I wasn’t worried about this game. That’s what I said in my abbreviated preview post. I still wasn’t worried about it in the minutes leading up to the second goal. The Sounders had chances most of the night. Good chances. Chances that didn’t find their way into the net.
(seriously, there’s no reason to bring Scott into the box for corners anymore. He scored his goal for the year.)
What I took away from this game is that the squad is tired. Like, just beat. I mean, either that or someone threw 30lbs of Dr. Scholls in everyone’s cleats, because linking play in contested areas was impossible, and few crosses came close to their mark. And that isn’t surprising. I mean, they’ve only had one Wednesday off for, what… more than a month? I’ve probably had more Wednesdays off in that time frame, and I don’t GET days off. And I don’t spend my job running 2 hr marathons.
So really, it’s the same theme from the Vancouver match (which we tied, and which was still awesome) and the Salt Lake fixture (which FUCK Salt Lake). At a certain point, this team’s depth couldn’t keep up with the number of minutes it was playing. It was probably the worst time to lose Patrick Ianni, because we could have really used him today (either subbing in for Parke or playing for Hurtado, allowing Man Marker to spell Johannson, who is now hurt). The depth has… failed is a strong word, but i’m going to go with that for now… FAILED this team when it was needed most, and as of right now the health of even the four projected “starters” for Saturday against Chivas (Burch, Hurtado, Parke, Scott) is questionable. And there’s not a lot that can be done about it.
Thankfully, the squad only has two more fixtures before a two week break (TWO WEEK BREAK? WHAT THE HELL MLS SCHEDULERS?!?!?) There’s a game against a seemingly sneaky Chivas squad, and the first open cup match with old USL foes Atlanta. I feel like Duran has to get some minutes in one of these games. Right now, I could see us losing both.
But really, how is it that we can be talking about a two week break directly after a leg-melting stretch of nine games in a month+2 days (Of which Parke has played every minute so far)? Was it really impossible to schedule, say, the Dallas match a week from this coming Wednesday? I mean, no wonder the league was scared of adding two additional matches to the calendar this year, keeping a balanced schedule. Their planning crew is clearly a group of complete morons. (Unless there’s something I’m missing, in which case I invite the peanut gallery to chime in).
Sorry folks, I’ve been AFK for the better part of the week, which isn’t really a good excuse for my lack of posts (I swear I’ll get to the Whitecaps match, I DO!). I’m about to leave for the Crew match so I don’t have a lot of time to make fun of them, but I’ll do my best.
Hrm, okay. Sigi’s exes aren’t really all that threatening in 2012. The breakup has left them with a pile of used black and yellow kleenex sitting on their exposed stomachs, while their calls are returned with six-goal games (often including hat tricks). It’s rather one-sided, a remarkable flip from what was a top team only a short time ago.
This game doesn’t scare me. The Sounders should dominate, hopefully to the point that they can give Parke some time off. I’d like to see Duran come in and at least get some minutes, if not the start. There’s no better time for players to get the day off.
That’s really all I want to write about this match right now. Between helping a friend clean his house for a move, watching the Mariners be generally awful (COME ON MILLWOOD, SUCK A LITTLE LONGER SO WE CAN CUT YOU!) and the Thunder marching along through the playoffs (THANK YOU FOR WINNING ONE LAKERS), not to mention preparing myself for this little road trip up into enemy territory that I’m making today, I’m a bit tired. So there aren’t any lineups. Expect something close to full strength minus Leo Gonzalez, Brad Evans, and Michael Gspurning.
Vancouver should be similar, though they did play in their four-team Canadian championship tournament on Wednesday, tieing 1-1 on a stoppage time strike from Hassli (remember him?).Speaking of which, today will be Seattle’s first look at the new BC Place (which, contrary to what seems to be popular opinion around the league, is no more “soccer specific” than Centurylink is).
Some of us may take this game for granted. It’ll be a glorified home game (sounds like Seattle will be invading Canada again this year) and our guys finally got a full week off. Sounds easy right?
Vancouver’s defense has been pretty darn stingy in it’s own right this season, and while they haven’t scored in the expected bunches, Hassli is clearly beginning to heat up. And Seattle knows what a hot Hassli is like. Frankly, if the Sounders win this one, it’ll be their best win of the season.
Here’s hoping Montero responds to this game the way he did to Cascadia matches last year, with a pair of braces. It’s been a while since they’ve lost on the road as well. Cascadia Cup defense starts now. Here’s hoping for another sweep.
