Coldest First Kicks at The CLink

It’s the latest Sounders home match in terms of the calendar, and Sunday’s forecast indicates it shall rate as far and away the coldest.

By the time Seattle and L.A. kickoff at the CLink, temperatures will drop to freezing, with a wind chill driving it down to feel like the mid-20s. Better bring an extra scarf or two, if not for yourself then for those in need of winter wear.

Screen Shot 2014-11-29 at 11.54.12 AM Sunday forecast for Seattle’s Boeing Field

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A thanksgiving for soccer

For as long as there’s been footy on this side the world, Thanksgiving has held special significance on the American soccer calendar. The fourth Thursday in November has long served as a demarcation, sometimes the starting line, sometimes the finish., but always something special.

There was once a time when the U.S. rotated on the same axis as the rest of the world, when football was played here in the worst of conditions, from late fall through early spring.

For sure, our forefathers were hearty souls. In the days of 10-hour shifts and 6-day work weeks, they pressed on; they persevered. For the miners who first brought the grand game from the Old World to these environs, the labor was extremely difficult and dangerous.

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 10.10.11 AM
Going back more than a century Thanksgiving has provided an extra playdate for the area’s soccer pioneers.

This time of year, in Newcastle and Black Diamond, they would rarely see the light of day, sinking into the earth before sunrise and not emerging from coal shafts until after nightfall. They had but 1.8 hours of leisure time. Continue reading A thanksgiving for soccer

A Result in L.A.: Whatever Works

It’s about 15 miles from East L.A. College to StubHub Center. Fifteen miles and just over 40 years.

It’s been a long, circuitous journey from the Sounders’ inaugural match to their most important to date, Sunday against the Galaxy.

Seattle does not need to win. A draw is sufficient. A draw with an away goal is gargantuan, as we experienced earlier this month. Of course, though, a win would be positively epic.

Anyone associated with the Sounders knows the history. The Rave have come here before, to this place–StubHub–and this time–the playoffs.

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USMNT: Grown in Washington

So exactly when did DeAndre Yedlin become an old man? Answer: The moment this list of of the youngest capped homegrown Washingtonians was compiled.

Tuesday night in Dublin, Mercer Island native Jordan Morris became the ninth Evergreen State native to play for the US Men’s National Team while under the age of 21. In fact, at only 23 days past his 20th birthday, Morris is the second-youngest on the list, behind Everett native Chris Henderson. Now Sounders FC sporting director, Henderson (19 years, 119 days) is the only teen on the list.

On Tuesday, Sounders FC Academy product Jordan Morris became the second-youngest Washington native to earn a full cap for the USMNT (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Morris is currently a Stanford sophomore and product of the Sounders FC Academy. In the U.S. loss to Ireland (4:1) he came on in the 76th minute for Timmy Chandler.

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Let’s Pick-up Pace of Playoffs

It’s nice to know that in this fast-paced, plugged-in, caffeinated world in which we live, there’s still a collective that believes in savoring every moment and taking its own sweet time.

That collective is known as Major League Soccer. In takes nearly eight months to complete a regular season. Now comes the 38 drawn-out days of the MLS Cup Playoffs.

MLS Cup is held aloft as the domestic game’s ultimate prize. Purists may say that’s debatable. However, if we want to grow the game, if we want to reel-in everyone even remotely interested in soccer (including the World Cup bandwagon types), we want them watching the MLS Cup Final. Only now, they need to arrange their own wake-up call.

MLS Cup 1996 was played on October 20, some 7 weeks earlier than 2014

The pace of the MLS playoffs is glacial. Big Island lava moves faster. Not only is it like watching paint dry, it’s like watching it get scraped off and painted again.

Keep in mind this is a Sounders fan writing. Our Rave are very much alive and kicking and out to accomplish the unprecedented Treble. We want folks to join us on this magic bus. Only problem is the driver keeps stripping the gears and lurching forward without releasing the parking brake. It’s the never-ending season.

There must be a better way. There must be a means to infuse some energy into the postseason, to attract new viewers rather than losing even your loyalists. The MLS Cup Playoffs cry out for some momentum.

There are mitigating factors, of course, FIFA dates chief among them. But international interruptions are not the problem. Those breaks occur every year and either the playoffs can conclude beforehand or that pause can provide an interlude prior to the final.

Neither is the preliminary knockout round nor the two-leg format that follows. No, the root cause of this lethargic, late autumn shuffle is leadership’s aversion to playing midweek matches.

Wednesday night was once the staple of North American soccer summer. Once the NASL expanded beyond 20-22 matches, it was necessary to play multiple games each week in order to fit all the fixtures between April and August.

Originally, MLS did likewise. During their inaugural season, the Galaxy played 10 midweek matches. This past regular season, Sounders FC played four. L.A. began the playoffs on September 25 (it was a 32-match schedule), Seattle started the postseason five weeks later, on November 2.

