Seattle Sounders Settle for Promise

Promise? We’re talking about promise?

The Seattle Sounders kept their CCL dreams alive beating Chivas 1-nil Wednesday night.

By all accounts, it was a solid win. Due to fatigue and injury, the Sounders shuffled out a motley eleven, and beat a Chivas side that brought a totally respectable (if not top-choice) lineup to the Emerald City. I never take a win over a Liga MX side for granted. And it was extra heartening to see such young players, Bwana, McCrary, Wingo, all show real promise.

However. I want to see Schmetzer trotting out promise in a gimme league game against San Jose or Minnesota. Blood the boys against chumps! I want to see Bwana “trying shit” and Wingo honing the touch on his cross in more low-stakes settings. But Chivas? You sign TAM players for these games. MLS invented the TAM line item to specifically compete with Liga MX teams and win CCL. Yet Seattle beat Santa Tecla and took a lead against Chivas with only one TAM player (Roman is still getting fit and played his first 90 minutes of 2018) Rodriguez, Leerdam, and Woolf all missed the match.

If I was the President of Soccer sitting in my Emerald Office, I’d be cursing the cruel fortune that had me trotting out a motley mix of vets and babies against an undisputed Super Club. Our lineup last week felt very MLS 1.5: one aging super star (Dempsey), one true DP (Nico), the rest a mix of promising prospects and at-or-around-replacement-level MLS vets. The terribly limited selection (we had Alex Roldan in the 18 for chrissakes!) is really the only reason we had to settle for a 1-0 win.

You read that right: Seattle “settled” for beating a Liga MX. It felt good, but let’s be real: Seattle needed a better home result. Winning away in CCL is hard, like gas station peanut brittle hard. Seattle can do it. We held Chivas without a precious road goal, so any result is a win for us. Even a loss could see us through if we get a goal. But MLS is infamous for going down to Mexico with a legitimate shot only to get blown off the pitch (sometimes I still wake up in the middle of the night shivering and mumbling Santos Laguna, two goals in the first ten minutes). Seattle must keep their cool and weather Chivas’s pride and pedigree. That’s a lot to ask from homegrown players making their second or third professional start.

Long story short: promise won’t be enough to see Seattle through to the semis. Yet Schmetzer should have Woolf available for the tilt in Guadalajara, plus Roman will be more fit. And maybe, just maybe, Rodriguez will be in the 18. If we can field some TAM players, like MLS intended, we got a real chance at knocking off a Liga MX Super Club. Our chances are, shall we say, promising?

Seattle Sounders 2018 Home Opener

Welcome to 2018 Seattle Sounders fans.

The home opener is finally here and we can wipe that nasty MLS-cup defeat from our brainpans. I am excited to whup expansion side LAFC in front of 50,000 screaming Rave Green faithful, if only because Seattle invented successful expansion (seewhatididthere?).

Yes. I still take massive pride in Seattle’s incredibly successful jump to MLS back in 2009. All that talk last year about Atlanta lapping Seattle as MLS’s darling debutante made me gag. We not only started hot, we kept blazing. To wit: Seattle has never missed the playoffs, has made the Conference Finals 4 of the last 6 years, and advanced to back-to-back MLS Cup appearances with one title (not mention all the US Open Cups and the Supporters’’ Shield).

Anyone who dares consider Chicago’s successful launch way back in baggy-jersey-skanky-mullet MLS 1.0, or the all-sizzle-no-steak Atlanta launch from last year knows nothing. Today’s matchup pits the best expansion team in MLS history against the latest.

So there is a wee bit of juice to today’s game. Chivas 2.0 (they’re even coached by Bob Bradley!) can pull a Loons and wallow in ineptitude for a while. Hey LA, come at the king, best not miss.


Meanwhile at Starfire: The 2018 Sounders are on a mission. They’ve already kicked of the CONCACAF Champion’s League by advancing past El Salvadorian side Santa Tecla and face Mexican giant CD Guadalajara (aka Chivas) Wednesday. Seattle punched their ticket to this continental party by winning MLS Cup way back in 2016. These chances, to compete against the very best in our region, don’t come around too often.

