Jordan Morris cleared the final step to the showroom floor at Seattle’s The Ninety and the flashbulbs popped and crackled like fireworks. Flanked by Adrian Hanauer, Garth Lagerwey, Sigi Schmid and Chris Henderson – the club’s most visible and influential decision makers in matters of player personnel – Morris sheepishly walked to the middle seat of the dais.
Morris, wearing a blazer and a button-down shirt and facing a packed room of about 100 people, settled into his seat and readied to hear the announcement he’d been waiting to hear for years. The kid who’d been in the stands for Seattle’s first ever MLS game in 2009 almost couldn’t believe he was here at all.
There is an old truism in life that you do your best work out of a place of comfort. This is often mistaken for a vague idea of something called a ‘comfort zone,’ and I’d like to wave away those clouds here. In reality, the notion of motivation dovetails into two definitive camps with a million branching sub-genres: those who are motivated by circumstance and those who are motivated by surroundings.
It is easy to survey from a high position and say that all players are made better by more competitive environs, regardless of their physical location. The Bundesliga is better than MLS, and therefore any Bundesliga club is better than any MLS club for every player. The fact that we are dealing with humanity, and not mathematical equations, makes this a farcical idea. It may be better for more players more often than not, but what is the percentage here? 70? 60? 51?
Finally, for the first time in four tries, the Sounders knocked the Galaxy out of the postseason on Wednesday night. The game was as entertaining as it gets in MLS, and after four goals in the opening 22 minutes, Seattle’s Erik Friberg roped home the winner in the 73rd.
Every now and then, MLS teams resume the time-honored tradition of pulling a couple players into the marketing department to make a couple calls to season ticket holders. It’s typically a good time: jokes, laughs, the whole shebang.
The Sounders put out one such video this week. Chad Barrett, Andy Rose and Zach Scott rang up a couple unsuspecting fans, and we settled in for the normal barrage of chuckles. But we got so, so much more.
We love CONCACAF, primarily because it flaunts the idea that soccer has become polished to a high, glossy sheen in our 21st century digital age. While Europe’s top leagues have their own fair share of drama, it’s fairly localized and relatively predictable.
Not CONCACAF. Whether that’s insane penalties in continental competitions or… insane penalties in club competitions, our fair region is suitably insane.
The yearly Amazing Soccer Ritual in Portland between the Timbers and Sounders went off in similarly riotous voice on Sunday. Tied into half, the Timbers scored three goals in the second half – two from Fanendo Adi in less than a minute – and it finished 4-1 in favor of the home side.
It was a great rivalry match. And then Rodney Wallace scored to make it 4-1 and, like, slit some invisible throat and stabbed some invisible gut.
The Sounders and Timbers staged a U.S. Open Cup match filled with an atypical amount of drama, even for this series. Brad Evans was sent off first with the match tied at 1-1, and then hell opened. Clint Dempsey tore up the referee’s book. The Sounders eventually finished the match on seven men and lost 3-1 after 120 ridiculous minutes. The referees were escorted off the field by a cadre of police. A fan threw a trash can onto the field. It was… something.
Needless to say, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid’s postgame was blunt, terse and notably glorious in his response to one of the worst officiated matches in history. I can certainly say I’ve never seen a game bungled more completely on this level. A few of Sigi’s choice cuts from the above video.
The Sounders cruised past NYCFC 3-1 on Sunday afternoon in the capper to the MLS weekend. It was a good game in the sense that it had goals and both teams tried passing it around a bit. Hard not to when the field is a baseball stadium mated with a closet. Seventy yards wide? I guess.
This moment was the Dempseyest. It was also the best. Dempsey tries these moves at least a couple times per game. Most of the time they die in infancy, the ball skittering off his boot and out of bounds or rolling meekly into swapped possession. But instances like these make every missed enterprise worthwhile. How many MLS teams have ever had a goal like Obafemi Martins’ against Colorado and this assist within a few weeks of one another?
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the lead-up to the goal featured an 18-pass build-up, the longest preceding a goal in MLS this season. Sounder At Heart has you covered.
When we talk about high level development in the U.S., you can hear the crackling static when we talk about the 18-22 age bracket. At least in recent history, nobody’s quite sure where to go from there.
The Development Academy is nowhere near where it needs to be, but at just eight years old it’s made significant strides since it kicked off its first match in 2007. And for all its confusing rules, MLS is slowly attracting and generating more talent from the nutrient-rich waters abroad and off its own shores.
But there still isn’t an easy fix for that 18-22 age range. The college season is too short. The academy doesn’t have U19 or U20 or U23 divisions. And other leagues have fizzled without enough support. That’s why USL’s increasingly large footprint in development is moving the needle significantly. As more MLS teams pop online with USL franchises, the pathway between U18 and pro soccer becomes slightly smoother.
The Sounders were one of those clubs this offseason, and their new USL franchise S2 fired up with its first match last weekend. A smashing 4-2 win over defending league champs Sacramento Republic signaled the league’s MLS debutants (all of Cascadia is now on board) will probably shake things up this season.
And now we come to Pablo Rossi. The good folks at Sounder At Heart know plenty about Rossi, who has his own Seattle-based hype train running up and down the Puget Sound. Over the weekend, he got his first real life game action just days after he triumphantly inked an official contract with S2. And the result was that lovely (SUPER SLO-MO) free kick that won him bonus points for pinging off the back of the keeper.
We here at TDS love our Hype Trains. Rossi’s is one we can hop on.
SEATTLE — Nervy days, but the job is done. And now MLS gets the matchup everyone wanted.
Dempsey vs. Donovan. Keane vs. Martins. Galaxy vs. Sounders.
The Sounders, expected by just about everyone to cut through FC Dallas and set up a dream two-legged meeting with the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference finals in two weeks, got it done. But barely. Through a grim, determined effort at the back and just enough panache going forward, the Sounders managed to pick their way to a scoreless draw Monday night at CenturyLink Field.
That advanced Seattle on away goals after Osvaldo Alonso booted one home to secure a 1-1 draw in Dallas last week. Here are a handful of takeaways from one of the wildest scoreless draws you’re likely to see any time soon.