The Sounders were on the bad end of a painful 7-0 result against Manchester United on Wednesday. Sigi called it his "most embarrassing loss, personally." The starting side did well enough, limiting the score to 1-0 at half, but as we all know, the reserves came in for the second half and got to face Wayne Rooney and Park Ji-Sung. We know what happened from there. At the end, the teams were sporting and traded jerseys, with Taylor Graham somehow picking up Rooney's, possibly as compensation for the easy hat trick. This we all know. Now, the morning after, we've had a night to mull it over and discuss what happens next.
Does this affect the Sounders confidence and impact their current run of form?
People think that the team may be shaken by this friendly loss. To be honest, it's not something that any of us can be sure about until we see the next few games. Personally, I don't believe it will. If anything, I think after seeing everything plus the kitchen sink against MUFC, they'd find the next few games a little simpler. The defense is obviously the concern, but I would expect a Riley/Parke/Ianni/Gonzalez back four in Panama (unless Hurtado is up to play, then Parke/Hurtado). And that group didn't do too poorly last night. Again, can't tell for sure, but judging by the backbone this team has shown against adversity so far this year, I'll choose to believe in them. I think Sigi will address it and make everyone focus in on what went wrong and do some good practice work after this "embarrassing loss."
I think what this loss really affects is the ego and confidence of the fans. Our team got blasted, and a lot of us are taking it hard. Fandom is an emotional thing. There is a connection; that's why you follow the team and revel in their victories. You also wallow in their losses, and for a particularly bad one like this, you hurt. The Sounders were riding high. It felt great. People were confident they could take on all comers. I felt like we had a good chance to put up a good showing last night. Not a win, but perhaps a 2-2 draw or 3-2 loss. I'm willing to wager that a lot of fans felt the same way. So to see 7-0 is a blow to your fandom. It's like your pride taking a long, Wile E. Coyote fall off a cliff. Sure. But that's different than a blow to the team. They're pros. The result didn't count. They should bounce back. If for some reason they don't bounce back, then that's a bigger problem that is only exposed by this loss, not caused by it. I think they've got the backbone. They took a licking, and they should keep on ticking.
Does this tarnish the Sounders brand or MLS as a league?
I'd say for some, maybe. But I also don't think that those people's minds would have changed anyway. KC beat Manchester United last year, and that probably surprised some people, but it's still pre-season for the Premier League, so they can explain it away easily enough. The MLS isn't a top league, and everybody knows that. They obviously don't have the depth of the top leagues. But I think those that were watching closely should have been impressed with what the Sounders did in the first 45 minutes. They looked dangerous. They attacked. They went in down 1-0 versus one of the best teams in the world. Yes, it fell apart from there, but the style of play from the Sounders probably wasn't what people that haven't watched MLS lately remember. It was much more attractive. Even the keeper for MUFC, Andres Lindegaard, said so: "They like to play football, not like kick and rush which I would have expected when I came to the States."
The bigger narrative that may emerge from this is the continuing emergence of the MLS fanbase. It was 67k for a friendly, but with a majority supporting the home team. A couple United players were impressed by the home support, with Ryan Giggs even saying the rumors were correct that Sounders FC had the best fans in the States. Along with the good work being done by our Cascadia enemies and the increasing attendance overall in MLS, it does show that more and more people are seeing something they like. There likely will never be a tipping point where the USA suddenly becomes crazy about soccer over all other sports, but the growth of the league has been impressive and shows signs of continuing. It takes years. It's long-term. But the trend is in the right direction.
So, what are you trying to say with this meandering wall of text extracted from your jumbled thoughts?
I really wanted the Sounders to do well against Manchester United. I didn't expect a win, but I was hoping for a goal or two. It sucks that it didn't happen, and it sucks that the result was as lopsided as it was. As a fan, I don't like it. It felt bad. But it shouldn't change how the Sounders are playing. I still feel like we're going to beat the rest of the league into submission. I feel like we can have a good shot the Supporters Shield. I feel like (clap, clap, clap clap clap) we're going to win the U.S. Open Cup. I feel like we're going to get past the group stages of the CONCACAF Champions League this year. I feel like an MLS Cup run is very possible. I bet the team feels the same. I hope you do, too.