Shattered, broken and numb to the core... James McMurtry's words offer a fitting description of fan base confidence in the wake of yet another wretched performance by our beloved team. I find myself staring at the floor, trying in vain to make sense of the scattered pieces of my own porcelain certainty concerning the team.
My brain looks at the standings and says the Sounders still control their own destiny. But my heart cannot erase the image of two rookies making mockery of the Sounders defense. My brain looks at the stumbling performances of all of the league leaders and knows the Sounders haven't really lost any meaningful ground in the hunt for the Supporter's Shield, as abysmal as this week has been. But my heart keeps hearing my best friend screaming at Michael Gspurning in German from the 300 level last night. This year's Supporter's Shield will be awarded to the last team standing. No one at the top of the league is seizing the opportunity to claim the prize. But the word I would use to describe the Sounders right now is "seizure".
The team has looked opportunity in the eye and brain-cramped.
Soccer is a game of coordinated decisions. Teams live and die on strings of decisions. As fans we relish and cherish those decisions. We watch enraptured and wake on game day in anticipation of the decisions to come. But there is a dark side to our rapture. We leave ourselves exposed to the possibility that the team will make poor decisions. We leave ourselves wide open to being emotionally flayed when our team suffers a series of monumental gaffes. The last two games have been a train wreck. I cannot remember ever watching a pair of games where a team with this potential suffered this level of vapor lock. My mind keeps wandering back to the abject horror of Sounders colliding with each other inside the penalty box and squandering golden opportunities to salvage something. Salvage anything... And like any good media coverage, I keep switching the footage to slow motion. Please make it stop.
My brain says that this is a soluble problem. At this level of play, mental lapses are more often than not a question of concentration. Sunday heralds soccer's answer to poor concentration: the Derby game. For all of their history, Seattle vs. Vancouver pales in comparison to Seattle vs. Portland. Vancouver is a derby opponent. Portland is The Derby opponent. If the Sounders cannot focus in preparation for Sunday, they shouldn't wear Rave Green or Cascadia Shale. A focused Seattle team can compete with any team in MLS. Return to the basics and the team can right the ship.
I would be lying if I said that my heart was confident about what Sunday will bring. My heart is still shattered in pieces on the floor. But as a fan, I don't need confidence. I simply need my heart. So I will pick up the pieces, glue them back together and pin them to my sleeve in preparation for Sunday night. I am a Sounder@Heart. Faith doesn't need proof. In the wake of last night, all I have is faith. But as a fan, faith is more important than confidence. I believe that the Sounders can beat Portland in Portland. That's a good place to start.