Fredy Montero Celebrates His Free Kick Goal. Photo Courtesy of Jane G Photgraphy
Better teams win more games on average. This truism shouldn't need to be stated, but when the national narrative starts to discuss how great the spunky upstarts from SoCal are and as if their performance is a referendum on the United States development system, it does need to be stated. It was stated over (Osvaldo Alonso), and over (Fredy Montero), and over (Andy Rose), and over (Montero), and over (Alonso). While Cal FC came and fought valiantly, it is not the valiant that advance. It is the victorious. For three years plus years Starfire has treated the Seattle Sounders as well as any venue in any sport can be expected.
The differences in play were apparent. The things that Alonso and Montero did in the second half were things that few in MLS can. Alonso's second goal is one that belongs on highlight reels not just for the Sounders, but the league. Montero's free kick was perfectly placed. It likely should be waived off for passive offside, but the AR and CR discussed as they should and made their decision. It came out in Seattle's favor.
For all the "even" play of the first half, Cal FC ended the game with only a single shot on goal and only four shots total. Tactically they forced the balls into wide spaces and limited Seattle to mainly crosses that were ineffective. Seattle struggled with adjusting.
Until half. At half the adjustments were clear. The ball was brought into the middle more. The threats were created and converted. While the first goal was from a handball call, possibly a wrong one, that goal forced the action to open more. With more space to run the Sounders ran hard. Generally faster, always taller and stronger, with more technical ability Goliath played it's role.
David did not come tonight. Instead a minnow's run ended. It ends with a harsh score, but make no mistake, Seattle held back late. They slowed their offensive flow down. The five-nil scoreline was not quite indicative of the strength of Seattle's performance.
Will some Cal FC players get another look? Probably. Do they clearly belong as pros? Sure. Are they as good as a mix of starters and regulars on a top notch team? No.
The Sounders will face the winner of Minnesota Stars at San Jose Earthquakes. Currently that quarterfinal match is scheduled for the road.