Chad Barrett

The Seattle Sounders Play Ugly in Beautiful British Columbia

The Seattle Sounders fell one-nil to their Cascadia rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps. We are lucky as Sounders fans to support a team that can legitimately win lots of silverware this season: the US Open Cup, the Cascadia Cup, Supporters Shield and MLS Cup (and Hell, throw in that useless Heritage Cup as well). Losing doesn’t help any of those campaigns. Saturday was only our fourth loss this season and we’re gonna lose a couple, right? We don’t live a magical charmed existence where our favorite team never loses.

BUT… this loss hurt. It felt like we dropped more than just three points. We lost to a Western Conference foe. We lost to a Cascadia rival. According to my calculations, we dropped nine points: three in Cascadia, three in the Western Conference, and three in the Supporters’ Shield race). Maybe we’re all getting a little greedy here, but the team looked bad in defeat.

Seattle played ugly. It was the first game in a long time where the Sounders were clearly the thugs. We fouled the ‘Caps 21 times to their 12. 21-12, let that sink in. Though at times I felt we couldn’t fart near a blue shirt or referee Baldomero Toldeo would whip out the whistle, the Sounders were moonlighting as cheap shot artists up in BC. Even with a ref picking nits, doubling your opponent’s fouls is poor form.

Chad Barrett went the full ninety for the first time all season, but didn’t drape himself in glory. He didn’t catch up the critical eye of coach Sigi Schmid, but I was disappointed in Barrett’s play. Sure he was pesky, but he was rarely dangerous. Worse he kept losing his cool and giving up needless fouls. At least four times Toledo blew his whistle, Barrett walked away huffy ‘cause he knew he pulled a cheap shot. He was frustrated, sure, but stopping the play and ceding free kicks in no way to chase the game.

The most frustrating part of Saturday was that our usual studs were duds. Kenny Cooper, like Sigi said, was a non-factor. Sigi also criticized Lamar Neagle, who disappeared for large portions of the first half. Then Neagle came out after the break playing like the 253 we know and love. Unfortunately he took a hard knock and had to come out. I didn’t realize at the time how much that might’ve changed the game. We ended up not fielding any forwards, Cooper, Barrett, Neagle or Weaver, dangerous enough to win us the game.

Vancouver keeper David Ousted didn’t sweat all night. Our only two promising shots, Neagle’s scorcher right after the break and Marco Pappa looking for the top corner at the death, both missed the mark. Our attackers did a crap job of making Ousted earn his beer money. Seattle took just as many shots as Vancouver, 17. But only one of ours was on target as opposed to the ‘Caps who pumped seven at Stefan Frei. We forced Ousted to make only one save?! I know Cooper and Barrett aren’t Dempsey and Oba. And I know not having a legitimate threat like Oba allows teams to shut down Barrett and Neagle. But these guys, with or without a DP next to them, should still know to kick the ball at the net.

Another problem was our inability to win duels in the midfield. The ‘Caps smoked us 64%-55% in duels won. Normally I don’t put much credence in that stat, but taken within the context of missing both Ozzie Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda, the stat tells the story. Michael Azira did his best filling in, but Azira isn’t Ozzie. He started sloppy but, I was impressed, he did eventually find the game. I have not been a big Azira fan, but he acquitted himself admirably. Captain Brad Evans also was solid in the middle. But Evans in the middle put Jalil Anibaba at rightback. Anibaba was serviceable, he did nothing wrong, he just wasn’t very useful in the attack. He pushed forward but couldn’t execute a solid cross.

Deep breathe. Let’s focus on the positive and practice gratitude. Marco Pappa was all over the field. That man had hustle and flair. He is a quality footballer and I am proud he wears the Rave Green. Chad Marshall was a rock, as always. Tristan Bowen, finally getting minutes and looking like a demolition man, was a pleasant surprise. Lastly, Stefan Frei came up with HUGE saves. The Whitecaps made him work and he had a solid job at the office. Frei kept us in this game, and it’s a shame we didn’t steal a result to reward him.

****

Big week this week. Portland week. Two games and they’re both huge. Also you may have heard a little something about DeAndre Yedlin taking a Roman holiday… lots to talk about this week. Stay tuned Raving readers! Same Rave time, same Rave channel!

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps, Part Deux

The Seattle Sounders face the Vancouver Whitecaps today in a game that impacts much more than the MLS table. Put away your red, white and blue. Today we celebrate Cascadia, but despite the revelry, the Sounders have business to take care of. Seattle cannot, cannot, lose this game. Vancouver currently leads the Cascadia Cup standings with four points, followed by us with two and Portland with one lonely point. The Caps can take quite a commanding lead if they snatch all three points at home.

The Sounders need our support. MLS is back in full-swing and the Cascadia Cup rests for no man. But after giving my all to the Stars and Stripes throughout the World Cup, I am low on root juice. I need to confess, I wasn’t too invested in last week’s game at DC. It was only an Eastern Conferences foe and we had such a points cushion that if we had lost, c’est la vie. The win was a very pleasant surprise. But today a win would be absolutely incredible, and I’d be ecstatic with a draw.

