Seattle Sounders and Sartorial Asides: SJ at SEA

Seattle Sounders Matchday!!

So excited for today’s games for four reasons:

  • Early returns on the Sounders makes them out to be the class of the league.
  • The San Jose Earthquakes, their supporters AND management, are insufferable. I can’t wait to watch Oba, Deuce and Co. carve them up.
  • It’s the first game of the season I’m attending (my wife and I bought the Sea of Green half-season package)!
  • I get to rock my new Sounders gear.

So I realized obsession with sports-related clothing is bordering on neurosis. Something deep and atavistic about tribal affiliation and the mammal brain gets triggered when I don my Sounders gear. I become one of many, wearing our colors.

I got my authentic Pitch Black jersey with the 40th Anniversary patch for my birthday last Thanksgiving. Consequently I only got to wear it for one game, the anticlimactic second leg of the Western Conference Finals. Now I get to wear that awesome jersey again. I also bought a Rave Green Mariners 59/50 cap to match the Pitch Black ensemble. My old shale hat clashed with the Pitch Black, and I’m nothing if not sartorially-inspired.

Bold Prediction:

San Jose is getting better. I am impressed by the Earthquakes’ commitment to the re-boot, bye bye Bash Brothers hello Matias Perez Garcia. The Quakes started dumping players from the old system last season and the transition should be near complete as San Jose’s once and future coach Dominic Kinnear actually coaches soccer, not “tackle and flop.”

San Jose’s defense is… adequate, but goals will be hard to scratch out. Poacher extraordinaire Chris Wondolowski, the franchise’s long-time leading man, is quite the square peg in the new-look San Jose attack.

All that said, Seattle are leagues better than San Jose. The Quakes are in a transition and just don’t have the talent on the roster to put up much of a fight against the Boys in Famous Green. Seattle continues their hot start 2-0.

MLS: How Edgy Jerseys Work

The Sounders want to be an international brand. This is no secret. As Joe, Adrian et al. have proudly thumped their chests on this account. The recent decision to split business operations with the Seahawks is another step forward in establishing SSFC’s global identity. As GM Adrian Hanauer said, “we’ve have taken off the training wheels.”

Mike Gastineau, in his excellent Authentic Masterpiece, details the business decisions discussed by ownership at the advent of this iteration of the Sounders. Seattle Sounders FC very much want a unique identity. They want anyone, anywhere, to be able to recognize the Sounders when they play. That is why ownership chose an original aesthetic, so no casual fan sees a game in a crowded bar and asks, Is that Chelsea? is that Barca? Say what you will about the aesthetics of Seattle’s bright, out of the box, jersey. But Rave Green is unique among professional soccer clubs. And the Sounders have always doubled-down on bright with their third kits, that is until Pitch Black.

The unique jerseys are a marketing catalyst. They give Seattle a recruiting edge. Think of Boise’s blue field or Oregon’s space-age jerseys, the Sounders are looking for a similar recruiting edge

Quality in MLS, like college football, depends on recruiting. If you are a talented high school football player you have a multiplicity of options, 242 NCAA Division 1 football teams from Notre Dame to Northern Colorado. So many teams and such a complicated hierarchy: FBS is better than FCS, and the (former) BCS conferences are better than the mid-majors, and the SEC is, supposedly, better than the Big 10, etc. etc. College football programs are not fungible. Of course the very best recruits want to go to the big boys: USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, etc. Though all the other programs still fight for the attention of those blue chippers.

How do the smaller fish compete with the bigs? Boise State University was a mid-major laboring away in the obscurity of southern Idaho until it hired a quality coach and committed to bettering the infrastructure of the program. Then they built a blue field, and the “smurf turf” skyrocketed that team. It was an obvious marketing ploy, almost a joke. But it got the program noticed. Every West Coast recruit rejected by UW or USC, knew that blue turf got you seen on ESPN. The turf, and its exposure and memorability, gave Boise State the ability to punch above its weight and leverage to target the same recruits as WSU or Oregon State.

Oregon was a solid Pac-10 team, slowly improving. Phil Knight threw money at the school, and the team unveiled their space age uniforms. Who didn’t want to wear those jerseys with neon razor blade wings, and high-tech helmets? Eugene became a football destination and the Ducks took off. Granted they had Mike Bellotti and Autzen, then Chip Kelly, but their branding tool, the uniforms, gave Oregon their recruiting edge. Talented soccer players face a much trickier pickle.

