Seattle Reign

Seattle Sounders and Seattle Reign Representing Soccer’s American Hotbed

Happy Labor Day Seattle soccer fans!

This past weekend was a scrumptious feast (and, no, I am not talking about the grilled salmon you probably enjoyed over the holiday. Beeteedub, if you want killer salmon at a great price check out Dee’s Seafood on Hood Canal. My wife and I were out in Belfair and drove around the point past Union to the Skokomish Reservation. There you can get fresh caught Kings for $3.50 a pound. They’ll even head and gut ‘em for you. Delicious!) for soccer, as the Sounders won their second in a row, while the Reign held home court in the NWSL Championship game. Unfortunately, the Reign lost in a valiant effort.

First off, it was a pleasure following the Reign this season. My wife and I enjoyed every game we attended, loved the new digs at Memorial and savored the fun, attacking style coach Laura Harvey encouraged. Alas, despite the records and regular season dominance, this was not the Reign’s season. When they fell behind Kansas City 2-0 in the 56th minute, I was down but not disheartened. I truly saw the comeback in these guys, as the Reign have made a habit of living dangerously. But the clock kept ticking and a ball wasn’t going in the back of the net. I kept making deals with myself: they’ll get one back by the 70th, then it became, they got a real chance if they get one before the 75th, then OMG we need one by the 80th. Seattle still had a puncher’s chance when Megan Rapinoe scored in the 86th minute at the end of an insane sequence of shots and ricochets in the box. Alas and alack, it was not to be.

I honestly didn’t imagine a reality where the Reign lost this game. But Kansas City is a fine team and they proved it on the pitch. I’ve been backseat coaching all day thinking Laura Harvey could’ve subbed in Mariah Nogueira ealier. KC had a bigbodied backline and the Reign had trouble connecting on their crosses or finding space in the box. Nogueira immediately gave Seattle a back-to-the-goal holdup presence they needed. The offense had looked dangerous all day, but came alive after she entered the game (she came on in the 84th, Pinoe scored in the 85th, just saying). BUT… I am being ungrateful. Coach Laura Harvey treated all of Seattle to beuatiful, brillaint soccer this season. She assembled and coached a team that set a new standard in how the game can be played. Her team just wasn’t better today.

Lucky for us Seattleites, one of our teams looks to be getting better when it counts. The Sounders handled a feisty Colorado Rapids team Saturday afternoon. We all expected more of a rout, but Colorado perservered to make the final minutes pretty frickin’ nervy. The Sounders were the better team, as they got to field the exact same lineup from last weekened’s tilt with Portland. With health, luck and, especially, consistency, the Sounders should be well positioned to stay in the Supporters’ Shield driver seat. Three more points are waiting to be had when Seattle travels to Los Angeles to play lowly Chivas USA, winless in their last 7 (a game my wife and I will be traveling to attend!). Seattle has to keep winning the games they should to keep ahead of the surging Los Angeles Galaxy (who just destroyed the Goats 3-0) and steady D.C. United (who just beat NYRB 2-0). C’mon Seattle, let’s enjoy another 5 game winning streak! We’ll show everyone where soccer thrives in this country.

USMNT Hopes Germany Wins and Hope Solo Gets Arrested

The USMNT’s World Cup destiny is entangled with today’s Germany-Ghana game. The Yanks are cheering for Die Mannschaft to beat the Black Stars and knock them out of the tournament. Of course we still need to take care of our own business against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal tomorrow, but Germany can help us out by clearing some room at the top.

Not so Bold Prediction: The Ghana team manager has the squad running late to the match in Fortaleza due to a soiled timepiece. Germany cleans Ghana’s clock, 3-1.

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In other news, Hope Solo, keeper for the NWSL’s table-topping Seattle Reign, was arrested recently on two accounts of domestic violence.

Ugh. This hurts. The Reign’s stellar undefeated streak is under siege. Seattle is currently on an East Coast road trip while missing players due to international call-ups (Solo included). The Reign persevered 2-nil against Boston on Thursday, but play a very difficult Western New York Flash on Sunday. The Reign are both classy and talented, and I wish them the best while weathering this storm.

Seattle Wins the Triple Crown

The Seattle Sounders, Reign and USMNT won the Triple Crown. Okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but on a day that California Chrome couldn’t deliver, your favorite soccer teams did.