Despite the pomp and circumstance, today’s domestic league home opener is a distraction. We just played a rougher than expected series with Tecla. We walloped them Thursday night, but all the congestion, long travel and the loss of Jordan Morris are devastating to the early goings in MLS.

Look how Toronto fared against Columbus yesterday. They too had to squeeze their MLS opener in between CCL fixtures, and they were embarrassed. TFC, allegedly with the best depth in the league, had less travel (Colorado), an easier opponent (again, Colorado) and still flopped in their MLS opener due to fatigue. Seattle hopes for a better result today, without compromising their chances Wednesday.

A very, very beatable Chivas team is coming to Sodo Wednesday night. Yes, they are one of our region’s unquestioned Super Clubs. Yes, Chivas have quality and pedigree and salary. But, they are mired in the LIGA MX cellar right now, and just fought for a home draw yesterday against archrival Club America. Chivas can’t take any league games for granted, and could very well send a b-side to Seattle.

BOLD PREDICTION: I want to beat Chivas on Wednesday way more than I care about LAFC today. For the optics and the ceremony, I hope the Sounders get a W to kick off their MLS campaign. But today’s game is not as clutch as Wednesday’s. And I think Schmetzer knows it. Seattle 1-1.

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.


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!


Seattle Sounders Bow Out of CCL at Azteca

Not their most inspiring performance, as the Seattle Sounders fell 3-1 to Club America. Lordy I hate when I predict these losses (though I feel duty-bound by the code of bloggers to do my damnedest to boldly predict), and thus Seattle’s shot at CCL glory ends at 5-3 on aggregate in storied Estadio Azteca. Ugh.

You have to tip your hat to America, they are a fine tuned soccer machine. After fighting and scrapping to stay level, we took first blood. We had popped Goliath and could take command of the game, but America responded definitively. They pushed the ball upfield at lighting speed and clinically finished. Again. Their ability to quickly transition is the difference between Liga MX and MLS. America was quicksilver last night. Their last goal, Aguilar crossing past three defenders and Andrade one-timing it past the keeper?, sheesh. Tip your cap and move along.

And so the 2015/16 CCL campaign ends with a whimper for the boys. Though I am grateful we got this far. In the middle of The Drought last summer, in a helluva dogfight in our group, we were not guaranteed to advance. We persevered and earned this #1 vs #8 matchup. We acquitted ourselves well, putting three up on a powerhouse and keeping the scorelines respectable. We had the best showing of any of the MSL sides, a draw and a loss, with goals in both games. And hell, it was great to play at Azteca, one of the churches of American soccer.

Quick takes:

  • Jordan Morris looked kind a like a player to get excited about. He was fast and smart and on the whole, very goal dangerous.
  • Dempsey was effectively taken out of the game. Bogged by three America defenders, he had no time to create.
  • Ozzie is back baby!! He was destroying the midfield and cycling the attack with 95% passing. If only he can stay healthy into November.
  • Friberg didn’t have his best night, some heavy touches and a lack of vision at times.
  • Sigi seems damned and determined to rotate Kovar in regularly. This is a big ask of the young gun and we’ll see in 2016 if he is ready for prime time.

The Sounders now have no more distractions before kicking off the MSL season against SKC Sunday night in primetime. See you on the terraces.


Seattle Sounders at Club America: Reach for New Heights

The Seattle Sounders play at historic Estadio Azteca tonight in the final leg of their quarterfinal series with Liga MX titan Club America.

Last week’s 2-2 draw, through a hellluva thrilling game, puts us in quite the pickle. As Sigi said, win and we’re through. But winning at Azteca is hard.

Estadio Azteca, the only stadium to host two World Cup Finals, is the 3rd largest in the world. It swells to nearly 100,000 passionate fans who support their clubs with “gusto.” Outside magazine explored the unique experience of playing at Azteca back in 2012 after the USMNT’s first win there:

Azteca’s fans have been know to launch beers, bags of vomit, and ziplocs of urine at players. For their own safety, Mexican police routinely escort American fans out of the stadium. It’s rare for American broadcasters to leave Azteca not covered in alcohol.