Now, a word about midweek games: Owners, by and large, loathe them. People work until 5 or 6 o’clock, fight traffic to get home, then perhaps again approaching the stadium. Result: Smaller crowds, they say. But as MLS matures, as struggling markets make gains, and when New England finds an urban home as opposed to the hinterlands, maybe it’s time to take another look. Or not.

Part of World Cup appeal is frenetic calendar with teams playing every 4-5 days

Perhaps the choice is not so much Wednesday versus Saturday, but Wednesday on warm summer evenings versus Saturdays in October when the kids are now playing and the weather has turned wet and windy. Saturdays in summer might be just as problematic as work nights: How many want to cut short their time at the beach to get back for the game?

Even if we agree to set aside the reluctance to play midweek games during the regular season, there is the issue of a postseason stuck in neutral.

In a perfect world, no futbol fan has time to write stuff like this. But in MLS we …have…lots…of…time…to…write…or worse…drift toward other interests. Like basketball, hockey, college football, NFL football, Thanksgiving football and conference championship football.

When positioned and played out in proper fashion, league playoffs should build to a crescendo. More and more fans pile on. Suddenly MLS starts gaining in stature as the season culminates.

That’s part of the World Cup attraction; there are matches every day at the outset. The entire tournament takes 31 days. Remember those two rest days prior to the quarterfinals and your withdrawal symptoms?

Promotion playoff legs in England are played three days apart.

The players can handle it. There’s no physical reason the playoffs can’t push on with similar pace.

The old NASL put the pedal to the metal, and so did MLS initially.

In 1977 the NASL playoffs last 18 days with Seattle and other cities swept up in pace and passion.

In 1977 the original Sounders played six playoff games, including Soccer Bowl, in a span of 18 days. That was pre-online ticketing, obviously. Still teams were selling tickets at a rapid clip: 35,000 for Minnesota, 77,000 in New York. The Sounders sold 56,000 on six days notice. Even when Seattle struggled in attendance, in 1982, playoff fever took hold; 29,000 seats sold in two days for the semifinal deciding leg.

MLS played twice weekly playoff games in the first few seasons to mixed results. Over the past 10 years they are spacing matches a week apart. While crowds are generally up. Columbus, with a week to prepare for New England, sold 9,000 tickets. Rising to the occasion, Dallas, on four days notice, pulled over 16,000 for Seattle. It looked good on TV and, furthermore, it’s encouraging for both the club and the league’s long run.

It also sufficient encouragement for MLS to take another look at putting the playoffs back on the fast track.

Gain a few more midweek games during the summer and suddenly the playoffs are starting in early to mid-October. By making Wednesdays part of postseason, it generates excitement and that, in turn generates crowds and ratings. It can capture the attention not only of the qualifying teams’ fans, but those on the fringe.

No more slow-motion postseason. Playoff fever should be contagious. MLS Cup should be a frenzied sprint to the finish.


Supporting Your Local Collegians

It’s times like this, these raw, dark nights of late autumn, when Seattle comes out in numbers to support our local collegians.

November traditionally marks the start of the postseason at all levels and the conditions, either soaking or frigid, seldom frighten away the fans.

It’s likely to be more so the latter for the next few days, so bundle-up. Beginning Thursday, Seattle University hosts the WAC Championships at Championship Field. On Friday, the Washington women entertain Rider in an NCAA tournament opener. Interbay will light-up Saturday night for Seattle Pacific’s second round D2 playoff, and Sunday is Senior Day on Montlake for the Husky men versus Oregon State.

Three of the largest local college attendances came from the NCAA championship games held here from 1984-86

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Winning Combo: Ahead & At Home

It’s a detectable difference. Bouncing out of bed on match day with belief is much better hitting the floor with faint hope.

That’s the big, big difference between Monday’s series-deciding clash at the CLink and those home playoffs that came before it.

For the first time in the MLS era of the Sounders, they are playing a second leg at home without the handicap of a deficit. In fact, Seattle is an away goal to the good following the first-leg draw to FC Dallas. So, if nothing moves the nets, that’s good enough.

In the postseason, it’s all about surviving and advancing to play another day. Ultimately, that’s the name of the game: Taking care of business. There are no style points.

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That Special Someone

Hours after Allen Chapman blew full time in Frisco, my mind took a walk.

With enough memories and data stowed away from years of watching the locals, it’s inevitable that my brain will begin processing things like, say, ‘Hey, Ozzie’s goal reminds me of back when…” and so on.

Truth is, the goal was very un-Ozzie. A header? Off a set play? After all, he’s usually parked near the D. Weak clearance comes out, and he bashes it.

Was Ozzie Alonso’s improbable header in first leg just a sign of good things to come? (Courtesy Sounders FC)

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