboo teams, but with a potential starting 11 of: Frei, Fisher, Evans, Marshall, Mears, Ivanschitz. Friberg, Ozzie, Valdez, Oba and Clint, I like our chances. Maybe it’s just homerism, but 2-1 Seattle.

 

Time Is Not On Seattle Sounders Side

This Saturday at BC Place the charnel house that has become the Seattle Sounders season fires up again.

A Rave Green warrior writhing on the pitch has become an all too familiar image this year. Seattle has never suffered injuries like they have in 2015.  Ozzie, Oba, Clint and Roman will now have missed significant chunks of the season. Brad had lingering issues as did Ivanschitz, and now it appears Chad Marshall is receiving cortisone shots and Valdez can barely practice.

The rash of injuries suffered by Seattle is serious and mysterious. Dave Tenney usually does a great job managing the sports science side of the Sounders. But this season has been rough. Sure the Sounders played a busy schedule this year, but they have done so (MLS, with CCL and USOC) before. Injuries could also be age related. One of the hallmarks of older professional athletes is injury susceptibility. As we continue to trust everyone over 30, we’ll need to manage our expectations for those players’ availability.

We will have Clint available this weekend and sometimes that’s all you need. Sure Vancouver is young and fast. But we have crafty veterans who look to exploit our northerly neighbors and continue climbing the Western table.

 

Seattle Sounders Newest Weapon: Andreas Ivanschitz

Happy Thursday Raving Readers. Big results for Seattle Sounders fans in CCL play last night, as Vancouver beat CD Olimpia 1-nil at home. The ‘Caps now sit with us on 4 points in CCL Group F play.

Our group is coming down to the wire because all three teams still have a reasonable shot to win the group. Olimpia sits one point behind with 3 points. There are many potential outcomes but simply put: the winner of next week’s matchup wins the group. A draw guarantees nothing, as Vancouver has a game in hand. They play CD Olimpia October 22nd in Tegucigalpa. If we draw the ‘Caps and Olimpia wins at home, the Honduran side takes the group with 6 points.

The ‘Caps are in the driver’s seat with 2 games left to play. Of course we play the ‘Caps in regular ol’ MLS play this weekend. Vancouver is in a tough stretch playing Olimpia then us twice in the span of a week (and then they host NYCFC for 4 games in 10 days). Hopefully the ‘Caps suffer some from their fixture congestion and we can capitalize.

The key to these next few games, and potentially the rest of Seattle’s season, may be Andreas Ivanschitz.

Ivanschitz was a revelation last weekend. He was nearly invisible for the beginning of the second half as san Jose dominated possession and play. He was on the pitch when the Quakes scored their seemingly insurmountable goal. Then something clicked. Maybe he gelled with his teammates, shook off some rust, or just dispelled the butterflies. But Ivanschitz was all over the field in the waning moments of the match displaying vision, creativity and pinpoint passing.

Seattle has long needed a creative midfielder to set up Oba and Clint. Ivanschitz provides true creativity in the midfield so Seattle need not rely on blunt force goal creation (you know, Oba and Clint slaloming through the 18 yard box). And he is a killer on set pieces, a facet of the attack absent from the Sounders arsenal this year. Last weekend Ivanschitz took set pieces after set piece and inched Seattle closer and closer to the equalizer. For a match that started Oba, Clint and Valdez, it is telling that our only two shots-on-goal both came off one Ivanschitz free kick. Just wait until he develops a chemistry with his new teammates.

 

Roman Torres: The Seattle Sounders Toughest Break

With news of Roman Torres’s season-ending injury, the Seattle Sounders must continue to evolve.

Yesterday’s injury update was a major, major killer. Torres was already a rock and a major plus to a team shaking off bad form to, hopefully, make an all-fire championship run. Now his Sounders 2015 season is over right as it started. Hey Roman, we’ll always have Olimpia. I’ll hold that image of you stoutly defending your captain and cold-blooded penalty shooter Brad Evans.

