Month – October 2016

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps: Bold Prediction

The Seattle Sounders lucked out Saturday night as the MLS Western Conference decided to roll out the red carpet. The Sounders now have a clear path to the playoffs and may even host in the knockout round.

Portland, Sporting Kansas City, L.A. and RSL all lost last night. The Timbers, hoping to nip our heels, fell 1-nil at Colorado, and SKC, the team directly above the Sounders, fell 3-1 to the redhot Revolution in New England. The icing on the cake was that RSL, once upon a seemingly untouchable at 4th in the West, fell 2-1 to San Jose. After these three results, Seattle not only seemingly has the playoffs on lock, but could potentially leapfrog all the way to 4th place.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-2-41-39-amNot too long ago, Seattle sat mired in 9th place in the West. Back then, San Jose and Seattle were competing to see which cellar dweller could leverage their games in hand and mount a push for the red line. On August 12th, the Quakes were on a torrid pace, unbeaten in 5 games while taking 9 points. We sat behind San Jose’s 31 points with 27, but had had just started to turn our season around as well, with three straight results.

Of course you make your own luck and Seattle has been on a tear lately. Since August 12th, Seattle’s taken 14 points from 7 matches while San Jose has gotten merely 6 from 8. Now we’re firmly in control of our playoff destiny, while San Jose has to settle for morale victories like last night’s.

Cliché disclaimer: none of these results matter if Seattle doesn’t take care of business today at BC Place. Though Seattle is looking primed to pounce, we haven’t clinched anything yet. A big win today in our last Cascadia derby could all but punch our ticket to the postseason.

Bold Prediction: Wow. It feels good to be boldly proclaiming again. Frankly, today’s game won’t be pretty. Nico Lodeiro is suspended due to yellow card accumulation meaning Seattle will employ only a half a DP (sorry Valdez). So even with J-Mo smooth tearing up the league, our attack will be stifled. Thankfully Vancouver has been atrocious lately, with only 5 points in their last 9 games while being shut out 6 times. The ‘Caps did manage 3 goals in 3-3 draw with Colorado last week, but hopefully that is just a fluke.

I see Seattle, tired from fixture congestion and often stymied by our neighbors to the north, settling for a 1-1 draw. J-Mo strikes again and has his eyes firmly on Cyle Larin’s rookie record.

Seattle Sounders Brave New World

In direct inverse to the 2016 Seattle Sounders, Raving Green, the little blog that could, winds down not with a bang but a whimper.

This blog has been shuffling off to obsolescence these past months. Outside of the Copa America tournament, I’ve written little since April. Aforementioned reasons for putting the blog on the back burner: a basement remodel and new job, both of which were necessitated by my wife and I welcoming our own little Sounders fan into the family, August Bryan Knudson Schaeffer (and believe me, she is a cutie in her Rave Green onesie).

But sadly, I only have few weeks left to write about the 2016 season. In my last Sounders-specific post, waaay back on April 19th, Seattle had just beat the Philadelphia Union 2-1. That got their record up to 2-3-1, a modest 7 points in 6 games but, more importantly, Jordan Morris scored his first MLS goal in that game.

J-Mo. He’s so hot right now.

Though Seattle was enjoying a mini run of 3 straight results with that win against Philly, things would fall apart. Seattle would lose 9 of its next 14 games, culminating in Sigi’s Waterloo at SKC. But what a world the Sounders were in back then. Look at their lineup:

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-08-amWe were still playing a 4-3-3. Oalex Anderson started. Sheesh.

Though some things stayed the same. Here’s the lineup that beat L.A. in L.A.

screen-shot-2016-10-01-at-12-31-42-amIn my April post, I noticed that J-Mo up top opened our offense, especially with Ivanschitz playing wide. That combo is now interim coach Brian Schmetzer’s default (of course with a certain Uruguayan pulling the strings in the center of the pitch).

Back in that post I wondered how the 2016 Sounders would fare and wrote: The key to surviving the marathon MLS season is: health, depth, and focus. Depth and focus, I’ll write about later.

Seattle’s health hasn’t been great. We don’t have too many names on the injury list (KNOCK ON WOOD!), with only Evans nursing a nagging knock (and he should play against Vancouver) and Aaron Kovar out since July (Kovar, sadly, still hasn’t seen the pitch yet. For a long time he was my favorite whipping boy. Whenever I saw him in the lineup I puked a little in my mouth. But in this, the season of our discontent, when he was called upon, Kovar produced. I was really starting to enjoy his development when he broke his clavicle in the Open Cup loss to L.A. Pouring one out), one big name is injured.

Clint Dempsey was the king of Seattle soccer. While scoring a brace in downing the hated Timbers, he capped three straight wins for the reborn Sounders and all looked good in the world. Then, completely unexpectedly, the man’s health took a frightening turn and his 2016 season is over. Missing Deuce hurts. Though aging and curmudgeonly, Deuce is simply the best field player the U.S. has ever produced. The man just scores goals. You don’t replace him. Period. We dropped our first points (and suffered our first loss) of the Schmetzer era without Deuce in the lineup.

If you had told me back on April 19th that we’d be above the redline for the very first time this season, but wouldn’t have Dempsey to close the year, I’d be anxious. Recent run of form aside, I still am anxious. Sure we won our last 3 games. But outside of the miracle in Carson, we only have two gritty 1-0 wins over underwhelming Vancouver and Chicago. Even with J-Mo and Lodeiro, how potent can our attack be?

Whether or not we make the playoffs, whether or not we survive the MLS marathon, we must earn results without Deuce. Hell, we may never see him in Rave Green again. Welcome to the brave new world of Seattle Sounders soccer.

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