Month – October 2015

Seattle Sounders vs. FC Dallas Preview: Should We Be Scared?

The Seattle Sounders continue their quest for the MLS Cup tomorrow against FC Dallas.

Normally qualifying for the semis is baseline expectations for this franchise, but with the new playoff format, a horrible summer, and a thrilling win over L.A., Sounders fans are already feeling good. We’ve been waiting for this moment for the playoffs for a long time, ever since we reset our expectation for this season. We kicked off the postseason in thrilling fashion Wednesday night, but now the real fight begins.

Seattle drew the top-seed in the west, Dallas. This won’t be easy. We haven’t played Dallas in over four 4 months. And as they’ve been terrorizing the league, we’ve been…ahem… soul searching and gut-checking.

Honestly, I don’t know how to feel about this matchup. I really wanted to draw Vancouver in the semis because we’ve had their number all season, Dallas is such an unknown quantity.

Seattle and Dallas only matched up twice this year (lucky for Dallas). March 28 saw a 0-0 draw in Frisco. June 13 was a thoroughly entertaining 3-0 victory for the Sounders in Sodo, that catapulted Seattle into first-place for the Supporters’ Shield (remember that?).

  • For us Sounders fans somewhat in the dark regarding our ability to match up with Dallas in this series, we can only ask if the 3-0 win in June was a telling result (as if the past ever predicts future results). So some context:
  • Our win over Dallas was the final game before our Summer of Discontent. Seattle promptly went 1-10-1, all comps, in the next 12 games after embarrassing Dallas..
  • FCD went 8-1-3 in their twelve immediately following that loss, for a scorching 2.25 ppg.
  • Neither team was at their best. That game was played in the middle of a 0-3-3 run for Dallas, which included 5 consecutive road games. They were shorthanded, missing some quality like Tesho Akindele, Je-Vaughn Watson, and Kellyn Acosta. And Seattle started a front 6 of Rose, Pineda, Azira, Thomas, Dempsey and Neagle. And we still dropped a three-burger on them.

Traditionally, we’ve always matched up well against Dallas. We’ve gone 5-2-3 against them in our last ten meetings with a +6 goal differential (though 2 of those games were in the playoffs last year and that greatly changes the context, playing for draws yadda yadda). In short, I am not afraid of this matchup, but maybe I should be. We’ll find out tomorrow at Century Link Field where I hope we scare the bejeezus out of Dallas!

Dallas is quaking in their boots!

Dallas is quaking in their boots!

Seattle Sounders Win! Beat the Los Angeles Galaxy!

HOT DIGGITY!! In the wildest MLS match that I’ve ever witnessed, your Seattle Sounders scored early, scored often, and held on to beat the Los Angeles Galaxy!

I am too keyed up to write more, just…wow!!

Seattle Sounders vs L.A. Galaxy: Bold Prediction

Once again, the Seattle Sounders must go through the Los Angeles Galaxy to capture MLS Cup. Who would’ve thought after last season’s epic Western Conference Final that these two storied clubs would be playing in the #4 vs. #5 play-in game?

Frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though I am nervous, playing L.A. always gives me the heebie jeebies, but especially in the postseason, we owe those guys a serious whupping. And this just might be the year we do it.

Something is rotten in L.A. The Galaxy’s form has been putrid lately, having gone 1-3-1 in their last with a -6 GD. Hell, they’ve given up 13 goals in their last five. Even take away the Portland massacre and that’s still 8 conceded in 4 games. Donovan Ricketts is seriously shipping goals. This is not the same L.A. that has broken many a Rave Green heart

The Galaxy have been garbage away from Carson. Of their 14 wins, only two came outside of Southern California, and only one is quality. L.A. sandwiched away wins against Colorado and Dallas around their 3-1 thumping of us back in Dos Santos’s inaugural game. The team was hot back then and a 2-1 victory at Frisco speaks to that. However that was over 3 months ago.

Bold Prediction: Ugh. Like a recurring nightmare, Ozzie may miss another pivotal postseason game against the Galaxy. In Tuesday’s interview, Sigi mentioned Ozzie didn’t practice and will be a game-time decision. All that talk of the newly rebuilt (and Pineda-less) midfield will go out the window without El Corazon de Los Sounders. Beating L.A. without Ozzie won’t be easy.