Aside from the psychological and emotional toll of playing in such a crucible comes the physical crush of playing at altitude. At an elevation of 7,349 feet, Estadio Azteca tests the fittest athletes. Us Americans crow about Denver and Mile High Stadium at its mere altitude of 5,280. Azteca is up another 2,000 feet and the increase starts to make an exponential difference. Again from Outside:

As anyone who’s ever gone from sea level to a couple thousand feet up knows, it’s kind of a shocking adjustment. It’s harder to get oxygen into your lungs, making it harder to breathe and even harder to catch your breath. And that’s when you’re just walking around, not playing a high-level soccer game for an hour-and-a-half.

It takes about a week to acclimatize to high altitude, getting over any initial illness/shock. And that’s usually the most training-time visiting teams get before playing. But it requires something like 104-times that to actually get to your regular-functioning level.

“It takes usually about two years of living in altitude to become accustomed to it,” Baysden said, “while the Mexican athletes don’t know any different.” Real, scientific home-field advantage.

I have spent time in Peru at high altitude. Cusco and Puno are at the absurd elevations of 11,152 feet and 12,556 feet, respectively. My first time in Cusco, I was not acclimated at all, flying straight form Lima’s sea-level to the Incan capital and the first few days I was wrecked: pounding headaches, insomnia, heaving. I was much better on my second visit and even Puno didn’t bother me, though Mrs. Raving Green was laid out in bed and even needed an oxygen machine (though she looked so cute with the little plastic nose tubes). Hiking in Arequipa, at 7,740 feet elevation, comparable to Azteca, kicked my butt. I can barely begin to understand how difficult it will be for a preseason-form Seattle to go the full 90.

Long story short: The Sounders are in for a doozy.

Bold Prediction: Bad news here, Club America is looking to field a much stronger lineup than what we saw in Sodo. Starting Keeper Moises Munoz is getting healthy and aDario Benedetto is finally healthy and could replace Quintero up top. And even though assists master Rubens Sambueza dislocated his shoulder, he may very well go too.

Last week was probably the only CCL Knockout game in Sodo for 5 years. I was in the stands back in April 2013 for the semifinals against Santos Laguna, and since we didn’t qualify for CCL Group Stage last season, the next time we could play in the knockout round is 2018. That’s why despite tangling with this dreaded forever cold, I attended last week’s game. If you live in Seattle and have caught the upper-respiratory-and-general-feeling-like-crappiness bug, I empathize. But throbbing congestion and all, I wasn’t missing a CCL Knockout game. The chances at Knockout games are few and far between for parity-riddled MLS clubs, even one as consistent as Seattle. Unfortunately, the ride ends here.

It is huge for this club just to play at Azteca. We are further composing the legend of the Sounders with matches like tonight’s. We do not need a victory, just a respectable showing. Do I want a victory? Sure, but realistically… I see a 3-1 America win with Dempsey scoring another set piece poem. The Rave Green playing well at Azteca is huge for this club as it continue its ascent as a power in the Americas.

Seattle Sounders Draw Club America

Well that could’ve been better for your Seattle Sounders. Playing to a 2-2 home draw with Club America has dealt a hefty blow to our CCL hopes.

Being honest, we shouldn’t have expected to dominate this matchup for all the reasons I laid out yesterday: new team, preseason form, etc. etc. But like Sigi said, “you’re in it to win it.” Tigres could’ve happened again last night (and hell it still could at Azteca), but we need to play much, much better. I don’t know if seven days is enough for our boys to work the kinks out.

All the context and excuses of “where we are in our season” and “despite our fitness” tell the truth: we aren’t good enough a team to win, yet. The Sounders looked great last night. Our set pieces were lethal. Our defense held shape, mostly, against a very talented attacking squad, and we possessed the ball effectively (outside of the last ten minutes when we were gassed and America played keep-away). Hell, we won possession 54% – 46%. Against America, that’s’ damn impressive

But the new squad needs to practice more. Sigi mentioned this many times postgame when discussing the two goals conceded, “That’s cohesion and learning, okay, who’s this guy gonna cover” and “It’s us just acclimating. It’s more games, those situations don’t occur enough in practice per se.”

The new guys need to learn to play together. Brad Evans and Sigi not so subtly laid the blame for the first goal at Joevin Jones’s feet, for pushing up too far though there were less than 90 seconds left in the half. Though he was chiefly responsible for America’s first goal, for the most part Jones impressed. He has pace and is a solid 1v1 defender.