I don’t want to say I expect a loss, but the unsettled midfield is frightening. Neither Osvaldo Alonso or Gonzalo Pineda are allowed to take the pitch due to yellow card accumulation. Alonso is absolutely the engine of the Seattle midfield, but Pineda has been vital as well. He does not grab your attention with crunching tackles or breathless passes, but he muscles around and threads key passes under the radar. Alonso and Pineda have been the Seattle central midfield in 2014, as they have only missed a combined 38 minutes this entire season.

Who the Sounders pencil into the midfield is a mystery, but whoever it is will be a drop in quality. Pineda and Alonso are Sigi’s first choice for a reason. Mr. Sounder Brad Evans would be the best replacement as he has boatloads (yacht loads?) of experience in the engine room. But with rising superstar DeAndre Yedlin just returning from Brazil, and Jalil Anibab covering the injured Djimi Traore at centerback, Evans remains our best option at rightback. This game would be perfect for Andy Rose. Rose has improved his play every year and was solid in his sparse time this season. Unfortunately he isn’t match fit as he’s currently recovering from knee surgery. Without clear options, Sigi will need to get mighty creative.

We have lauded our depth this year and today, in a crucial Cascadian Clash, it’ll be tested. Maybe we see David Estrada at rightback like we did in the Open Cup game against PSA Elite allowing Evans to play in midfield. I wouldn’t be surprised with a shocking roster move. Whoever we start, I’ll be nervous. We’re fielding a very, very different squad from usual and I just don’t know how quickly these eleven can gel and perform. Soccer is a game of improvisation and communication.

If I had to take a wild stab at the starting eleven (and let’s be honest, I get paid the big blogger bucks to do so), here’d be my best guess:

Frei

Gonzalez, Marshall, Scott, Anibaba

Pappa, Evans, Azira, Neagle.

Oba, Cooper

 

After all that hand wringing regarding the midfield, my toughest choice was at forward. I went with Kenny Cooper because he complements Obafemi Martins better. Chad Barrett has just been money lately, but… he is kind of a poor man’s Oba: a short, muscular forward who is both creative and pesky. Cooper looks like a target man but acts like a winger. He’ll operate wide of the box and draw attention before feeding the marauding Martins.

Bold Prediction: Is the lineup good enough to win? Yes. Vancouver has come out of the World Cup break ice cold after a solid start. That is one of the fears of the big break, would it kill momentum? The Sounders had the most to lose momentum-wise, but have used the Open Cup to stay sharp. Even a cross-country trip against the East-leading United didn’t slow them down. What’s a little lineup change? Sounders start shaky, but focus on defense and hold on for 1-1 draw.

Sporting Kansas City at Seattle Sounders: Deja Vu, Baby!

Chad Barrett entered a pantheon of surprising Sounders scoring at-the-death goals against SKC. After a wet and soggy ninety minutes, the Sounders had the game right where they wanted it. And yours truly was jumping around with the other 39,239 raving faithful on a rainy First Kick Saturday.

To celebrate Mrs. Ravinggreen’s birthday, we stood in the Seattle sunshine for three hours. We jumped, clapped, sang and cheered. I was quietly optimistic about our chances to win. But I was frankly more excited to see our new team gel. By the 90th minute, I was soaking wet, but content.

I was completely happy with the nil-nil draw. After the slaughterhouse Colorado and Vancouver games last year, I just relived with the new-look back five delivering a clean sheet. The new guys were performing well, especially Chad Marshall and Sean Okoli (wow!), and Dempsey was playing some meaningful minutes. All was good at the Clink. Then Chad Barrett happened. A killer feed from Ozzie to Dempsey, then Deuce finds Okoli who crosses back to Dempsey who takes not one, but two strikes before Barrett stabs it home. And the crowd went wild. Wet and bedraggled and delirious, it was a helluva birthday present.

It was fun game for many reasons. One, we won. Two, we won. Three, I just love cheering against SKC. I hate them, especially Jimmy Nielsen, Aurelien Collin and Peter Vermes. Thank god Nielsen retired. Another bonus to today’s game was that I didn’t have to see his tongue. It just made me all sorts of crazy when he would get all squinty-eyed and tongue-waggy between the pipes.

Whenever a broadcaster says, Vermes molded his team into the type of player he was, I always think, Peter Vermes was somehow both a goon and a flopper? The “flopoon” or “goopper” is an oxymoron I still haven’t figured out. But like the flight of the bumblebee it is nature that defies reason. SKC is absolutely a team that will physically hack you to death (25 fouls!?) while also rolling around on the turf deserving Oscars. They are just easy to hate.

Of course it all goes back to the US Open Cup. But other than Jimmy Nielsen’s facial contortions, I don’t remember much else I was pissed at SKC about. My memory is fogged red with memories of referee Ricardo Salazar. Maybe all these at-the-death winners is our karmic retribution for stealing our would-have-been-history-making-fourth US Open Cup.

Did I mention how happy I am we won (and that Nielsen retired)?

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