On a gorgeous Seattle Saturday, I posted up at the George and Dragon with some visiting friends to watch the Stars and Stripes take down the Nigerian Super Eagles 2-1. Jozy Altidore finally looked like Jozy Altidore (funny how some players can go through cold streaks, but still deserve to be on the National Team), and the backline, though shaky, held firm in not conceding a single goal from the run of play. Though I’d have loved to see Brad Evans get the nod, Fabian Johnson continues to impress for the USMNT. He is solid with his defending, 1v1 and positionally, but his true contribution is adding dimension to the attack. Almost every goal scored goes through him. The Yanks are finally playing modern, fullbacks-keying-the-attack soccer. The only moment of concern came, when Captain America Clint Dempsey went down hard on a rough Nigerian challenge. Luckily, he popped up and looked none the worse for the wear. Though physicality and injuries were to be a theme for the day.

The Seattle Sounders beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 in their final match before the World Cup break. Mrs. Ravinggreen soon joined me on the patio, as my buddies ambled off to a different bar (to watch the hated Timbers!). After the final whistle for the Yanks, I quickly switched from red, white and blue to Rave Green and Cascade Shale.

We watched the oddest Sounders game I’ve seen in a while. It was a physical game with eight bookings (two reds) and 32 fouls (60% of which belonged to Chicago). No surprise considering Chicago coach Frank Yallop made his name as the goon maestro in San Jose for the last six years. The Sounders were looking like the superior team, and spurned Super Eagle Obafemi Martins played like a man possessed, scoring a brace. He scored a gorgeous goal on a twisiting pivot in the box before earning and nailing a penalty seven minutes later. The lovable but errant Jhon Kennedy Hurtado lived up to my expectations and saw red on the Martins foul.

Up two and with a man advantage, the Sounders looked ready to romp. Yet Rookie of the Year-candidate Harry Shipp scored a brace and showed his quality. After his first goal, everything went bonkers. Dave Clark was right, things just stopped make sense. All I know is, there was a melee in front of goal and, somehow, Martins was sent off. The teams went into the break even at 10-men with only a goal difference. Thankfully the Sounders continued to weather Chicago’s physicality and Lamar Neagle delivered the win.

Neale’s patience on the go-ahead goal was stellar. Everyone in the bar was screaming for him to one-time the deflected cross from Marco Pappa. Pappa delivered a gorgeous ball into the box that Kenny Cooper served up with his head. The ball ambled in a slow parabola towards Neagle at the far post, spinning in infinity. Neagle calmly let the ball bounce before tapping it once with his knee, as everyone at the pub is standing and screaming. The ball bounced once more off the grass before Neale whacked in a curling shot that the Chicago keeper was powerless to prevent. The bar erupted with joy and the surging Sounders have now taken 32 points in 15 games to stand alone atop the table.

After ordering some meaty refreshments, we settled in to watch the Seattle Reign continued their winning ways with another a stunning come-from-behind victory. The women of the Reign beat the Chicago Red Stars 3-1, in a game that was much closer than the box score indicates. The Red Stars seemed to be following their brother club’s penchant for physicality, as cards were handed out like candy at a parade. Captain Keelin Winters took a worrying blow early in the second half. She was woozy after the hit initially, and tried to keep playing before having to come out.

Two of Seattle’s goals were off penalty kicks. Both of which came off egregious fouls in the box. Sydney Leroux was seriously hit, almost like a defensiveless receiver crossing the flat in an NFL game. She, surprisingly, popped up and finished the game strong. She delivered, arguably, the most beautiful goal I have ever seen just before her hit. Superstar Kim Little found Leroux with space in the box and Leroux put the ball on an elevator, quickly up and quickly down, right into the back of the net. It was a thing of beauty on a beautiful soccer day. The wife and I settled the bill, stated on soccer.

The Seattle Reign Play Better Soccer Than the Sounders

Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd of the Western New York Flash did their marauding best to be the first to beat the Seattle Reign. But Seattle’s Jess Fishlock and Kim Little delivered brilliance and the Reign remained resolute, earning a 2-2 draw. Luckily, I was there to cheer the women on and witness a thrilling game. It was a back and forth affair featuring quality goals and late-game heroics, as the masterwork of Fishlock and Little, who is just a titan, kept the Reign’s incredible nine game unbeaten streak alive.

