Month – September 2015

Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes

The Seattle Sounders face the San Jose in the biggest MLS matchup of the weekend. Avaya stadium will host a must-watch Western Conference showdown as the Sounders and Quakes fight for playoff positioning with the season coming down to the wire.

These two clubs have been on a crash course for the past month. The Quakes have finally gotten their season on course while the Sounders have mostly been crashing. San Jose was the hottest team in the league for all of August: they won 4 in a row with four clean sheets and a combined score of 9-0. It wasn’t pushovers they were beating either, they ran through L.A., SKC and (then) East-leading DC United. The Sounders were 1-3 in August. And that was world’s better than June and July.

BOLD PREDICTION: Tricky one. San Jose has owned the Sounders over the last few years. Ozzie’s absence due to yellow card accumulation (after his laughable card for “simulation” last week) definitely won’t help our cause, but there are too many slippery factors going into this matchup.

The Quakes are not a wildly dangerous team. Wondo scores the goals, MPG and Salinas provide the service and Quincy Amarikwa is annoying. This has been the case for most of the season, but Seattle still has trouble with this team. That trouble could boil over is Anibal Godoy is in the lineup tonight.

Godoy’s signing triggered San Jose’s 4-game win streak. He was away on international duty when San Jose lost 2-1 to Philly last weekend. He is that important. After playing Tuesday for Panama in Venezuela, he is back training with San Jose. Luckily for us, he but left the pitch at halftime suffering a slight injury on a wet pitch in Ciudad Guayana. Let’s hope SJ coach Kinnear decides Godoy is too important and rests him.

Sigi’s absence will be another unquantifiable wrinkle. Schemtzer has a solid 3-1 record replacing Sigi on the bench, but that lone loss came earlier this season against San Jose. We may have Ivanschitz makes his Seattle debut, might. Honestly, let’s say we finish with a 2-2 draw. SJ pushes the game and we break, a little too much, but our firepower is just warming up and can’t be stopped.

 

Sigi Schmid: American Soccer Legend

Good morning Raving Readers. I apologize for the lack of posts recently, I started a new job and it’s fantasy draft season. Also the Sounders have mostly been taking care of business without much drama or headlines. The one exception being the health of coach Sigi Schmidt.

My wife and I were in the rainy stands last weekend when Brian Schmetzer was announced as coach. Everyone in the cheap seats was perplexed with Sigi’s unexpected absence. When Schmetzer mentioned Sigi was ill in his postgame presser, perplexity became concern. I can’t begin to imagine what exactly Sigi suffered Saturday morning that necessitated his being kept in the hospital until Tuesday. If it kept him from coaching, it must’ve been pretty serious. Fortunately Sigi returned to Sounders practice yesterday and seemed none the worse for wear (expect he won’t travel with the team to San Jose).

Yes we’re in a white-knuckle playoff race. Yes we’re playing a big 6-pointer against the Quakes tomorrow night. But Sigi’s well-being is in the forefront of my mind.

We’ve had big stars (Freddie, Fredy, Eddie, Oba, Dempsey) and their faces have filled banners and billboards, but Sigi has always been the franchise. Sigi has been THE Sounders since their inception. Or rather, before their inception, as he was the club’s first mega signing. Seattle’s ability to ransack the MLS Cup champion and Supporters’ Shield winner’s coach was a shot across MLS’s bow. This club, though an expansion, was ambitious and playing for keeps and it all started with Sigi.

Sigi has brought a winning mentality to this club. His record in MSL is unparalleled: a 231-155-113 record (regular season and playoffs), 2 MLS Cups, 3 Supporter’s Shields, 5 US Open Cups, and even an esoteric CONCACAF Champions Cup. Even in the dark days of American top-flight soccer, Sigi was coaching winners. At UCLA, he won over 300 games and 3 national championships. His commitment to the game has been great for American soccer. When Dempsey signed here he said:

“It was important for me to be in Seattle because of the fan base, the atmosphere, and because Sigi is the coach. He’s done so much for the American game.”

Though solely plying his trade in the States, Sigi’s reputation is known far and wide. When Seattle was first scouting Obafemi Martins at Levante, Sigi’s presence alone was a major sell. Martins once recounted seeing Sigi at training in Valencia and asked his teammates “What’s Sigi doing here?” Martins was flattered the coach travelled to scout him, adding, “Everybody knows Sigi.”

Seattle knows Sigi and we know we need him healthy, rested and well for playoffs. My thoughts and warm wishes go out to him and his family as he hopefully recovers quickly. I look forward to him further cementing his legend.

 

Seattle Sounders Smoother Sailing

The Seattle Sounders are hitting the sweet spot. The Sounders have always had talent and grit, but now are gaining chemistry.