The Sounders lost their second game of the 2012 season last weekend against Real Salt Lake. Although they no longer sit atop the power rankings, the sky did not fall and they are still leading the table in points per match. But now it’s all eyes forward to first edition of the 2012 Cascadia Cup. In 2011, the Sounders secured the Cascadia Cup in their only visit to Vancouver. This year, they look to start their defense in the first of two trips to BC Place.
Although Vancouver had some moments in 2011, their performance on the field can only be called a failure. After just one win by the end of May, the Whitecaps made the decision to fire manager Teitur Thordson and appoint Tom Soehn as interim manager. But even a coaching change couldn’t improve the results dramatically. With just six wins on the entire season, the Whitecaps finished tied with New England for fewest points in MLS.
That was the 2011 version of the Vancouver Whitecaps. However, the Sounders will be facing a vastly improved Vancouver side. Martin Rennie has facilitated a drastic turnaround from the expansion squad of last year. While Thordson lead the team to just one in his entire tenure, Vancouver has already won five games. Remarkably, Vancouver sits in fourth place in the Western Conference in both the standard table and the points per match table.
So is this version of the Whitecaps for real? There are probably two answer to that question. The 2012 Whitecaps are much better than their 2011 counterparts. However, it doesn’t appear that they will challenge the teams at the top of the Western Conference table. While the Sounders, San Jose, and Real Salt Lake are all sporting significantly positive goal differentials, the Whitecaps have actually conceded one more goal than they’ve scored.
That being said, the reason for their success in 2012 comes down to defense. In 2011, the Whitecaps were giving up 1.62 goals against average. Only Toronto conceded more goals than Vancouver in 2011. In 2012 the Whitecaps are allowing just 1.1 goals against average—an improvement of more than half a goal per game. From the second-worst defense in 2011, the Whitecaps are now boasting the sixth best in 2012.
Unfortunately for our neighbors to the north, the offense isn’t similarly improved. In 2011, the Whitecaps mustered a dismal 1.03 GFA. In 2012 they are showing virtually identical numbers as they are averaging just one goal per game. The Whitecaps continue to have difficultly putting the ball in the back of the net. As the Sounders defense is currently the best in the league, I don’t expect Vancouver to break out of this slump on Saturday.
Additionally, the Whitecaps played a midweek game against Toronto in the Canadian Championship—drawing at one goal apiece. While Vancouver rested Davide Chiumiento and Eric Hassli, only bringing them on midway through the second half, others such as Jay Demerit and Sebastian Le Toux went the full ninety minutes. So for the first time in what seems forever, Seattle may be the fresher team heading into its clash on Saturday.
While Vancouver is an improved team, I’m looking for Seattle to rebound against a team that is still trying to find its form offensively. With a week of rest and a derby match to motivate them, I think Seattle will get back on track on Saturday.
The daily links at The Seattle Times had another lovely article about our little club here in Southeast Alaska. It’ll be in the World Football edition of ESPN The Magazine in a few weeks.
If you had told me two weeks ago that the Sounders would win four of their next five, that they would be sitting in second place with games in hand, I would be ecstatic. We’re talking about the best start in Sounders (MLS) history, and even a few days ago I would have told you not only that I was happy with how the Sounders have performed, but that a loss to Salt Lake shouldn’t be disappointing.
So I’m not sure why I’ve spent all of Sunday so frustrated with how last night went. It’s probably not even fair for me to be frustrated. The team by and large played its ass off on Saturday. You didn’t need postgame quotes to see just how tired certain players on this team were. David Estrada was limping. Rosales’ passing wasn’t as pinpoint as it usually is. Nor were Burch’s crosses. Maybe Evans would have played if his hamstring hadn’t been subjected to the last few weeks of consecutive matches.
Poor Parke was gassed. I hate to say I called it, but the guy was hobbling like someone about to finish a marathon. Which, effectively, he was. He was in the starting lineup for EVERY SINGLE MATCH in this five game stretch. He played… let’s see… 90, 180, 270, 360… should have paid more attention to those skateboarding tricks… 450 MINUTES! Now that I think about it, I can’t recall anyone managing a 270 degree spin. I WONDER WHY. (/sarcasm) And despite the number of minutes he played, he still huffed it into attacking positions when it was relevant to do so. Parke was a warrior in this game, and it’s a shame the scoreline didn’t reflect the effort he and his teammates put into it.