Remember Miguel Cubero? The Panamanian player the Sounders allegedly were signing back in preseason? Rumors flew that Cubero was deciding between MLS and the Eredivisie (the Dutch league). At the time, Panamanians and Herediano fans were disappointed that he was “only signing” with MLS. Roberto Chen was another young player we liked, but he chose Liga MX (Malaga) over MLS (the Sounders). Seattle, all of MLS frankly, needs every recruiting advantage possible. If you’re a young and talented soccer player in the Western Hemisphere you want to go to Europe, maybe Mexico or Brazil. MLS is lower on the byzantine hierarchy of world soccer clubs, than Americans are used to. Our best teams still stumble in CONCACAF Champions League. We have to fight both our perception and the status quo. MLS is improving, but it is just now emerging from the bush leagues.

Make no mistake, Seattle is a mid-major. Seattle doesn’t have the beaches or metropolitan cachet like L.A. or N.Y., but we got those bright jerseys. A brand recognized on even the shakiest bootleg feed. As long as we continue to play pretty soccer, dominant soccer, they will come. The Aziras, and Fredys and Parsemains.

The Pitch Black kit is great, a complete reversal from Electricity and Super Cyan, but still eye-catching. Do I want an awesome old Sounders blue and white throwback from the NASL or A-League days? Hells yeah. But will a jersey that appeals to nostalgic Seattleites, be recognized in Martinique or Columbia? I want the Sounders to be the destination for every soccer aspirant in the Western Hemisphere (I know getting a little imperialist here). I want every kid in Bogotá or Havana who wants to be the next Fredy or Ozzie, to recognize that the Sounders are that American team who wears bright colors, and wins.


MLS: Lucky Jerseys

*Sorry for the late post Raving Readers. Crazy technical difficulties with my web hosting service. They promise me it will never happen again!”

The Sounders wore the Pitch Black kit while handling Montreal. I love the new jerseys, they are such a sharp look. But if the Sounders had lost in their inaugural unveiling, the vibe would’ve soured.

Superstition and sport go hand in hand. From the players to the fans everyone has an obsession they just know will see them through. For the fans, the intersection of superstition and aesthetics collides with “lucky” jerseys. I truly believe in lucky jerseys. I’m really into the aesthetics of professional sports uniforms, from the NFL and NBA to all ball caps and jerseys in general. But MLS is messing with me. I don’t feel the need to get a new Eagles jersey every season. However, I feel like a guileless victim of marketing with Seattle’s kits. I want a new Sounders jersey EVERY year. Last year’s Cascade Shale was sick, and Pitch Black is talking to me. I am gonna have to face it, I am addicted to kits. But the kits are only worth it if they bring the team good fortune on the pitch.

Super Cyan and me shared an emotional roller coaster. I found an authentic Super Cyan jersey at Marshall’s last year for $30. Authentic for $30! But it’s Super Cyan, I hate Super Cyan. I bought it as a joke to show my wife (intended to return it). But damn if I didn’t fall in love with that jersey. Maybe it was the collar (I like collared kits), or the cyan (I finally noticed it after always being distracted by the garish neon yellow). I even fell in love the yellow. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely HATED that jersey. I hated whenever we’d wear it, especially in all the poor results against the Timbers (that game in 2012, we lost 2-1 at Portland, when Boyd got all up in Fredy’s grill, that was atrocious).

I had somehow divorced my memories and initial reaction from the actual Super Cyan jersey. I couldn’t get enough of that jersey. I wore it often, but a funny thing happened on the way to the stadium. Whenever I wore that jersey the Sounders tanked. I wore it at the Kekutah Manneh coming out party last year against Vancouver. I wore it when they wore at Portland last October (Dempsey’s broken collarbone, Ozzie losing his head, Zakuani hitting the crossbar!!!). But I didn’t blame the jersey. The last straw was two weeks ago against TFC. I was rocking Super Cyan in the first half, but switched to a long-sleeved Cascade Shale in the second half (we won the second half 1-0). I will forever blame Super Cyan.

Now I need a new lucky kit to go along with my classic Rave Green and Cascade Shale. Pitch Black is still out of my price range, and I always thought Electricity was vomit inducing, if still available. I’m an open-minded guy (or desperate), if I ever saw Electricity at Marshalls for $30, I wouldn’t hesitate. Or maybe I need to save my pennies for Pitch Black. Hey baby, undefeated in those kits!

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