MLS Cup

Happy New Year Seattle Sounders fans!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018, Seattle Sounders fans!

So… 2017 kinda sucked. Which is weird to say considering the Sounders were, unquestionably, the best team in the West, and roared through the playoffs before losing the Cup to a historically dominant opponent in TFC.

However. Seattle does not want to be a fine MLS club, they want to be a world-class soccer powerhouse. I just don’t know if they got closer to the TFC benchmark over the course of last season.

In fact, Toronto miiiight be the team that is apotheosizing into a superclub (though don’t get me started on that “domestic treble” crap. The Canadian Championship is a pale imitation of the US Open Cup. Seriously wiki it.  Seriously. Five teams compete for this ersatz “Cup” thing: Ottawa, Edmonton and the 3 MLS sides. I know it’s a wee country, but c’mon, calling this a treble is kind a joke. #iamnotbitter)

Regardless of whether the Sounders continue their ascent to the North American soccer stratosphere, 2018 is upon us. We are only 6 weeks and change away from the Sounders first game of 2018, the CCL match against Santa Tecla of EL Salvador (and doing well in that tournament is the next big Goliath to slay). Casting the narratives of the 2018 Season has also already begun: a new fullback, a cheesed off Ozzie, an intriguing new villain and Preki. Oh my.

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Big new changes are afoot here at Raving Green!

Posts will be few and far between during this offseason. I won’t be quietly waiting for the CCL to kick off, but rather am developing an overhaul of the site. I can no longer pretend I’ll ever get back to publishing six posts a week, so I am overthrowing the blog completely. Stay tuned!

Lastly, Happy New Years Sounders fans!

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Seattle Sounders Thoroughly Whupped by Toronto FC

Rumor has it, the Seattle Sounders were in Toronto on Saturday to play for the MLS Cup Championship. I tuned in but didn’t see any Sounders that I recognized*.

I can’t remember the last time the Sounders were so emphatically played off the pitch. There was not one single moment in that match were I felt the Sounders deserved to share the pitch with TFC. That was gross.

*Actually, Stefan Frei looked like Stefan Frei. And Leerdam looked like a rockstar. But that’s it, just two of 11 players played like they wanted to win. I know, I know, “wanted to win” is Neoplatonic bullcrap (and I don’t mean the ice cream), but it sure looked like that.

MLS CUP 2017: Seattle Sounders Apotheosis as a SuperClub

Happy MLS Cup Day Seattle Sounders fans!!

Your humble Seattle Sounders play world-beating Toronto FC today for MLS Cup. No big deal. I still can’t believe the Sounders are looking at a potential repeat. I repeat, your Seattle Sounders are on the precipice of becoming only the fourth team in MLS history to repeat as MLS Cup champions.

With only nine years in the league, consistent playoff wins, 4 US Open Cups, 1 Supporter Shield, and 1 MLS Cup, this simple appearance cements Seattle as an Alexi Lalas-approved SuperClub™.

However. How often do we discuss the 21st Century dominance of the Houston Dynamo? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Houston began play in 2006, converted from a failing San Jose franchise, and immediately won MLS Cup. Then they repeated. Then they made it to two more back-to-back MLS Cups and two more Western Conference Finals. From 2006 to 2013, 8 years, Houston had 4 MLS Cup appearances, 2 wins, and 2 more Western Conference Final appearances. That is, frankly, dominance. And yet… when the Dynamo reclaimed their perch and advanced to the Conference Finals, no one was scared or whispering about the rebirth of a bully. Their record had fast faded.

Seattle does not want that. Seattle wants, has always wanted, will always want, to be THE gold-standard of American soccer. They took their first step last year and can make a mighty leap today. Seattle must beat Toronto.

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Sure, Toronto is off to a historically great season in 2017. Sure, Toronto was the last team to beat us at home. Sure, we didn’t muster a single shot on goal in last year’s final. And back in early May, in TFC’s 1-0 win in Sodo, the Reds won on an Altidore PK. Toronto was down some key players, specifically Giovinco, while we trotted out Schmetzer’s stolid 4-2-3-1, the same formation we’ll use today. We fielded many of the same players, Nico, Roldan, Deuce, Svensson, Bruin, Joevin, Roman, Frei, that we’ll trust our fortunes with today. So… wowzer, Seattle shouldn’t have even took the flight to Lake Ontario.

