SEATTLE, WA - JULY 20: Patrice Evra #3 and Michael Owen #7 of Manchester United celebrate after Owen scored a goal on the Seattle Sounders FC during the first half of the game at CenturyLink Field on July 20, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Seattle Sounders FC was not supposed to win a match against Manchester United. It probably wasn't even supposed to be close. But in the first half, it was and for 45 minutes the 67,000 fans saw high quality soccer played by both sides. Yes, the Red Devils played patient, slow football. It is their pre-season. Seattle though had strong possession, created some chances and showed that while they might not be as famous, players like Alvaro Fernendez, Osvaldo Alonso and Fredy Montero have the qualities of being great soccer players. James Riley in attack was strong, though he let Ashley Young too much space. That first frame looked like a typical Seattle team - strong in possession, weak on the counter and prone to one defensive error.
They did that against one of the top three teams in the world. You can split the hairs between United and Real Madrid, it doesn't matter. Sure, they were out of fitness. Everyone knew that coming into the match. Seattle's first team still looked appropriate though they were down 1-0.
Then half time came. Sigi Schmid made wholesale changes (well except at right back, because Zach Scott can only be in one place at once). Things went down hill quickly. Sir Alex Ferguson made minor changes, one though was key as he added in one of the best strikers in the world, Wayne Rooney. Seattle's reserves were no match. Whether it was Scott getting beat on the left, later in the middle, the tiring Riley in the middle, Taylor Graham in the middle, Servando Carrasco in the defensive third, Seattle's Reserves weren't up to par with Manchester United.
This isn't a surprise. While the score looks embarrassing, it does not matter. No one was going to become a Sounder fan tonight because of the score. This game was about spreading the love of sport a little bit, it was about showmanship. Everyone inside CenturyLink Field, or watching on TV, got a show.
There were a few positives in the second half. All were in chance creation. None were in finishing. Mike Fucito created a few opportunities, not just through hard work but creative passing, strong footwork and decent pressure. Pat Noonan continues to be better than his detractors recognize. When pressed into becoming a more defensive player David Estrada toughed it out and won't be featured on a highlight reel.
Late in the game Mrisho Ngassa became the first ever from his nation to take the pitch against the most popular team in the world (tm). When he returns home to Tanzania he will have stories about the time he nearly scored against them. Whether he stays here longer or not, he is also now part of Sounder lore and maybe someday that can be part of his story as well.
Again, it doesn't matter that Seattle lost. It is a Friendly. Nothing was on the line except a smile and a good time. Some decent soccer was played tonight by Seattle. But you can't judge the team by this performance, nor any players. No one showed things that were unknown. None were worse or better than expected.
Next up San Fransisco FC of Panama - that game matters.