Seattle’s schedule is slowing down and the team is getting healthy. Dempsey is back (and not travelling for a silly friendly in Boston!), Ozzie is back and Oba and Valdez are making beautiful music. Saturday’s match showed that kinks still need to be worked out (set piece defense), but that this team can bear down and get a result when it counts.

Of course, none of this means a thing unless Seattle makes the playoffs. Luckily our slower schedule, some fortitude on our part, and fortuitous breaks on the other, have the Sounders looking good going into the end of the regular season. San Jose losing to Philly, AT HOME!, takes a load of weight off our backs, as Seattle now controls their destiny. And Dempsey will be here to stay. The next USMNT call-up isn’t until the October 10th CONCACAF Cup against Mexico at the Rose Bowl. Luckily the Sounders have a bye that week.

Other teams are less lucky. Teams like Vancouver and SKC have games-in-hand on us, but as our fixtures even out, theirs are bunching up. Vancouver and SKC both have 10 games left to play in only six and a half weeks. Both have huge non-MLS competitions to worry about.

The ‘Caps are in their first CCL ever and play CD Olimpia just 3 days before hosting us in a huge MLS and Cascadia 6-pointer. SKC has the US Open Cup in Philly on September 30th, just 3 days after they play us and 3 days before they play Portland in Portland. As Seattle sees smoother sailing (finally), key opponents are hitting choppy water.

Last season was a smashing success, running roughshod over the league and taking our first Supporters’ Shield to go with our fourth US Open Cup. But everyone who bleeds Rave Green wants MLS Cup. Despite our summer of discontent, this may be our year.

MLS has a long tradition of teams sneaking into the playoffs and off with the Cup: L.A. in ’12, Colorado in ‘10, RSL in ’09, to name a few. As the other titans of West stumble and face congestion, the Sounders has a chance to get hot. 2015 may be Seattle’s opportunity to pull an L.A. and smash through the playoffs.

 

Happy Labor Day Sounders Fans

Saturday was a rainy, gritty performance for the Seattle Sounders. I’ll have my recap up tomorrow on the performance of Clint Dempsey, Oneil Fisher, the refs and all the Rave Green faithful who sang in the rain.

Enjoy the last barbecue of summer!

Toronto FC at Seattle Sounders: Bold Prediction

The Seattle Sounders play Toronto FC today in a battle for the playoffs. Both teams find themselves shorthanded once. The Sounders yet again. Toronto will be without Jozy Altidore (USMNT) and Collen Warner (suspension) and Sebastian Giovinco. Seattle will be without Marco Pappa and Roman Torres, as both have been called in to their national teams.

Seattle should (big should after the 2-0 RSL fiasco) have the advantage. Clint Dempsey and Andreas Ivanschitz may be in the selection, and their presence could be key down the stretch as Seattle fights for the playoffs.

BOLD PREDICTION: These two teams are at fascinating junction. TFC has never made the playoffs, but Seattle’s never missed. This season both fortunes could change. Toronto always spends money, but lately it has borne fruit. Michael Bradley is a world-class player and is able to greatly affect a game. Luckily he’ll be without his running mate’s Jozy and Giovinco.

At home, Seattle’s steady defense and hopefully fine-tuned offense should be more than enough of the Red. 2-1 Seattle.

 

The Case of the Disappearing Clint Dempsey

The Seattle Sounders are in a white-knuckle dogfight to keep their playoffs streak alive as Toronto FC comes to Sodo Saturday. Luckily Seattle is finally getting reinforcements.

Finally Seattle is getting healthy. Ozzie is shaking of the rust and looked dominant in his short appearance. New-signing Andreas Ivanschitz was working with the first team at Starfire. And, most important of all, seldom seen star Clint Dempsey trained in full yesterday. It’s about time we saw our multi-million dollar man back on the pitch.

Dempsey has only played 13 games for the Sounders this sense. 13. And yet he’ still taken a lot of wear and tear for the red, white and blue: the US crest and the MLS logo. Dempsey has played in 10 non-Sounders matchers between the US friendlies, The Gold Cup and the MLS All-Star Joke. Last year, in a World Cup year no less, Dempsey still logged 26 matches with 23 starts for Seattle.

Deuce has missed games for call-ups and suspensions, but the majority of his absences are due to his recent injury. Dempsey has missed the last 7 games after injuring himself in training following our 3-0 loss to Vancouver back on August 1st. I’d love to blame Jurgen for playing Deuce for all 90 minutes in a 6-0 rout of Cuba, and the US Soccer Federation for having a spastic control freak ref the Sounders-Timbers USOC game, but the blame for Dempsey’s recent injury falls squarely on the shoulders of Seattle’s training staff. We rushed an overworked player back to the pitch because we were desperate.

The Gold Cup cast a brutal physical toll of Dempsey. Check out his game log from the competition:

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 9.51.21 PMIncluding our home game against Vancouver, that’s 9 games in 30 days in 9 different cities. Deuce played a game almost every 3 days and then took a cramped flight immediately afterward. Can you say “soft tissue damage”?

