(I wrote this last week after the midweek game against Dallas and hadn't had a chance to post, I think there will be a few things that hold true after the NE result I just witnessed, I'll get into those in another post)
This last minute heroics thing is not helping lengthen my lifespan. The Sounders keep you guessing until the final minutes like an episode of Power Rangers - unless you're quicker than I was growing up. Then imagine it's Memento, or Inception or something.
Dallas did a fine job in their role of villan. A soft flop in the box (ok, there was contact, but nothing more than a tangling of legs), time wasting from minute 18, more elbows than Ong Bak. Someone even made Zach Scott bleed. He bled. I'm surprised we didn't have a missing persons report the next morning looking for a man in red shirt and shorts.
Nevertheless, a tireless Oba (goalposts were moved out, remember?) created 2 perfectly placed opportunities for our "wingers" to strike first time to level and then win the game.
This season has seen 4 penalty kicks against thus far. That's twice as many as last year in total. In fact, it's the total of Gspurning's career as a Sounder. I don't know what has brought on such tough luck, but I will say that we've handled it well (only the Columbus game was a loss, and that was with 10 men) and managed to rack up 9 of 12 points where PKs were given.
Next we've got New England and their surge to the top of the East. Hopefully we can help them towards a position in the standings that they're more familiar with, if you catch my drift.
Moving the Posts In: Winning Streak
I am not an optimist. The fact that I moved the posts in on winning I'm sure was a dead giveaway.
I am a realist. The fact that we've won 5 straight - 4 of 5 from behind - and are unbeaten in 6 is something that cannot sustain for too much longer.
Now, the good news; we have Dempsey for a few more games and we can continue the strong start. I think we may see a rocky road when he's away. Hopefully we can get a couple results with an adjusted squad and formation, and the team gets a break during the World Cup.
I imagine the style of play we have requires players that are on top of their game mentally and that the cohesion and understanding of teammates is crucial. I don't know that a 3-4 week break makes that easy to maintain. The hope is that once everyone is back together, we will struggle a little bit to find those rhythms again and scratch out some results before getting back into form just in time for playoffs.
That's about as half full as I can get really, hope for something down the road to go well, but the realist in me knows that the coming month or two will test our team's depth and flexibility.
Moving the Posts Out: Sigi
Wow. It's only been 6 months since I was bashing the man, convinced he would be fired and another would come in to allow a brand of soccer worthy of Clint Dempsey's deft skills and Obafemi Martin's speed and power.
To be fair to myself, I do feel it was justified for the bulk of the last 5 years. His tactics seemed stale, his substitutions negative. It was a constant feeling of having watched the same movie, over and over with a different cast. Here is a player with some skill, here is a style of play you must adhere to or else.
This year has been the renaissance from the middle ages. After many seasons of strictly wing play, holding mids, big target forwards, we've been granted something resembling dynamic, attacking soccer. It happened in the briefest of flashes last year, but there was always something in the way - too much crossing, EJ not interchanging, Oba fatigue, Dempsey Injury. This year, we have full strength Oba and Dempsey playing short interchanges through the middle. Dynamic wingers playing fullbacks on overlapping runs for crosses. Alonso and Pineda pushing forward and allowing others to transition into the attack. It's something I've not witnessed on a regular basis as a Sounders fan.
It may be due to the personnel that tactics changed, but Sigi has allowed a brand of soccer to be played that didn't feel welcome before. The substitutions always feel positive and appropriate with the players coming in having the necessary impact. I wanted a coach who would allow a brand of soccer worthy of Clint Dempsey's deft skills and Obafemi Martin's speed and power. Who knew we had him all along?
In Range: Luck
Soccer is a terrible game - it relies on too much on dumb luck /sarcasmfont.
One of the earliest phrases I learned when i started playing was "unlucky." I was actually annoyed at the amount I heard it used just playing in rec leagues. Luck isn't something that gets mentioned in other sports unless you won or lost the game on a weird fluke.
Of course, given time, I came to learn just how true to the game the phrase was. There are games where teams lose, but they shouldn't. At the same time, there are games that Sunderland win, and shouldn't. Getting outplayed but succumbing to a penalty, an in form GK or a bad day for the team are real things (just ask Chelsea or Liverpool).
I stated earlier that we've given up as many PKs (4) this year as we had the previous 2 combined - 3 of these happened early on and put us behind. We've also had 1 OG and a floater over the GK to go down early in games. At the same time, we've scored 5 game tying/winning goals after the 80th minute this year. To some extent, those two things have to be cancelling each other out. We can't keep coming from behind late in games, but we also shouldn't be going down early because of odd circumstances. I'm not saying that the two cancelling each other out means we win everything in normal fashion either, but our luck has been wildly back and forth. Eventually that should settle down a bit and we can play some games without some odd controversy. The best team has been winning, but hopefully moving forward, some wins can be in a slightly less dramatic fashion.
From the Half Way Line: EJ Jonsing - for his "better" teammates - can this be a bad thing?
For the USMNT it could be. I'm still not sure the guy gets how lucky he was here to be made to look great, but I'm still not sure he actually understands that it's those around him that set him up for success.
"Obviously, I feel like here we’re more of a pressing, hardworking team, and we can press the ball high up the field and win balls, be good in that area and break in our attacking half. Whereas in Seattle – and no disrespect to the guys that are here – I felt like I didn’t have to run as much because we had better guys that had more quality on the ball. I feel like the styles are completely different."
As giddy as that makes me when it comes to DC United and the MLS, I'm concerned that his loss in form could affect the national team negatively. I hope that he's keeping sharp in training and that he'll get it together soon. Playing wide or off the bench for the USMNT has been great for him and for the sake of our World Cup success, I feel like we need that level of explosiveness that only he or maybe Brek Shea have to really take a single player on with speed to create opportunities or score.