However. Kelvin Leerdam wasn’t wearing Green in May. He is the player who will turn the game in Seattle’s favor today. I ardently believe that fullbacks define modern soccer. Mears and Jones saw Seattle through last year, as will Leerdam and Jones/Nouhou today. Leerdam has pace, intellect, instinct and 1v1 chops. Last year, Toronto pinned our fullbacks back with their effective duo of Morrow and Beitashour, and that will simply not happen today because of Leerdam.

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Frankly I give a lot of credit to the president of soccer for this. Garth Lagerwey arrived in Seattle to much fanfare, his name was all over the place. Lagerwey took much praise, and blame, for the #Sigiout situation and some missed signings. We debated whether the Ivanschitz and Valdez signings had his fingerprints on them. Lately, Mr. President has done a solid job of staying out of the spotlight, save for the missed Derlis signing, while rebuilding this team for a championship repeat.

Replace Mears as RB? Check. Leerdam.

Replace Friberg and get some depth at DM? Check. Svensson.

Replace Valdez at #9? Check. Bruin.

Replace Flacco and augment the attack? Check. Rodriguez.

Sign a likable Muppet-man to the team for quality depth? Check. Shipp.

Some of the best decisions are the ones you don’t make. Lagerwey kept his cool about Deuce’s career-threatening injury, and didn’t overpay a mercenary to fill a potentially non-existent hole. And even the hardline he took on the Derlis signing, not being cowed by Dynamo Kiev, was a huge signal to world football clubs that Seattle, over in little old MLS, will not be bullied.

But what I love best from Lagerwey is how Seattle has collected a slew of modern fullbacks in Leerdam, Jones and Nouhou. Sure Joevin is pulling a poor-man’s Yedlin and jumping across the pond, but that’s the cost of developing international-quality players at the modern game’s key position.

Lagerwey is the catalyst for Seattle pivoting from perennial playoff contender to once and future champions.

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BOLD PREDICTION: Mrs. Raving Green is stressing this game, but I am oddly confident.

Maybe not so oddly. Toronto is in a funk and had to battle through the East’s 6 and 5-seed to make the Final. Seattle is feeling it right now. Seattle is on a tear and destroyed the West’s 3 and 4-seed.

Last year I wrote, The Seattle Sounders have the sparkle of fortune about them as they prepare to square off against Toronto FC in Saturday’s MLS Cup. 2017, however, TFC has been destiny’s darling, and that simply isn’t enough. All the pressure is on the Reds. Seattle is in better form. Seattle 2-1 in extra time. Deuce equalizes to send the game past 90, and favorite son, J-Mo ices the game. SOUNDERS! ‘Tis the Season of joy!

Bold Prediction: Seattle Sounders vs. New York Red Bulls

Your MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders finally open at home, hosting the New York Red Bulls today in Sodo.

The Sounders want to celebrate last year’s Cup win in style: a large crowd, glorious tifo and finally bagging three big points. Being at 4 after 3 is way different than 2 or, god forbid, 1 after 3. Though we learned last year that early results don’t indicate late success, it still feels weird that the Sounders have yet to “click” this season. And today’s game won’t be cake.

New York are good. Jesse Marsch coaches a smart, aggressive team that always finds goals. He has averaged 1.7 ppg in his two years at the helm in New York, and also has a Supporter’s Shield, and 2 #1 finishes in the East on his resume. Unfortunately, he also has two playoff flameouts. Though Marsch is a solid coach, he hasn’t helped the Red Bulls shed their paper tiger reputation.

The Red Bulls are, arguably, fighting the same label Seattle did for years after their elevation to the top flight: as an ambitious, big money team that wins, but never when it matters. Seattle finally shed their label with last year’s championship; New York still only has bitter memories. Unlike Seattle, who moved from Sigi to Schmetzer to get off the schneid, the Red Bulls seem cursed.

Even before Marsch, Mike Petke coached NYRB to a Supporter’s Shield and an Eastern Conference Final, but after his seasons also ended with playoff whimpers, he was unceremoniously fired. We may want to see Seattle humming at full throttle again, but we know regular season success doesn’t mean squat. At least we’ve been to the mountain top.

Bold Prediction: New York’s decorated strikers exploit raw CB Tony Alfaro for some goals, but, with Bruin starting up top, the creative interchange between Nico, Deuce and J-Mo is on. Hydra is reborn, as Seattle smashes New York 3-2 in a thriller.

No Fluke: Seattle Sounders Rock the Crown

The Seattle Sounders get a take 2 to start their MLS Cup Championship defense tomorrow in frigid Montreal.