It isn’t Keane, or Gerrard or Dos Santos who scares me, but coach Bruce Arena. Arena is the best coach in MLS (sorry Sigi!) and he’s more than capable of getting his boys hopping made and fired up to shake off their back-to-back losses. Much to Sigi’s chagrin, Arena knows how to beat us and usually does. But for the first time in along time, he’s coaching a very beatable team. Ricketts is shaky.

Goals change games. Seattle must score an early goal or the ghosts will be in our heads. The Sounders need to stay disciplined and not give up any sloppy goals (like we did in out last meeting with L.A.), but we must press the attack. If we pepper the L.A. goal, Rickets will crumble. Seattle bests L.A. for the first time in the postseason 3-2. And I can’t wait to see Sigi get that monkey off his back.

 

Seattle Sounders: Fulfilling Expectations?

The Seattle Sounders’ showdown with the Los Angeles Galaxy looms large. I wasn’t nervous at all going into Sunday’s matchup with RSL (and the Sounders promptly rewarded my bravado), but I am seriously stressing Wednesday night.

As a nice distraction, I’ve unearthed my 2015 season predictions post from way back on March 11th. I am only an amateur blogger, but a pro clairvoyant. Pacjake commented that I almost perfectly nailed Decision Day (I just flip-flopped L.A. and Vancouver). Honestly who saw L.A. losing twice, in a row, to stone cold SKC!?

Back in March I predicted the Sounders would regress a little (but I didn’t imagine this much). The real Nostradamus is Sigi who always says 51 points (1.5 ppg) qualifies you for the playoffs. That man knows his MLS, as every team with 51 points made it. I didn’t think the Sounders would sneak in with juuuust 51, but hopefully I am correct in guessing that “Seattle will pull the old Dynamo/Galaxy rope-a-dope of privileging the playoffs over the 34-match slog that is the regular season.” Because I also boldly stated “The Sounders will clamp down in the playoffs. They will win MLS Cup. Boom. Said it.”

I also anticipated advancing in the CCL, but didn’t see the early Open Cup exit or the Cascadia Cup glory. Without further ado, my predictions:

MLS Season: 17-10-7, 58 points

The Sounders slow their regular season roll in 2015 and settle back into their usual spot of second or third’ish best in the West. 58 points is still a solid season. The Western Conference is tough and getting tougher: no more easy points at Chivas, SKC and Houston aren’t pushovers, and San Jose has overthrown themselves completely and should no longer be cellar dwellers. However Seattle fails to pace the conference not because other teams are better, but because the Sounders are finally changing their ethos.

With multiple Open Cups, a newly acquired Supporters’ Shield and a ticket punched to CONCACAF Champions League, Seattle can set their sights on the one prize that fans feel is way overdue: MLS Cup. Dempsey and Co. tried to take them all last year but got bite in the butt by a tiebreaker. With a team this talented and a city this hungry, the Sounders can little afford to again miss their date with MLS Cup destiny due to the slimmest of margins.

Thus it’s a “Cup or Bust” year for Seattle, no matter the narrative coming out of Starfire. I predict Sigi rests his starters more than usual (no more Dempsey and Ozzie playing on three days rest on a Wednesday night at Chivas). Seattle’s best are at the peaks of their primes and Ozzie is already showing some age. Seattle will pull the old Dynamo/Galaxy rope-a-dope of privileging the playoffs over the 34-match slog that is the regular season.

Then the Sounders will clamp down in the playoffs. They will win MLS Cup. Boom. Said it.

Other Fun Seattle Predictions:

  • Loses the Cascadia Cup to Vancouver because, well… we’re kinda making of habit of this.

  • Loses in the Quarterfinals of the Open Cup to… oh hell… Columbus. Why not?

  • Advances to the CCL knockout stage setting up an epic run next season.

Seattle Sounders Clinch the #4 Seed!

The Seattle Sounders won big last night, 3-1, over an underwhelming RSL side to clinch the #4 seed in the MLS Cup Playoffs. They’ll host the tumbling Los Angeles Galaxy, who somehow lost at home to Sporting Kansas City, Wednesday night in Sodo. I’ll have more reactions later.

Lastly, let’s take a minute to respect that killer tifo celebrating a decade of ECS. Absolutely Gorgeous.

Duwamish Sown

Duwamish Sown

Seattle Sounders, MLS Decision Day Bold Predictions

Today is Decision Day for the Seattle Sounders to finally punch their ticket to the 2015 MLS Cup playoffs.