Speaking of Evans, he was assessed by the league’s concussion protocol and his health status is still uncertain. His positional status is uncertain as well. Will he move back to centerback with Torres out, or stay in midfield and let the totemic Zach Scott rock the backline? Whatever the recently returned Sigi decides, this team is still in flux.

Remember the springtime Sounders? That squad looked a lot like the 2014 team and was dominant. Seattle was building a huge Shield lead through 13 games (May 31st). They were averaging a tidy 2 points a game before injuries, suspensions and call-ups decimated the roster. The summer Sounders featured a motley crew of backups that limped through the worst run of form in franchise history, 8 losses in 9 games. The front office bolstered the roster with big and little signings to reshape the team: Friberg, Thomas, Valdez, Torres, Ivanschitz. Old stalwarts started to mend, Oba, Ozzie and Clint, and the September Sounders went on a three-game unbeaten streak. Now the wheel of fortune turns again.

The Sounders have little chance to create any kind of chemistry with such roster churn. Disappointing as the year’s been, the fact that we’re in sole possession of 4th place, while facing such adversity, is stunning. But it isn’t enough. 2015 was supposed to be Cup or bust. Things were looking grim in the summer, but we could rationalize as we had the reinforcements to look forward to. Now Seattle will go into the stretch run without Torres and with a banged-up Clint, Brad and Valdez. I hoped the rough patch would break us in, toughen us up for the grind of the playoffs and our eventual MLS Cup. That would’ve been a good story but now it may be just that, fiction.

 

Seattle Sounders “Win” Draw at San Jose Earthquakes

The Seattle Sounders “won” a hard-earned 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday night. The huge match down in NorCal was key to the playoff jockeying of both clubs and had repercussion for the whole Western Conference. With the results around the league now in the books, especially SKC’s embarrassing tumble to Orlando City, Seattle now holds sole possession of 4th place in the Conference with 42 points. The Sounders are still holding off San Jose for a playoff position.

San Jose has always been our boogieman. It looked like we’d give them all 9 points for 2015 when Fatai Alashe knocked in the go-ahead goal in the 70th minute. He did so on a set piece, making it the millionth one Seattle has conceded this year (I am a Lamar Neagle apologist. He hustles, he eats minutes and he can be very goal dangerous. However. He is single-handedly responsible for the majority of Seattle’s set piece problems. He may be playing himself onto a more permanent position on the bench.) I sunk deeper into my couch and saw our playoff chances slip, sliding away. Seattle had been in a funk offensively for most of the match, even with Oba, Clint and Valdez all on the pitch simultaneously, and I just didn’t see the equalizer coming.

But the Sounders fought back. They seemed to channel 2014 and will a result. Remember last season? It seemed Seattle would never lose. Even when they went behind, you knew they could punch their way back. You had the utmost faith in the boys in green, but that faith had been in short supply for much of the last few months. Now we have two straight results where Seattle had to stay mentally tough and fight back. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.

Overall, it was one of those games: ugly and physical. San Jose really roughed us up (surprise!). Schmetzer had to make 3 premature subs all due to injury. First Roman Torres tweaked his left leg (knee or ankle?) chasing a sloppy corner Friberg right before the break. Evans, subbed off at half, was a piñata the entire first half, especially when he took a shot to his noggin from close range. Then Valdez, who has been a bruise magnet lately, took himself off before the hour mark. Portland started the recent hack-a-Sounder trend on Valdez. Toronto and SJ just followed suit.

We were just starting to get healthy and, with fixtures slowing down, rested but now this. Recuperating players like Dempsey shouldn’t have been asked to give the full 90, but had to due to circumstance (though you could argue he was pretty checked out for the last 15 minutes or so). Luckily we have another whole week to rest before Vancouver. The next game is just as big as the last one. Nothing is easy from here on out, but the Sounders are proving themselves tough enough for the task.

 

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