Jordan Morris sometimes flashed as the player we’ve seen in red, white and blue, but at times underwhelmed. He had a heavy touch and wasn’t always seeing the game. Last night was his first professional game. Ever. This isn’t coming on late for the Yanks in a friendly or trouncing Oregon State in Palo Alto. This is Quintero and Peralta and the bullies of the continent. I plan on writing a longer piece on Morris soon, but hopefully the butterflies soon settle.

Maybe we have to kiss our CCL hopes good bye, but if this team keeps developing, MLS better watch out.


Alright Raving Green fans, I am getting back in the saddle again. I’ll be officially launching the third season of the blog on Monday the 29th. Aside form the America game, I’ll have preview articles leading up to First Kick against Sporting Kansas City. So stay tuned and get ready for another year of idiosyncratic insight from yours truly.

Club America at Seattle Sounders: CCL Quarterfinal Preview

Finally Seattle Sounders soccer is here. The Sounders kick off 2016 against Club America tonight in the CCL quarterfinals in Sodo.

Finally a game that means something, not a swim meet in L.A., or a kick-about in Tucson. This one is at home and matters.

Sure, I’d love to knock off America and make a run in CCL this year (especially considering we’re out of CCL, again, this season), but this is super a tough matchup. America is good. Scary good.

Surviving our difficult draw in the Group Stage got us seeded 8th and thus going against the Bullies of North America. America is a team that just two months ago played in the Club World Cup. Luckily America is off to a rocky start in league play, going 3-3-1, with injuries and suspensions.

Sigi is going into this matchup clear-eyed, saying, “The most important thing for sure is to keep a clean sheet. If we can go down there not having given up an away goal here I think that’s important for our team.” Play to win, but play for a clean sheet above all. Against a team as dynamic and experienced as America, this is sound logic.

Sigi’s been lambasted for this seemingly cynical tactic before, as his record in two-legged series might indicate, but let’s be honest. We are the 8 seed, they are the 1. They are 7 games in and we are playing our first with a wildly turned-over roster. Minimizing goals scored, especially away-goals, is key.

This game is still an opportunity for the Sounders to learn to play together. If this was our first match of 2015, where we returned 10 of 11 starters (and Mears for Yedlin wasn’t exactly a step down in quality) to a Supporters’ Shield-winning side, I’d be hung-ho for taking the game to America.

But 2016 sees a whole new team in Rave Green: 50% turnover in the starting field players and a new formation that, due to Oba’s sudden departure, is still congealing.

BOLD PREDICTION: America takes it easy in leg one. Their recent red cards allow Peralta and Qunitero to play ‘cause they can’t go this weekend, but with injuries and a mediocre start to their season, I don’t see a crazy push by America to travel a tough squad 2800 miles for Tuesday-nighter in the Northwest. America respects this competition and expects to advance, but they’ll look forward to a big win at home.

Seattle should select a top-choice lineup, if only to better integrate the players. A+ lineups are not a given in the CCL knockout round, as Sigi has fielded some odd rosters before. Remember Shalrie Joseph, Alex Caskey and Sammy Ochoa starting against Santos in 2013? Unfortunately I do.

Seattle will score goals. Deuce, JMo-Smooth, Valdez and Ivanschitz have the Hydra roaring, but defense is key in this matchup and we fall short. Miscommunications from a team still gelling allow America to take one home. Sounders 2-1.

Seattle Sounders to Face Club America in CONCACAF Champions League

The Seattle Sounders will face Liga MX titan Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals.

The Sounders have never faced stiffer competition in the CCL. Club America is arguably THE bully of North American soccer. They are the most decorated team in the most prestigious league in our region. America has won 16 league titles and 9 international titles (most of any CONCACAF side). They’ve competed in the Club World Cup and, as current CCL champs, will compete again this December in Japan. Seattle must literally beat the best to be the best.