And the worst part was that there was nothing that could be done about it. Patrick Ianni was out with back spasms, and while Andrew Duran made his first 18 this week, it’s hard to know if he could have played up to the standards of even a suffering Parke.
A seat mate remarked some time after the goal that Salt Lake may very well have been playing Seattle’s fitness. The Royals bunkered in for the majority of the first half, notably passing back and forth waiting for Seattle to try to challenge for the ball. Then, in the second half, they struck, and went back into their bunker.
I don’t want to take anything away from Espindola’s goal. As much as I dislike the guy, it was a good shot. It could have been covered by a defensive player, but Meredith didn’t have much of a chance once it was in the air.
That back line of Salt Lake gives me fits. If there was a duo of centerbacks in this league that I’d prefer over Parke and Hurtado, it would likely be Olave and Borchers. They nearly eliminate the aerial attack, and with Beckerman in front of them, don’t allow anything significant through the middle either.
I haven’t watched the recap yet. I’m not sure if I will. And if I do, I’ll probably realize that the referee wasn’t as radioactively random as I believed he was in real time. That he wasn’t truly as bipolar as he seemed. But Geiger was as frustrating to watch as just about anyone that has reffed a game at home in some time. Did he affect the result? I don’t know. Probably not. Almost certainly not. But on days like this I like to think it was his fault. It makes me feel better.
So now, while the Sounders have come out to a great start to this season, they have also lost to their two biggest competitors in the west. Unlike past years, we’ll have multiple opportunities for revenge (how’s that for finding a silver lining in the new schedule?). But perhaps the reason why I’m frustrated is that we haven’t beat what would be perceived as a top flight team in 2012. They’ve feasted on the bad teams this year. They handled the decent ones. But in three games against the top three teams in each conference, they are 0-2-1. And as much as this is a loss we should be able to shake off, it’s lingering right now.
There’s still room for optimism though, especially concerning the Supporters Shield. Kansas City lost this weekend. San Jose tied, and have a game in hand. Salt lake is only four points up on us with 3 additional games played. As it stands today, the Sounders should be the favorites for the shield. I’m just becoming afraid of these big, high-pressure games. It has been a while since Seattle won one.
Above all, I blame this loss on one thing: I have a friend who, unbeknownst to me, was in attendance last night. This friend has been to four games, three of which were 1-0 losses and one which was the tie versus Portland last year (he wasn’t at his seat…er…stand… when Seattle scored). He’s clearly cursing the squad, and I apologize to all involved for ever introducing him to the team. I will do my best to make sure he never attends again.
Wow, I really didn’t want to write about this game. At least I thought I didn’t. But I ended up writing a thesis on it. Oh well.
The Emerald City takes on The Mormon City (too easy?) on an unnaturally nice day in Seattle. Both teams will be at a disadvantage as they try to fight the giant yellow ball of death in the sky.
Coming out of the mid-week matches with Dallas and Chicago respectively, it looked like each side might be able to field their full starting XI’s in this match, with relative health. But as the week has gone on, the injury picture has become more and more clouded (ironic on a day like today) as players’ health has been put into question or dismissed entirely. The most concerning news for Sounders fans is that the Honey Badger, thought to just be taking a day off on Wednesday, might be DOUBTFUL for today’s match. (Sounder at Heart)
On the other end of things, Salt Lake’s Morales is listed as questionable, which mitigates but doesn’t eliminate the possible absence of Alonso. Nick Rimando aka “The Short Bastard” is probable, so we won’t have a reserve-on-reserve GK situation, nor will we have two starters. Anarchy.
This is the final match of a five-game stretch, which is a relief because there are a few guys that need rest, and a few more that are surely looking to nurse some injuries. Parke ran his butt off covering for Scott against Dallas, after playing 90 minutes the previous Saturday. He won’t get any relief today, as Patrick Ianni had an MRI to check on his bad back. Between a winded Parke and a benched Alonso (not to mention a possible Gonzalez start, not always a master of Salt Lake’s offense) I don’t expect the Sounders to keep a clean sheet in this one. Thankfully, our forwards are getting hot at the right time, and the Royals didn’t rest many starters in their midweek game. There should be some openings even in what is typically a pretty stingy defense on their end.
This is the biggest game of Seattle’s short season. It could be a bellwether of the current roster’s resolve and ability. If they win this one, they should be the consensus team-to-beat in this young MLS season. If not… well… depends on the ref we have tonight
BTW, if anyone actually reads this thing, I’d love to meet you. I sit in 128 row V seat 5 and will be at the March to the Match. Come say hi!
