The Dharma and the Gazelle: A Post of Prognostication, Lamentation, Transformation and Exhortation

I hate it when I am right.

Lots of sturm und drang this week. We lost a heartbreaker and we’re headed to Portland. I’m consoling myself with the fact that we’re off to a better start than last year. Plus you lose games sometimes, nobody wins them all. Perfection doesn’t guarantee a championship (ask the 2007 New England Patriots). Even the Seahawks lost a quarter of their games last year but that turned out fine. But to get done like that in extra time after a close call on the red card… that sucks. And Portland sucks.

We were winning up until the 60th minute. The red card/penalty changed the game, and Sigi always says, “goals change games.” We weathered the man deficit for half an hour and were resolute from the run of play for ninety minutes plus. We were “earning” the draw, until this happened. But did we “deserve” to lose? That is a tough question. Did we “deserve” to beat SKC? The dharma teaches us to divorce ourselves from the idea of deserve.

Overall, we played great. I’m not wringing my hands (like after the TFC debacle) saying, “gosh, X made a boneheaded mistake”, or “why we’d let Z happen.” We’ll learn from this. What will we learn? Don’t lose focus, and don’t make excuses. Our only real problem Saturday was not finishing in the first half. You’re not going to finish every shot. You’re not. But we need to do better. Neagle is beating himself up and I understand, anyone driven and competitive wants those goals. So many were thisclose. For some odd reason, we have a habit of making some keepers look good (hello Brad Knighton!). Tightening up our finishing is still a Seattle bugaboo. The Sounders are like a football team great between the twenties, but cursed with anemia in the red zone. It’s too bad there aren’t soccer field goals.

Andy Rose, unfortunately, didn’t play. His replacement, Michael Azira, looked competent, and, yes, I’m damning him with faint praise. Aside from some early game jitters, he wasn’t egregious in turnovers or bad decisions. He did engage in some crafty interplay with Oba, though he did often drift into others’ spaces in the midfield. In the balance, he just didn’t have a terribly significant impact on the game. During the sunny first half, I joked about practically playing a man down, what with Azira being a non-factor on the pitch. Har de har. None of this is fair to Azira. After Barrett’s wonder goal, Okoli’s flashy debut and Pineda’s stellar starts, he has quite the precedent to overcome.

On the sunny side, Cooper is a stud. My plus/minus study shows he is our biggest difference maker. Saturday, theory and practice worked in beautiful harmony. Cooper makes incredible runs, measured passes and booming shots. An absolute stud. My Portland friends warned me at his signing, “you’re not going to like Cooper. He plays small.” They are right, kind of. Despite his size, he is a poor target forward. Only an incompetent coach (Wherefore art though Spenny?) would force Cooper into positions where he wouldn’t succeed. Sigi found that Cooper is a stellar wide forward. Give him some space and he flourishes as the gazelle he thinks he is, and won’t flounder as the rhino others want him to be.

P.S. It’s Portland Week.

  • Mrs. Ravinggreen

    Ugh. This was a totally brutal game. As you know, I was feeling very optimistic, and that last-minute goal was a KILLER. But yes, I think they will learn from it. The lack of finishing (same problem as last year!!) does make me nervous, though — we aren’t going to get that many opportunities against PDX, I bet!

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