I should be more stressed, as a million things could go wrong. Like say, a draw in a very winnable game, or the Sounders inexplicably coming out flat. But I don’t think that happens. As I wrote earlier, Seattle has been one of the better Western squads recently. If the Sounders win they’re in. The players know this. We all know this. RSL doesn’t have Kyle Beckerman due to yellow-card accumulation. Joao Plata hasn’t played since coming off the field against Portland 2 weeks ago. RSL is a proud club and are playing only for that pride. The reign of RSL ends with a whimper today in Sodo.

The Western Conference is going to be crazy today. Seattle could conceivably end up the #2 seed or miss out on the playoffs entirely. The San Jose Earthquakes and Sporting Kansas City are the two teams that could knock us out. Thankfully both have tough-as-nails matchups with Dallas and L.A., respectively.

Dallas has secured one of the byes, but is fighting for the Supporters’ Shield. L.A. is playing to hold on to a bye, which Vancouver, Portland, and us, could reasonably snag. Despite, and possibly in light of, last week’s home meltdown, I am predicting the Galaxy to shut down a struggling SKC side.

Want the rest of my #DecisionDay Bold Predictions? Read on:

  • Dallas beats San Jose to clinch #1 throughout the West but loses the Shield to NYRB due to goal differential. A smoking hot San Jose side kisses the playoffs goodbye.
  • L.A. beats SKC to secure the #2 seed and first round bye.
  • Portland pounds the Rapids for an out-of-nowhere #3 seed.
  • Vancouver draws a scrappy Houston squad, but settles for the #5 seed because…
  • Your Seattle Sounders, in front of a packed house, win convincingly 3-1, reclaiming the #4 seed.
  • SKC, with another loss, backs in to the playoffs as the #6.

Setting up a playoff bracket of:

Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 1.13.23 PMHowever. I could totally see San Jose scrap out a draw in Frisco. I could see Portland have a letdown game following last week’s 5-goal bonanza. I want to see Portland play San Jose in the knockout round and get thoroughly trounced. For the Sounders, I want at least that #4 seed, which guarantee a home game in the knockout round. And I’d love a matchup with SKC or Vancouver.Today is going to be nuts. Say what you want about parity, but MLS is making for some very compelling TV on #DecisionDay.

 

Seattle Sounders to Face Club America in CONCACAF Champions League

The Seattle Sounders will face Liga MX titan Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

The Sounders have never faced stiffer competition in the CCL. Club America is arguably THE bully of North American soccer. They are the most decorated team in the most prestigious league in our region. America has won 16 league titles and 9 international titles (most of any CONCACAF side). They’ve competed in the Club World Cup and, as current CCL champs, will compete again this December in Japan. Seattle must literally beat the best to be the best.

For the Sounders to become an internationally renown soccer club, they need to start consistently beating the bullies. In the 2012/2013 CCL, we qualified for the knockout as the 3 seed, having earned all 12 points with a +7 goal differential in group play. We were “rewarded” with a matchup against the #6 seed Tigres, the 2011 Liga MX Aperatura champion and then table-toppers. Magic and history ensued and we advanced to the CCL semis. 2011/2012 wasn’t seeded, but rather drawn and we drew Santos Laguna who destroyed us in the quarterfinals. In 2010/2011, we got pounded in the group stage, going 1-5-0 with a -5 GD, and didn’t advance. The Sounders have consistently advanced one step closer to the final every time they compete in CCL.

Is the year we make the final? Honestly, probably not. But being able to go toe-to-toe with America at Estadio Azteca will be awesome. Ties like these are the small steps necessary to international soccer relevance. And we should be better next year. A more integrated and rested team will do wonders for our form. Ivanschitz, Valdez, Oba and Deuce all bring international experience to the club and will have a better understanding of each other as Sounders. Unfortunately, Torres won’t be back yet from his recovery. And of course, the offseason will bring turnover.

The Sounders have had an unfortunate break from CCL play, and will only MLC Cup can qualify us for next year. So let’s pound RSL this Sunday and rip through the playoff bracket. Stay greedy, Seattle

 

Seattle Sounders’ Momentum into the MLS Playoffs

The Seattle Sounders are set up for a dramatic MLS Decision Day. Needing a win on the final weekend just to qualify for the postseason is a rarity in Sounders history.

Parity rules North American sports. In some leagues, dominance in the regular season carries into the postseason. Was it any surprise that the Seahawks made the Super Bowl in back-to-back seasons as the NFL’s #1 seed, or that their opponents were the #1 AFC seed Denver Broncos in 2013 and the #1 AFC seed New England Patriots last year? The NBA Finals saw the league #1 seed, the Golden State Warriors, face off against LeBron James (who has made the Finals 5th consecutive times). In most leagues, regular season success is predicative of postseason glory.