Seattle needs to take care of its star. But Jurgen Klinsmann just called him into the US-Brazil game in Foxborough on the 8th. Right as Deuce is getting healthy he may play 3 games in 8 days with 2 cross-country flights. Dempsey should be able to be eased back in to a slowing Seattle schedule. He should be just getting ready to power us into and through the playoffs. We can only hope.

 

Stefan Frei: Seattle Sounders Elite Keeper

The Seattle Sounders are a marquee franchise and, according to Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter, “a high-powered, big-budget team.” Only the Los Angeles Galaxy can rival Seattle’s the pantheon of talent. Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, and Nelson Haedo Valdez are all international football veterans. Ozzie Alonso, Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Tyrone Mears, Roman Torres, Gonzalo Pineda, Andreas Ivanschitz and Erik Friberg all have quality pedigrees. I get tired just typing out the names of all the rockstar-calibre Sounders. But no star has shown brighter for Seattle lately than keeper Stefan Frei.

Any discussion of last week’s HUGE WIN over the hated Timbers must mention Frei. He singlehandedly kept the Sounders in the game, especially in the first half. Frei parried every shot, kept pristine positioning and commanded his line. Seattle hasn’t seen such dominating goalkeeping since Kasey Keller was in the net (no offense to Michael Gspurning). He was simply unbelievable.

After Keller and Gspurning, Frei was Seattle’s first “meh” goalie signing. Last season he started slow, giving credence to the “washed up” tag that was looming after injury-plagued and disappointing seasons in Toronto. But he ended 2014 strong and his 2015 has been even better. Frei is setting career-best records with Seattle, even as Seattle suffers a down season.

Frei has 9 shut-outs, 88 saves and only 27 goals against and a 77% save percentage. All set or tie career highs for him through only 24 games. His 77% is second to only Bill Hamid (by 1% and in 5 more games) for keepers with more than 15 starts. I think we can now safely say that Stefan Frei has become an elite MLS goalie. Hell, Frei has made himself a legitimate contender for goalkeeper of the year.

We’ve had a rough summer here in Soundersland, but it would have been much rougher if Frei missed more than the 3 games he was out in July. I know we are still in a white-knuckle race for the playoffs, but if we can get in we have a keeper who can give us a deep run. That is something L.A. most definitely doesn’t have.

 

The Annotated Caleb Porter

One of the best parts of being a Seattle Sounders fan is hating the Portland Timbers. Portland coach Caleb Porter is whining again and I love it.

Porter is the cherry on top of the mountain high hate pie because his pettiness, delusions of grandeur and awkward cocksure bravado are simply delicious. He sure had a lot to say following Sunday’s pivotal Cascadia matchup, here are some of the tastiest morsels:

They [Seattle] had nothing. I think back on the game and I can’t even remember not one time where they broke us down.

Huh? We “had nothing” even though Obafemi Martins was dancing around in the box unmolested and slammed home a cheeky goal? We “had nothing” but Mears put a beautiful ball over the top to Oba forcing Kwarasey into a to-foul-or-not-to-foul decision? Portland had more chances. Portland had better chances, but Seattle most definitely did not “have nothing.”

Their high-powered, big-budget team had trouble.

Don’t pat yourselves on the back too hard Portland. We’ve been having trouble for over two months. Hell, we had more trouble against cellar-dweller RSL last week. And sure, we have a big-budget team, but we only had 2 DPs start while you had all 3. What’s your excuse for that?

They couldn’t create much on us, and they get out of this game with three points off of a poor first goal, I think with a couple fouls, and a PK.

Okay, I know you fancy yourself the arbiter of “good soccer” and that you hate long throw-ins, yadda yadda. Maybe I can kinda see your point there, but what of Oba’s first goal was “poor”? And what are you referring to with “a couple fouls”? The most egregious non-called fouls I saw were Adi’s patented back-to-goal flops. The most obvious earned Portland the freekick to end the game, but Adi repeatedly flopped throughout the match. He’d face away from goal, back into Chad Marshall and then right as the ball arrived slip down to his butt. More often than not, his fishing found a whistle

Due to the subjectivity of the officiating in soccer in general, and MLS particularly, penalties are usually controversial. But they do happen. They count as goals and can win you games. Get over it, Caleb.

I thought the official was very poor. I’ll stick with the theme of coaches complaining this week, but the reality is I call a spade a spade, and the official was very poor today.

Let’s be real, the officiating was far worse in our US Open Cup match. In that game, the ref was an overmatched newb with authority issues but his erratic and inconsistent calls benefitted you. So let’s call a spade a spade: you are a biased, sanctimonious, delusional prick, not some paragon of straight shooting objectivity.

I thought the game was very poorly managed by the official…Just like coaches have poor games and players have poor games, I thought he had a poor game.

Coaches have bad games, huh Caleb?

 

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