Roughly two weeks ago, I sat in front of my computer monitor looking at Seattle’s schedule over the following two weeks. in front of me, I saw a schedule that threw five games at the Sounders in fifteen days, one of the most congested stretches in our short MLS history. My feeling at the time was that simply coming out on the other end of May 12th with a result in each match would be a win, especially if the club got through without any serious injuries. If someone had told me that day that Sounders FC would head to Vancouver next week with ten points more than they had previously, I would have said “awesome, right on schedule”.
The road trip is now four-fifths of the way through, and the Rave Green have collected all 12 points, with a game remaining. That remaining match is against the west-leading Real Salt Lake, who are looking pretty good with their 23 points total. Over 12 games.
Seattle has 22 points in nine matches. I am a notorious braggart, but right now I could be the Dalai Lama sitting here in my green shorts and Xbox kit and I’d still be telling you Seattle is the class of the league right now. Which, you know, is probably what the Dalai Lama is doing at this moment. A guy with that much free time has to have a subscription to MLS Live.
But as high as the Sounders are riding right now, this day-after could have easily been… not as sweet as it is right now. Because as banged up as FC Dallas is, as many red cards as they’ve sustained, they gave Seattle everything they were worth for 45+ minutes. Like Selina Kyle in that “Dark Knight Rises” trailer, FC Dallas was a storm for the yacht-boating Sounders to weather. Time after time, Fabian Castillo managed to get behind the ninth Sounders lineup in their nine games this year. Zach Scott, who in previous matches against the non-red Bulls has been a kryptonite for Brek Shea, couldn’t handle Castillo’s speed and ball-handling (hah). And it wasn’t just Castillo. The Hoops ran circles around Jeff Parke and crew for most of the first half. Seattle had a single worthwhile attempt on goal, a Rosales incident right in front of the end line that I’m still not sure how to label; as a great pair of saves or a poor pair of shots.
But lucky for Seattle’s back line, we learned that Bryan Meredith had not simply been a product of a solid defense and defensive scheme in his previous three halves of shutout ball. Unlike the match against Philadelphia, Meredith was tested early and often, both on routine saves and one HOLY CRAP HOW THE HELL DID HE GET HIS HAND ON THAT I THINK I JUST POOPED MY PANTS save. That one save that I singled out in the previous sentence was so good that it got on Sportscenter. Not even Fredy Montero’s 35 yarder from last week got on Sportscenter. I’m pretty sure the last time anything Seattle was seen on Sportscenter was the Beastquake.
I’m also confident that when the team saw that, they suddenly believed that it was Kasey Keller in goal, and not a second-year keeper making his second start in MLS (silly players, they should have seen that bald behemoth up in the press box!) because after that save, the visitors finally started to wake up a little bit. Dallas could have easily been up 1-0 or 2-0 at this point in the game, but Meredith’s stop made the defense feel unstoppable again. (Even though Scott still wasn’t getting a handle on Castillo)
The rest of the story goes like this: Seattle subs on Montero, Dallas’ backups BURN themselves out trying to keep up with Seattle’s speed, and when Cordell Cato came in, the Cows/Steer/Beef couldn’t keep up anymore. Like farm animals trying to wade through Puget Sound, Dallas players were tripping over themselves trying to make one good pass. It almost seemed inevitable when Montero pulled off that sweet little move in the box to beat two defenders. Those legs looked awfully heavy.
- I can only assume Hyndman, knowing his side wasn’t fielding many starters, wanted to try to score early and hope they could bunker to keep Seattle off the board. Without Shea in the starting lineup, it was probably a smart tactical decision. But when the first half came and went with goose eggs on the board, their fate was sealed. Much has been made of Seattle’s depth, but perhaps not enough. They only had five projected front-line players in the lineup and still pulled out a solid win. They’ve given first minutes to three players over the last three games, and rested key starters. It hasn’t mattered. Between Cato, Andy Rose, Alex Caskey, and Meredith, (not to mention the “seven starters” on the defensive line) it’s becoming clear just how interchangeable Seattle’s pieces are.
- Speaking of Cato, I’ve been privately chatting with Jason about getting him minutes. The Trinidad and Tobago transfer’s tangibles have sounded fascinating to me since we first signed him, and he showed what he was all about against Dallas. SPEED, SPEED, and more SPEED. The guy loves speed so much we may need to check him into rehab. Okay, that was terrible. Not doing that one again. Maybe. Regardless, I think we’ll see more of him in the Open Cup and Champions League, and it’s a fun prospect.