However MLS is not a league where previous record predicts who will tilt for the championship, let alone win it. MLS has the longest regular season of all the North American professional leagues, at 8 months. MLB is just behind at 7. In both of these leagues, the long-drawn out regular season is rarely preamble to the playoffs. Look at last year’s World Series for example, where both the San Francisco Giants and Kansas City Royals were wildcards yet made the Fall Classic. In both baseball and soccer, things get wonky over those long months. Seattle’s 2015 season is a microcosm of this: So hot (like Hansel) to start the year, so cold throughout the summer, and now cruising along.

Momentum is supposedly the wild card when determining how wildcards go from sneaking in to peeking win. Thus I took a look at who were the hottest teams in the West entering the 2015 MLS postseason. The teams that will meet in the playoffs have changed considerably since March’s First Kick. The transfer window was the last time significant changes were made to the playoff combatants’ rosters, so I choose it as the start date for my sample. The window closed August 6th, so I looked at all Western Conference playoff-eligible teams games from that date on.

This isn’t a perfect sample, as some teams only played 9 games (LA) some 13 (SKC, SJC), one 11( DAL) though most played 10. Additionally, Seattle’s first game in this window was against L.A. who employed all 3 (4?) DPs as Dos Santos joined Gerard and Keane against a DP-less Sounders squad. Deuce, Oba, Ozzie, Valdez, Ivanschitz, and Torres all missed the game. Of the newer signings, only Friberg played. He joined a midfield of Thomas, Rose, Neagle and Evans in a 4-2-1 that featured Chad Barrett as the lone striker. Thus this result was not indicative of the team Seattle would feature in the playoffs, but is included in the sample regardless. Warts and all, this was the frame I used and seemed most objective-ish.

#3 in the hood, G

#3 in the hood, G

Though Seattle is still whiteknuckle clinging to their playoff hopes, they have been the 3rd best team in the West since the window closed. They are 3rd in PPG, 3rd in GD, and tied for 3rd in wins. Considering San Jose is 2nd, 1st 1st in the above categories and probably won’t make the playoffs, Seattle is one of the two hottest teams going into the second season. Now we just need to take care of business at home Sunday against RSL.

 

Seattle Sounders at Houston Dynamo: Bold Prediction

The Seattle Sounders can clinch a postseason berth tomorrow at the Houston Dynamo. All three points in the Bayou City would finally put the summer slog behind us and allow the Sounders to focus on the ultimate prize, MLS Cup.

This match should be a gimme. I repeat, should. Houston has given Seattle trouble in the past, but those were the Dominic Kinnear days, back when this club had championship aspirations. With the coach returning to his former stomping grounds in San Jose, the Dynamo just aren’t very good. First-year coach Owen Coyle’s squad has bumbled through their season with a 1.28 ppg average. Their big offseason acquisition Erick “Cubo” Torres hasn’t been the goal-scoring robot (seewhatIdidthere) the Orange had hoped for.

Torres was supposed to be a coup for MLS. With the dissolution of Chivas USA, the league worked hard to ensure the striker stayed stateside and Houston signed him to a DP contract. It was rightly deserved as Cubo had scored 22 goals in 44 games, or a goal every other game (equal to Oba’s rate entering this season). However, due to loans to Chivas de Guadalajara and the Mexican U23s, Torres has played in just 10 games for the Dynamo. He’s started just twice and has an assist and a lone shot-on-goal during his tenure.

It would’ve been nice to beat up on Houston three times this season. Oh, the joys of the unbalanced schedule. When SKC and the Dynamo joined the Western Conference this offseason, MLS’s infamous schedule got wonkier. Where all Western clubs used to play their Western foes three times, now each plays a select group of three only twice. Houston (along with Dallas and RSL) is one of the opponents we play just twice. It’s nice to avoid a third game with redhot Dallas, but two more games against underwhelming squads would’ve been nice (I wonder what team only had to play L.A., SKC and us twice).

This schedule quirk shouldn’t matter much as the Sounders have been on a tear lately. They haven’t lost a league match since August, going 3-0-3, and have had a lovely two weeks off to rest the wounded. We should finally see a healthy Valdez, Friberg and Marshall complementing an ideal eleven.