For the Sounders to become an internationally renown soccer club, they need to start consistently beating the bullies. In the 2012/2013 CCL, we qualified for the knockout as the 3 seed, having earned all 12 points with a +7 goal differential in group play. We were “rewarded” with a matchup against the #6 seed Tigres, the 2011 Liga MX Aperatura champion and then table-toppers. Magic and history ensued and we advanced to the CCL semis. 2011/2012 wasn’t seeded, but rather drawn and we drew Santos Laguna who destroyed us in the quarterfinals. In 2010/2011, we got pounded in the group stage, going 1-5-0 with a -5 GD, and didn’t advance. The Sounders have consistently advanced one step closer to the final every time they compete in CCL.

Is the year we make the final? Honestly, probably not. But being able to go toe-to-toe with America at Estadio Azteca will be awesome. Ties like these are the small steps necessary to international soccer relevance. And we should be better next year. A more integrated and rested team will do wonders for our form. Ivanschitz, Valdez, Oba and Deuce all bring international experience to the club and will have a better understanding of each other as Sounders. Unfortunately, Torres won’t be back yet from his recovery. And of course, the offseason will bring turnover.

The Sounders have had an unfortunate break from CCL play, and will only MLC Cup can qualify us for next year. So let’s pound RSL this Sunday and rip through the playoff bracket. Stay greedy, Seattle


Roll On Seattle Sounders, Roll On!

The Seattle Sounders whupped the Vancouver Whitecaps 3-nil again last night. Again, something was at stake and Seattle rose to the challenge. Seattle has once again punched their ticket to tilt with the big boys of North American soccer.

The ‘Caps are Shield potentials and Western Conference leaders and Seattle just smacked them around to the tune of 6-0 aggregate over 4 days. Dayum. Remember that march to the sea we dreamed of? Maybe it’s already stared. Furthermore, in the food chain of Cascadian soccer clubs Seattle is the Whopper and Portland is the Whopper Jr. So does that make Vancouver chicken fingers?

A seismic shift is taking place in MLS. Seattle is dethroning pretenders, pillaging silverware and ascending to their rightful place in the soccer hierarchy.

Vancouver Whitecaps at Seattle Sounders: CONCACAF Champions League

It’s deja vu all over again! Today the Seattle Sounders play the Vancouver Whitecaps in another pivotal match. Just four days after capturing the Cascadia Cup, Seattle will try to beat Vancouver for a ticket to the CCL knockout round.

The big leagues are at stake in Sodo. Any MLS team that fancies itself above the rank-and-file wants to make CCL, advance to the knockout round, beat a Liga MX team and, eventually, capture the crown. Seattle can continue their journey tonight. We win and we’re in. It’s that easy for us. We’d finish with 7 points in the group and advance,

Yes, the ‘Caps could still finish with 7 points (if they beat CD Olimpia in October). However the first tiebreaker is head-to-head points between the  tied teams. Even if both clubs got to 7, we’d have 4 points from our two matchups against their 1. Sigi Schmid put it succinctly recently after practice, “A loss or a tie doesn’t get us anywhere.” If both teams draw tonight, things get weird. We’d be out, but CD Olimpia would be very much alive. A win or draw by Vancouver in Tegucigalpa and the ‘Caps are through; Olimpia is through with a home win. Group F is far from settled, unless of course Seattle wins at home. How the coaches select their respective lineups will be very telling.

Both teams have domestic distractions that will limit their lineups. Vancouver is in the middle of thick fixture congestion and ‘Caps coach Carl Robinson said recently he’ll start the same youthful lineup he has through the previous 2 CCL games. Robinson also didn’t avoid the opportunity to get a little salty with Seattle, saying, “They’ve got a good strong squad and they’ve got depth. You look at their bench at the weekend. They’re bringing Valdez on, international player, 68 caps. We’re bringing Kianz on who’s played eight games.” Maybe the Vancouver coach is just jealous. Sigi, for his part, has been coy about who he’d start, only hinting, “It might not be all young guys, but it might be.” Let’s hope Sigi fields a B+ lineup and we continue to take them all.

BOLD PREDICTION: We have less wiggle-room than the ‘Caps who can play for a tie. I see Sigi sprinkling in some serious studs, at least in the 18 (Oba, Valdez, Ivanschitz). This is a home game and those tired legs won’t have to travel. And the ‘Caps are just happy to be in the CCL: Seattle wins 3-2, and advances.


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