I am glad the away locker room was quiet and frustrated in Houston last week (I hoped to get a midweek post up but, much like our boys in Rave Green, I am starting the season slow). The Sounders lost a very winnable match and seem eager to get off the schneid and start rocking the crown with swagger.

Too much smack has been talked about the Sounders this past offseason. I am seriously done of reading about their “Fluke Win.” Honestly, Portland didn’t put up with this crap. Neither did Colorado or RSL on their miracle Cup runs.

The idea that absolute minnows can win MLS Cup, the stereotype being lobbed at Seattle, is a shaky premise. Maybe it was true, once upon a time, but MLS in 2017 is not the same animal as MLS in 2007. Let’s break this down a second. For the sake of argument, let’s start the “modern era” with 2009 (we’re all Sounders fans here).

The strongest argument for the minnow-to-champs theory is that an outta-nowhere RSL, then Colorado, won in ‘09 and ‘10. And that arguably, arguably!, that feat was just repeated by Portland and Seattle.

Back when RSL and Colorado won it all, Western sides could still go through the East’s bracket, and vice-versa. This dramatically unbalanced the already chaotic playoffs (see my previous post about Western dominance in the MLS Cup Championships).

However. For the most part, one of the best teams has won MSL Cup every year. A dominant L.A. owned the seasons between 10 and 15, with an equally strong SKC knocking off RSL in the only outlier. That RSL squad that came out of nowhere in 2009? They were a young team ascending that entrenched itself among the elite.

So only the Rapids truly came outta nowhere and returned to nowhere after their Cup win (though Dallas, the squad they beat, also came out of nowhere; to be fair, Dallas has a strong culture and academy and just needed a proven coach in Oscar Pareja to harness that potential). So with RSL identified as not a fluke champion, only Portland and Seattle remain under scrutiny.

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Expect more of this

Was Portland’s Cup a fluke win? Well…. as much as I want to say yes, the Timbers have been competitive since Caleb Porter brought Soccer For Dummies to Pee Town. Though in only 2013 were they an elite team, back when Porterball was new and the rest of the league hadn’t read the Sparknotes.’15 was their Cup year and ‘14 and ‘16 were their “just under the thin red line” years.

A quick aside: For those new to the site, I am a Philadelphia Eagles fan. Back in the ol’ heyday of Andy Reid, the Eagles were a team that positioned themselves as a perennially title contender. The Birds were regular NFC champs who went deep in the playoffs year after year, but could never cash in any of that success (ask Billy Beane and the Oakland A’s. All you can rally control is your positioning for the playoffs, after that it’s a crapshoot).

Portland has positioned themselves as merely a pesk in the West. You are who your record says you are, (to quote the Big Tuna) and Portland is regularly the 6th/7th-best team in the conference, always just within spitting distance of the playoffs. That is, to be fair, a formula that works in league like MLS. Portland seems content to buy a wildcard lottery ticket every season. As long as Porter has the Timbers close to the mix every season, all they need is a double-posted PK to become a serious threat.

The Sounders, on the other hand, are like those 2000s Eagles: a team built to perennially contend. Seattle regularly finishes close to the top of the West and wins silverware. Regardless of past seasons’ failures, Seattle was always considered a major contender in the West and for the Cup.

In reality, the odds just finally regressed to the mean. Last season was a “fluke win” as much as ’14, ’11 and ’12 were “fluke losses.” In those seasons the Sounders were legit contenders who unluckily stumbled in the playoffs. I see absolutely no reason why ’17 will be any different.

The Sounders will play well. The Sounders will finish near the top of the West. The Sounders will make noise in the playoffs. Will they win it all again. Who knows. It’s always a crapshoot.

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BOLD PREDICTION: Tomorrow in Montreal, inside a dome, the Sounders will draw 2-2. Last week’s showed the defense weaknesses yet at 100%, but the Sounders can and will score. Nico and Deuce continue to work together and we’re all in for a fun ride.

2017 Seattle Sounders: Let’s Get this Party Started

Happy New Year, Seattle Sounders fans! How’s it feel to support, unquestionably, the best team in MLS?

After a short layoff, and a lightning offseason, the Champs (I looove writing that) start their title defense tonight in Houston. And frankly: the sooner the better.

Though the Sounders finally claimed MLS Cup they’ve always sought, many are not considering Seattle as the best club in MLS. The trolls are out in force and writing Seattle off as flash-in-the-pan, paper champs. As Taylor Swift so aptly put it, “Haters gonna hate. Hate. Hate. Hate. Hate.”

