The 2012 Sounders will either define themselves today or they will be defined by their play last Sunday. There are no other options.
The time for timidity is gone. Gone with the loss at Santos Laguna. Gone with the loss at LiveStrong Sporting Park in the USOC Championship. Gone with the debacle of last Sunday's 3-0 loss to LA in Carson, CA. The 2012 Seattle Sounders have one and only one opportunity to redefine how history will remember their season. Either they claim a decisive 4 goal victory tonight or history will pin last Sunday firmly to their chests as a cautionary Scarlet Letter.
No one outside of the team is giving the Sounders a chance. Even Seattle's own fan base is speaking in defeated tones. There are articles about famous comebacks and failed tactics scattered about the landscape like so many faded hopes crushed under the weight of expectation. The expectation is that Seattle will lose.
Only the Sounders can change this outlook. And they really only have one avenue toward victory. They have to take the pitch tonight and refuse to yield the field. The Sounders must steel their resolve and let slip the dogs of war. They have to claim the ball and mercilessly drive it down LA's throat. No fear. No timidity. No retreat. No surrender. No quarter asked or given. Our field. Our turf. Our fans. Our home. Our victory. Our season distilled to a single night.
It must begin with Sigi. The tactical plan must be bold and decisive. He must unleash his team to own the night. His normal tactics won't work. This is not a normal situation. The Sounders must win by at least 3 against an opponent who knows it. Fredy and EJ in their normal array isn't going to work. He cannot be cautious. He has to trust his defense to hold LA in check and focus the tactics on the offense. He must find a way to unlock both EJ and Fredy. He must create a system that creates multiple avenues of attack and buries the LA Galaxy defense under relentless effective pressure. I personally think that the lineup CarlosT proposed is as good a solution as any I have heard. Throw EJ and Estrada upfield ahead of Fredy and have Fredy play CAM for a night. Put any pairing of Evans, Tiffert, Rosales and Martinez on the wings in a band with Ozzie to provide transition, service and support to the defense and late runs or long shots. Drive the field, strike from distance and scramble like men possessed. Let Estrada feast on scraps and spin Meyers like a top. Let EJ go head to head with Gonzo, GAM to GAM. Take the fetters off Fredy for a night and tell him to take this team on his shoulders and carry it into the MLS Cup. Losing by six is as good as losing by one. Only a win will change the trajectory of this season.
In the Art of War, Sun Tzu describes putting your troops on killing ground. It is a battlefield where they win or they die. The logic behind this strategy is that it changes how a soldier behaves. In order for the Sounders to succeed, they must tap into the notion that sport is ritualized combat. Their season sits firmly on killing ground. Either they win or their season dies. Either they win or their season is defined by their effort last week. They must take the field with a different attitude than anyone has seen from them this season. They must believe that their careers hang in the balance. And they must make LA rue the night they stepped into our home with designs on a second straight MLS Cup.
The die is cast. The game's afoot. Now is the time for Century Link field to echo with the word's of Shakespeare's Henry V.
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more,
Or close the wall up with our [Sounders] dead.
In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as does a galled rock
O'erhang and jutty his confounded base,
Swill'd with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth and stretch the nostril wide,
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height. On, on, you noble [Sounders]
Sounders fans will create a tempest of noise. Own the night or be owned by last week. There is no middle ground. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more.