Frontpaged because I (Dave) found this an intriguing conversation.
In fact, I'd argue that the Sounders' newfound ability to win ugly is a hugely positive development.
Jeremiah wrote this in his post covering the highlights of last night's improbable CCL victory in Monterrey. I agree wholeheartedly. But I also think that there is something more happening that is changing the culture within the team. Sigi has everyone believing that they have a responsibility to contribute when called upon. He expects them to play within themselves and get the job done. This level of reliance and expectation is paying huge dividends. Players are being called upon to participate in the championship aspirations of the team and are rising to the expectation.
This relaxes everyone within the team and creates esprit de corps. You are not a reserve player, you are a Sounder. Now get out there and earn the right to wear the jersey. It is a belief that everyone within the franchise will make meaningful contributions in meaningful games. It is the belief that no matter who starts or who plays, Sounders compete for points in every setting and can win.
This isn't just about winning ugly. A team can start the same basic core of players and those players can learn to win the occasional ugly game. A core group of players may learn to play different tactics depending upon their opponent. Both of these things are important. Yet, such a team is susceptible to both injury and fatigue. This isn't what I see happening to the Sounders. Sigi is getting the entire roster to believe in something bigger than themselves as individuals. He is getting them to believe in being a Sounder. He is creating a champion's pedigree and the traditions to make it last. The players have bought into the concept.
Look at the two players who played 180 minutes this weekend: Jeff Parke and Zach Scott. Most fans would list Jeff Parke as one of the Sounders starting 11. Yet, Scott played every minute of two crucial games as well. And he played two different roles. He was a marking defensive wing against Brek Shea of FCD and a CD against Monterrey. If someone would have told me to pick two players to play 180 minutes, I sure as hell wouldn't have put Scott on my lineup card. But Sigi did. And Scott performed.
This isn't just about time in the Reserve League. It isn't about time off the bench in the waning minutes of a game whose conclusion is forgone. It isn't about rating some competitions as important and others as secondary. The Sounders are melding into a single entity. One team that competes regardless of who fields the pitch and how they need to adapt in order to be successful with the pieces that they have.
This morning Ives Galarcep wrote an article about how the LA Galaxy have distanced themselves from the rest of the MLS andall but anointed LA the MLS Cup Champions. When analyzing their competition, he neglected to even mention the Sounders. He didn't just discount the second place Sounders. He didn't mention them at all. Yet, watching the recent growth of the Sounders as a cohesive team, I somehow doubt that Bruce Arena is so blase'. Championships are won in the heart and in the head before they are won on the pitch. Sigi is laying the necessary mental mortar for the Sounders to be champions and I am looking forward to watching.
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