The Sounders have always been hated, and when the ECS sings, “No one likes us, we don’t care,” they actually mean it. This hate of the Champs is everywhere from the paid talking heads to the neckbeards at message boards from SB Nation to MLS.com to ESPN FC. Though Seattle has been a perennial contender every year of their existence, their down-year-turned-championship-season is allegedly fuel for the “MLS is a terrible parity league” argument.

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The Dawn of a New Season

Last year may have been shaky, but don’t call it a comeback. The Sounders have been here for years. When we were winning Open Cups and demanding respect like a big boy, we were laughed at. When we won the Double in ‘14 and came thisclose to MLS Cup, we were shut down as whiners.

But oh how the tune changes when Seattle is the Johnny-Come-Lately who wins it all. It is like Seattle *invented* the wildcard to winner MLS parity model. Oh, the irony.

So, yeah. I am hungry to see Dempsey join the champs. I am hungry to see a full season of Nico and Deuce. I am hungry to see Jorstian Mordan continue to develop as two of the best young players in the league. I am hungry to see Stefan Frei finally get the respect he deserves as a top keeper in the league.

I am hungry. The first championship doesn’t change anything. Sounders ‘til I Die.

And, oh yeah:

BOLD PREDICTION: Like most, I am little in the dark here. Who knows who’s gonan win this matchup? In Houston, where we’ve never won, not even with Nico late last year, and a new lineup (hello Harry Shipp and Will Bruin, goodbye Ivanschitz and Nelson) against a first year coach who’s supposed to finally unleash Cubo Torres… I’ll be wild and say: Sounders win 2-1. ‘Cause that’s Sounders do, we beat the odds.

The City Can’t Hold Us: Seattle Sounders Rally

Today the city of Seattle celebrated the MLS Cup Champion Seattle Sounders. The ECS led a Sounders parade from Westlake to Seattle Center.

In the shadow of the Space Needle, reportedly 40,000 acolytes of the Rave Green cheered at the rally. It was a dream fulfilled.

Merry Christmas, Sounders fan.

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Seattle Celebrates the MLS Champion Sounders

The Seattle Sounders are rallying downtown to Seattle Center tomorrow. Seattle is a city of champions!

The parade starts at Westlake at 11am and the rally in Seattle Center at 12:30pm! Be there to cheer on the boys in Rave Green!!

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SEATTLE SOUNDERS MLS CUP CHAMPIONS!!!

Your Seattle Sounders are the 2016 MLS Cup Champions. I cannot believe I just typed that. Can’t believe it.

That was a game only a mother could love. After 120 minute of mostly hideous soccer, Seattle advanced on penalties. That’s right. Seattle got really lucky and frankly, it’s about damn time. As Richard Farley wrote:

[The Sounders] were good enough to lose out on another perverse tiebreaker two years ago, ending in the conference finals on the wrong end of away goals. They were on the wrong end in 2012, too, when a would-be fourth-straight Open Cup went to Sporting after penalty kicks. On Saturday, one of soccer’s insanities finally broke in Seattle’s favor.

PKs last year against Dallas. The Red Card Wedding. The Johannson hand ball in ‘12. That USOC Final. Remember all the times the ball just didn’t bounce our way? It finally did. Luck is on our side and we’ll take it, championship #1, and run.

Bold Prediction: MLS CUP Champion Seattle Sounders

The Seattle Sounders will beat Toronto FC today in the MLS Cup Final.

BOLD PREDICTION: My only real fear for this afternoon’s game is being overconfident. As has been discussed, Toronto has no defense, the Eastern Conference historically stinks, and the Sounders have the grit to see them through. All of this adds up, regardless of the Jozy/Giovinco/Bradley three-headed monster and home field advantage, to a resounding Sounders win.

Will Seattle keep the Reds, and their juggernaut offense, off the scoreboard… probably not. But will the Reds put 7 past us like they did against NYCFC and Montreal, hell no. Toronto was dependent on set-piece goals to dispatch the Impact, and there is no way they get multiple headers past the twin towers of Marshall and Torres. Plus Nico Lodeiro, Jordan Morris and Joevin Jones have the speed to exploit the suspect Toronto backline and Ozzie, injury or not, can bog Giovinco down.

Lastly, looking at the matchup from earlier this year, the rudderless mid-Summer Sounders went to BMO and got a result 1-1. Have the Reds greatly improved since that game. Meh. The Sounders of course, are on a meteoric rise. Sounders in a sloppy one 3-2. Champs, baby!

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