A staple of many a preseason camp is goal-setting. It taps into the competitive nature of athletes and coaches, to aspire and work toward targets, both for the individuals and the collective, the team.
They must be specific and measurable; within reason, but also just out of reach. To reach these goals will require more than before. Goal-setting asks us to give it everything we’ve got, and then some.
Entering a ninth season in MLS, Sounders FC is well into its adolescence. Whereas the formative years were filled with modest accomplishments – winning season series, making the playoffs – those benchmarks are now merely base camps for assault on the summit.
When he takes his place on the terra firma of BMO Field on Saturday night, the mission of Jordan Morris is to do whatever it takes for the Sounders to bring home the Anschutz Trophy.
Win the ball. Hold the ball. Connect. Cover and mark bigs on Reds set plays. Set-up or score a goal, all the better. But just win.
It would be Seattle’s first such championship in the top flight of North American soccer, and it would obviously hold extra special meaning to a Mercer Islander who grew up watching the boys in Rave. And given Puget Sound’s proclivity for producing top-class players, it would be a fantasy come true for fans, to see a homegrown lad lift MLS Cup.
If set to a soundtrack, the game is more suited to symphony than garage band. Fortunes can change quickly in soccer, but usually following a long, drawn-out build-up. Yet there are the exceptions, when the drumbeat does double-time and the cymbals crash repeatedly.
So it was on Sunday. Just when it was seeming Dallas and Seattle were destined to finish the first leg of their series in a scoreless stalemate, the Sounders came unleashed, attacking in fury and soon finding themselves as top dog in a pairing with the top side in MLS this season.
Interim (Really? Still?) coach Brian Schmetzer pondered in his postgame presser whether he’d ever witnessed anything quite like it, the succession of blows by Valdez, Lodeiro and, again, Lodeiro during an 8-minute span early in the second half.
Down through the years, Seattle certainly can claim its share of goal-scoring central defenders. Beginning with David Gillett driving home a corner kick in ’74 and renewed through Chad Marshall’s flick to the far corner versus Chicago, the big backline boys have often proven the difference between victory and defeat, at both ends of the pitch.
This year alone, three of Marshall’s four goals have translated to five additional points in an extremely tight playoff race. Time will tell the true importance of that header, although it wasn’t Marshall’s first big score. There was the late winner vs. Philly in ’14 and the added time strike at Dallas in the playoffs a year ago.
Whether in the opponent’s box or his own, Marshall’s works are textbook, efficient, clinical in application. As for center back goals, it’s doubtful he will ever deliver with the panache of Djimi Traore’s long-distance, aggregate equalizer against Tigres or Patrick Ianni’s sidewinder extraordinaire vs. Sporting KC.
Today it would be absurd, but once upon a time – actually, make it twice – the road to the Olympic Games ran through Seattle. Lured here under some extraordinary circumstances, U.S. Soccer sent its best team of the day to be road tested on a relatively narrow patch of plastic against some locals with much to prove.
Prior to both the 1972 and ’84 Summer Games, utilizing sheer will and a discretionary expense account, missionaries from the local footballing community convinced federation officials to make Northwest detours, essentially, for the good of the game. All right, so the second visit guarantee involved some wool blends, but more about that in a few paragraphs.
Of course nowadays Seattle would be a logical stop for a national team bound for a major tournament. Big, loud crowds and a beautiful stadium. A generation ago, both city and the sport were pariahs, and perhaps therein was the mutual appeal.
You couldn’t tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don’t ask).
There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn’t speak the language. But I’m pretty sure the ol’ man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain’t that always the case?
Since the height of Pelé’s reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football’s most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.
Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle’s new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.
As his father tells the story, Walter Schmetzer beckoned Alan Hinton to watch his vaunted Lake City Hawks to watch a player of promise. But it wasn’t his son.
Still, as is often the case when coaches scout young (in this case U18) players, the original target can be eclipsed by another aspirant sharing the field, and that’s how on spring day in 1980 Brian Schmetzer’s long association with Puget Sound professional soccer began.
Over 36 years since, Schmetzer has been associated as a player or coach with virtually every entity where one could draw a paycheck. Of the 500-some players who’ve worn a Seattle or Tacoma shirt over the years, Brian’s probably watched, played beside or coached an overwhelming majority of them.
At the ripe old age of 90, Mr. Lipton stands up straight, and though he shows signs of obvious wear there is a gleam to his appearance. Women with flowing hair, goddesses perhaps, flank him on either side.
Lipton’s got it pretty good. Folks take care of him, and he’s got a room with a view. Unlike his prime, he no longer gets out much, if at all, and the notion of young people picking him up and jubilantly hoisting him skyward is certainly out of the question. Still, with proper care and attention, there’s no reason to think Lipton won’t outlive us all.
Such is life for the stately Sir Thomas Lipton Trophy, likely among the oldest surviving artifacts of a rich soccer history that reaches back to the days before Washington’s statehood. Lipton and other sterling relics of their kind are hiding around the Seattle area, some of them in plain sight.
While the brightly-lighted Sounders FC trophy case on Occidental displays our biggest, brightest and most recent plunder–a Supporters’ Shield plus four Open Cups–the bulk of Washington’s historical treasures reside in a couple ordinary offices.
He’s called well over a thousand games for the Huskies and long ago became a local broadcasting institution. But it may come as a surprise that Bob Rondeau cut his teeth on play-calling as the voice of the Sounders.
That’s right, before he first exclaimed “Touchdown, Washington!” came shouts of “Goooooooal, Sounders!”
Back in 1979, when KOMO AM-1000 added soccer to its stable of UW football and basketball, Rondeau stepped up to the mic with no experience in play-by-play and admittedly little knowledge of the game.
“I knew less than nothing about soccer,” says Rondeau. “I didn’t know a soccer ball from a cue ball.”