It really doesn't feel like we got a moment's break, since the USMNT crashed out of the World Cup to Ghana only yesterday. After our last home loss to DC United, I was desperately needing a mental break from the disappointment of form in the Sounders. But after today's result against Philadelphia Union, I'm facepalming all over again and wishing we still had one more week.
I've personally hardly had a break, and I could sorely use one. With that emotional roller coaster in the World Cup now over, the Sounders could have done me a favor by getting back into MLS action with a win. Today, the Sounders traveled to the brand new PPL Park in Chester, PA hoping to spoil their opening party, just as we did in the Union's first ever MLS game at Qwest Field. Instead, Pat Noonan got the meaningless first ever goal scored in PPL Park, while Sebastian Le Toux led the Union to their first ever 3-1 win in their new home. After a drab first half, Pat Noonan did well to score off a flowing move from Zakuani and Montero by coolly slotting past Union keeper Chris Seitz. For the pressure that the Union stacked on in the first half, we played surprisingly well, with Kasey Keller stepping up huge with some key saves. However, all of that went down the drain as the divingmachine Alejandro Moreno drew the penalty, and Le Toux converted. From then on, it didn't matter how many big saves Kasey made to try and make amends for his poor performance against DC United. We played sloppy and had too many defensive holes. The game was over.
A positive note was that forward Nate Jaqua got his first competitive minutes since forever, who interestingly enough had his surgery done in Philadelphia, as well as Mike Seamon who came on after the half but couldn't change the course of the game. However, even with Jaqua working his way back into fitness, the other key injury to John Kennedy Hurtado has me more concerned with our new defensive problems instead of our misfiring forwards. The past several games have seen Seattle give up too many goals that should've never been scored. Whether this is in direct relation to the gaping absence of Hurtado in our backline we'll find out later this week, but I think it's safe to say our defensive mindset and attitude is becoming an issue.
Which brings me to another point. How was that a break? When this week we travel straight to Portland for US Open Cup on Wednesday and then to Los Angeles for an away trip. Then, we get one short week and we're back with Dallas, DC United road trip, and then the friendly with Celtic in another seven days. That's 6 games in a little over two weeks. Oh man. Not to mention, it's another week and another three quickfire games, including the CONCACAF Champions League match against Metapan. Seriously, I want to know who's in charge of scheduling affairs downtown.
The point is that during the break, we got the most amount of time together for training that we'll likely get until the end of summer. If we win our fixture with Metapan, our scheduling only gets more hectic. So if we're not mentally ready right now for these tough road games, I would be worried. Unsurprisingly, I am worried.
Excuse me, but I'm going to harp on the whole USMNT situation for one second. The manager's role is not just to fill in tactical bubble sheets with player's names. I could do that with my fantasy team just as good as anyone qualified can. But the truly great managers need to also prepare and train their player's mentally. One of the failings of this World Cup's Team USA was that in almost every game, we gave up crucial goals early that we couldn't dig our way out of. That comes down to the manager. It was a matter of preparation. Likewise, the Sounders' inability before the break to score when it matters was somewhat reminiscent of a mental preparation failure. You could see it on the faces of Montero and Ljungberg. Which is why if we start to see the same frustration creeping up again, then we just might be in a tough situation. I'm not pointing any fingers. Yet.
I really hate to say it, but right now the one thing I'm looking forward to is Blaise Nkufo coming into camp. As I described with the schedule for the next month or so, Blaise is not going to have a lot of time to get settled in. He's literally going to be thrown into all of it, and everyone, including myself, is expecting him to make some sense of American soccer (because god knows I've been trying). What he'll be able to achieve in that short time? I have no idea.
So we wait, after another disappointing loss, for Nkufo to arrive. And, hopefully our buddy Arlo White will be on the plane with him, coming back from his tour of duty with the BBC. I really could use some cheer and comfort from this cruel, heartless mistress.