- I was pretty surprised that Mauro Rosales got minutes at all in the match, let alone a whole half. He’s going to be an important piece against Salt Lake if the Sounders are going to finish their two week conquest, so you’d think they want him at his best (especially considering the MLSsoccer.com article about how he’s still in pain). For Jehovah’s sake, they even sat Osvaldo Alonso for this match. I think it has been about two or three years since he spent an entire game on the bench. Still, Rosales looked fine on the field, and had a couple of dangerous plays (though it sure would have been nice to see that ball sitting in the back of the net like in my swimming days.)
- That tsunami known as Fredy Montero has reached shore and is rapidly moving inland. My hope is that it doesn’t peter out just before the playoffs the way it has the last two years. If there is a singular, uniting reason that I can point to and say “this is why we didn’t move on to the next round those years” it’d be because Fredy had stopped scoring about a month earlier. He’s going to score more than 15 times this year. I just hope that he saves a few of those in his back pocket for November and December (jeez, the playoffs this year are going to be COLD).
- Jeff Parke deserves a rest against Salt Lake. I still consider him part of the first team, and I think we need our starting XI against Salt Lake, but he ran himself ragged backing up Scott on the right flank. Everyone has bad games, but Scott looked like a USL player for close to 90 minutes. Ianni and Hurtado have proved they play well together, and I assume that the former is healthy enough finally to get after it. I’m just slightly worried about Hurtado, who is going to have some serious mileage on those tires of his.
- I wish I had super-awesome cool video editing skills, because I’d love to edit Meredith’s save into Montero’s goal from last week. It was in roughly the same spot, and would just look epic. Though I wonder if it would have a butterfly effect… You know, Montero doesn’t score in that game, so his confidence isn’t as high in Dallas, so he doesn’t score twice, leading to one point instead of two, and the collapse of the season. The past is fragile, and we must be careful altering it…
- The starting group against Salt Lake should look something like this:
I’m not sure if they feel like Fernandez is healthy yet, but if he is, this would be a good time to have him back.
- I admit that I didn’t watch midfield positioning much in the first half (I was too busy covering my eyes and seeing Castillo nutmegging everyone I’ve ever cared for) but Sigi said in his postgame comments that Evans and Rose were playing too deep, giving Dallas lots of room to advance. Likewise, I didn’t notice how big an effect moving them forward in the second half made. But it makes me wonder why Servando Carrasco, who while no Alonso, is a reasonable facsimile, wasn’t in the starting lineup. It would have allowed the squad to run a more normalized formation, and Evans could have played his normal position. Carrasco was on the bench tonight, but I wonder if he might be in the doghouse right now.
Salt Lake is next, and it may be as big as any match Seattle plays this season. Win, and they have a chance to take the sole lead in points leaguewide, with the first Cascadia Cup match the following weekend. It’s a fun time to be a Sounder, folks.
Seattle goes for it’s fifth win in a row as they take on the Dallas Burn. Wait, what? No nickname? Well that’s awfully limiting for a literary genius like myself such as the children and maps. What were we talking about again?
Oh right. FC Dallas. So neither team is playing their ideal starting 11 tonight. Much like how last week Seattle fielded at fully reserve left side of the pitch, this week it’s the right that seems exposed. Typically it’s an automatic to pencil Alonso into the starting lineup, but as I predicted in a post last week (that’s right, seer in the house!) he needed to get some time off the field this week. He has played every Sounders minute this year, and we need him at full force against Salt Lake.
Clearly the Salt Lake match has been the focal point when creating this lineup. Six players from Saturday’s match against the Union are taking the starting 11, and only Meredith and Rosales will be expected to start in that game. Salt Lake, on the other hand, is starting a group similar to their best XI.
I should probably feel more urgent about this game. It’s Texas, and it’s Dallas, a historically strong team. Sure, they are playing a soft roster themselves (no Brek Shea is a plus) but the side has been about as good as Seattle the last few years, or so it has seemed. But for whatever reason, even with Alonso sitting, this feels like a game in which the Sounders should roll.
Look for Rosales and Johnson to link up a few times, and, Lord Fucito willing, a couple of those will go on early so Sigi can give a few minutes to Carrasco or, perhaps, Cordell Cato.