The two team’s featured different attacking styles. Sidereal, of Sounder at Heart, described the Flash as, “the Earthquakes of the NWSL.” The Flash’s attacking six players all towered over Seattle. They threw their bodies around and played boot and chase. Seattle stuck to their recipe of pin-point passing, possession and quality finishing. But the Reign, still missing international stars Nahomi Kawasumi and Megan Rapinoe, and reeling from their first draw against the emerging Kansas City FC, came out slow. The Flash made them pay when Wambach’s strike afforded the visitor’s the early lead. The Reign rebounded and shortly before the half Fishlock’s flying tap-in of a Stephanie Cox cross equalized the game (In fact, Cox impressed throughout. She readily joined the attack from her position as a fullback and her 1v1 defending was tight). In the second half, the Reign dominated. They played quick, attacking soccer, yet were behind after the seeming go-ahead goal was scored by Western New York off a monster set piece header from Lloyd. However, that was all preamble for Little to continue her torrid scoring pace and deliver a ice-cold strike from the top of the box late. It was impressive to see such a collection of world-class players sharing the pitch.

The Reign are an easy team to fall in love with. The above mentioned Fishlock, Little, Cox, Rapinoe and Kawasumi join Sydney Leroux, Hope Solo and Keelin Winters as absolute stars. They play fun, attacking soccer. I started watching the NWSL’s Youtube live streams and, despite the site’s many technical difficulties, I was impressed. The best soccer, regardless of gender, is being played in Seattle.  I had felt like a hypocrite. Shouldn’t a soccer loving, liberal, sensitive-new-age guy support the Reign as readily as the Sounders? But after watching the streams, I cared less about my purported politics and more about just seeing a quality, entertaining product. Seattle coach and GM Laura Harvey discussed this recently in an interview saying she wanted people to want to come, not they feel like they had to. She just earned one convert.

The Reign have yet to capture the hearts of the Emerald City. About 3,000 fans have been regularly filling Memorial Stadium, but on Sunday there was 4,000. Attendance had looked sparse on the streams, but in person feels impressive. But Seattle, Soccer City USA, can do better than 4,000.

The women’s game is at a crossroads. The current USWNT roster is chock full of charisma and quality, as much or more than in 1999. But professional leagues come and go. America has been on the vanguard of legitimizing the women’s game, but has witnessed numerous failed professional leagues. The only reason women’s soccer isn’t a run-away cultural phenomenon is because women play it. If the women’s game can’t succeed here, where can it? This current league, the NWSL is home to many excellent players and teams. Your Seattle Reign are so talented, they ought be embraced for the simple reason that excellence is worth notice.

Unfortunately, the NWSL is still fighting to its existence. The league’s existence is not guaranteed past the next Olympic/World Cup cycle. The National Soccer Federations of the USA, Canada and Mexico just found a funding model to prop up this league to keep their best players fit and in-form for the upcoming international competitions. The women’s game is such a rip-roaring success at those large competitions, but not at the club level. It seems our appetite for women’s soccer is sated twice every four years? ESPN is tentatively betting no. Just today it was announced that they signed a (very!) limited broadcast deal with the NWSL: three games in the remaining regular season and all three playoff games. Hopefully this seed investment pays dividends. If you love soccer, and hell, sport in general, go catch a Reign game. The NWSL is full of world-class players playing excellent soccer. If the women’s game can’t pick up now, when can it?

Seattle Sounders Linktacular: Calm After the Storm

I hope you all had a lovely Memorial Day Weekend.  While we barbecued and dozed, we were treated to a flurry of Seattle/soccer news: The Sounders drew the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Cascadia Cup derby, the NWSL’s Seattle Reign came back against Abby Wambach and the Western New York Flash to remain unbeaten, Captain Brad Evans and Landon “Don’t call me Landycakes” Donovan were snubbed by the cunning German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, Donovan had sweet vindication in setting the MLS goal record with 136 in a thrashing of the Philadelphia Union, and oh yeah, Real Madrid won the UEFA Champions League final.

Now it is the calm before the storm. The Sounders return to practice as they prepare for a monumental clash this weekend’s with unbeaten, and #2 in the West, Real Salt Lake. It’s still early, but after getting thrashed by New England, many fans will be hungry to see the Sounders prove their mettle against a top opponent. Today Jurgen and the Nats play Azerbaijan at some rickety stadium in San Mateo County as they tune up for the World Cup, which is barely two weeks away. Enjoy this breather, everything is about to start happening.

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