The Seattle Sounders kick off 2016 tomorrow against Sporting Kansas City, aka that other team we hate.
This match is cruel and unusual punishment from the MLS schedulers. 2016 already promises to be excruciating for Seattle fans. We must now accept the fact that the Portland Timbers are the current champions and will forever wear a star above their crest. Cripes. But this matchup forces us to remember shootouts, SKC and the ignoble end to the 2015 Playoffs.
It is a fact among the Sounders cognoscenti that Portland only advanced on a SKC fluke double post PK miss. Kansas City’s loss in the Knockout Round was a bizarre mirror of ours in the semis: late winners countered with even later equalizers and a cruel shootout. Both teams went through and incredible 11 shooters, the final being the goalies, and of course there was that insane double post.
The margin for victory in that game was infinitesimal for the Timbers, more so than our loss to Dallas. And yet that is the difference between the star above Portland’s crest and our continued odyssey. I hate Sporting. But I hate them even more because they couldn’t ice the Timbers on PKs.
SKC has always been disgustingly lucky in penalty shootouts. Just last year SKC won the US Open Cup against Philly after going through 8 shooters in a 6-7 shootout. And, of course, they beat us in a shootout for the 2012 Open Cup (remember: that shootout was tied at 2-2 after Gspurning stopped Nagamura’s attempt. Then Salazar inexplicably called Gspurning off his line and Nagamura buried his second shot and Eddie Johnsons skied his and…yeah) And SKC won their recent MSL Cup in a shootout against RSL, winning 7-6 and, again, went through 10 shooters.
This success in shootouts has given SKC a claim as our only contemporary rival in Open Cup dominance and an MLS Cup. And yet…. when Seattle could’ve benefited most from SKC’s magic touch, it dried up and Portland went all the way.
Bold Prediction: SKC sold Krisztian Nemeth to Qatar, but reloaded in a major way. An already dominant midfield added a still dangerous Brad Davis and the incredibly underrated Justin Mapp. This midfield now includes Zusi, Feilhaber, Espinoza, Nagamura, Davis and Mapp. One more time: Brad Davis is 5th on the depth chart and Mapp 6th. That’s crazy
The Sporks will attempt to use this midfield control the game. Their backline is suspect and their attack is nigh non-existent. Their best striker behind perennial MVP candidate Dom Dwyer is Jacob Peterson. It made $sen$e to sell Nemeth, but sheesh. This team needs finishers.
Seattle may be without Friberg and thus we’ll cede even more agency in the middle third. I bet Sigi looks for more direct routes to goal. I see Deuce dropping more to join Ivanschitz springing key passes to Valdez and J-Mo Smooth. An Evans long ball or two to the strikers will work. We’ll have a solid D this season, but not yet. Sounders, 2-1.