Bold Prediction: The wildcard in this match is context. The Sounders know a win and puts them in, while Houston is essentially playing for pride. This dynamic could greatly affect the match

Technically Houston has not yet been eliminated, though their chance at the playoffs is mere mathematical ephemera. IF Houston won today AND next week at Vancouver AND BOTH San Jose and Portland lost their remaining games THEN Houston, Portland and San Jose would all be tied at 47 points. The first tiebreaker is wins, and all three would be tied with 13. The next tiebreaker is goal differential and Houston is currently tied with Portland at -4 and trails San Jose (currently at +3). THEREFORE Houston needs to win both games big, San Jose needs to loss its final game big, and Portland just has to lose twice. Yeah, Houston is still in the playoffs but… no.

With a healthy Seattle squad playing for a berth to extend their playoff streak to 7 straight years and Houston bumbling down the wire, the win is an easy one. 3-1, Sounders.

 

USMNT Loses Again: #Jurgenout

The USMNT lost again last night.  An international friendly was the scene of the team’s latest embarrassment, 1-nil to Costa Rica. The Stars and Stripes are in more than a funk, and coach Jurgen Klinsmann is to blame.

Sure,the match wasn’t meaningful in a competitive measure and the Yanks only started a B+ lineup, but the state of the men’s game is now in full-blown panic. Many national sport writers are joining me on the #Jurgenout bandwagon. Starting with the lead up to Brazil and going into this weekend’s game, I’ve consistently expressed my supreme lack of faith in Klinsmann.

Jurgen Klinsmann is a snake oil salesman. He sells a shiny, positive vision of a dominant soccer team equipped with advanced metrics, technology and a psychological edge. He never delivers. He failed to do so at Bayern and now US Soccer. US Soccer President Sunil Gulati is so mesmerized by Jurgen’s pitch that he claims Saturday’s result has no bearing on Klinsmann’s job security. Normally back-to-back failures of this magnitude, the Gold Cup and CONCACAF Cup, gets your butt fired, just ask Bob Bradley.

Bob Bradley had an identical coaching record to Klinsmann in World Cups: 1-1-1 in the Group and an extra time loss in the Round of 16. Both played defensive, reactive styles of soccer and both lost the following year’s Gold Cup. Somehow Jurgen is still employed (and Bradley lost the Gold Cup to Mexico and still took silver, he didn’t bow out to a middling Jamaica squad and then finish fourth after squandering the 3rd place game.).

Jurgen Klinsmann is not only is failing win silverware, but is also wasteing a bumper crop of US soccer talent. Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones, Fabian Johnson and Jozy Altidore (hell, even Landon Donovan) were in-prime studs last summer. The US sent its, arguably, best squad to a World Cup and did worse than an over-achieving 2002 team, and equal to a not-quite-ready-for-primetime 2010 team. Unless the young guns like DeAndre Yedlin, Julian Green and company can really develop, it may be a while before we see a team as strong as 2014’s. And we have nothing to show for it.

Jurgen is also bad for his players physically and mentally. His affinity for “cutting-edge conditioning techniques” runs his teams ragged. As a Sounders fan, it’s obvious that Dempsey always comes back from USMNT duty a spent man. Even when we were a joke of a footballing nation, never once was the USMNT’s fitness questioned. But in light of allegations of harsh pre-competition training camps, the USMNT now tuckers out late in games.

We are establishing a habit of conceding late goals for the first time in its history. Saturday night’s loss, which was somehow close despite the run of play, is a testament to this. Before the end of regulation, Jermaine Jones and Fabian Johnson looked gas.

Mexico’s late goals can be attributed to both payers’ tired legs and sloppy defending. Johnson was directly responsible for Mexico’s second goal (Peralta beating Guzan to the opposite post). He had been leggy for a long while and, despite doing his best to play through it, but he couldn’t keep up. Jermaine Jones’s sloppy tackle gave El Tri the freekick in the 117th minute that started the sequence that clinched the game. Jurgen has yet to take responsibility for this unsettling tiring trend, and instead blames the US soccer culture or his players directly.

Jurgen is a narcissistic napoleon who plays mind games with his players. He’s already shattered the confidence of Omar Gonzalez, insulted Dempsey and Bradley, and now he’s throwing Fabian Johnson under the bus. Johnson took himself out of the game in extra time (see above, the man was cashed). Jurgen challenged him for doing so and kicked him out of USMNT camp. These are not the actions of a measured leader, let alone a competent coach.

We lost the Gold Cup. We won’t compete in the 2017 Confederations Cup. And yet… there is still time to get the ship righted before Russia 2018. #Jurgenout.

 

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