Imagine, if you will, a meticulously tended field of grass carved into the foothills of the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains in the northeast of Mexico. It is home to the champions in the sport of soccer for all the lands from the far tundra of Nunavut to the sweltering jungles of Guyana — a team of millionaires and superstars who each bear a household name in a land where their sport is king.
At the other end of the field another team warms up. It is led by a bearded veteran of the American second division who has no natural position. Warming up near him are a 31-year-old forward at the tail of his career and a rookie who's played fewer than 10 professional games. There is also a man they call Sparkles.
Behind them, on the way to the visitors' locker room, is a door. You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension - a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You've just crossed over into the Levesque Zone.
If America cared as much about soccer as it did about. . say. . basketball, this game would be etched into the memory of every sports fan in the country and it'd be called the Miracle on Grass. Okay, I'm calling it the Miracle on Grass regardless. Done. Name's taken.
The fact that a team made up of mostly reserves — guys whose names honestly make Sounders fans wince a little when they show up on a team sheet — went into Mexico, where previous to last week no American team at any level had ever won in a competitive match, and defeated the first team of the reigning CONCACAF champions is — by far — the weirdest, awesomest thing I've witnessed as a fan of the sport. It is, in fact, so weird that there is no context in which to process it.
One thing that must be acknowledged is that Monterrey played an awful, horrible, embarrassing game. Their overwhelming play in the early second half was only evidence of how apathetic and aimless their first half was before Víctor Manuel Vucetich presumably tore their hides off at halftime and they started playing like players who are paid millions of dollars a year to play soccer. The somnambulant Christopher Sullivan was at such a loss trying to explain why a high press from Nate Jaqua would put Monterrey so far off their game, he suggested that maybe nobody in Mexico had ever thought to do it before.
And even in the second half, when Monterrey's midfield showed up to start to dominate possession, the finishing was horrific. Terry Boss at one point HANDED THE BALL to Monterrey in the box. He literally gave them the ball and stepped out of the way. And Humberto Suazo shanked the ball wide from about 3 yards away. Every other spell of dominant possession ended in either a weak cross that James Riley punted 40 yards or a shot that was at least 4 Terry Bosses high.
But for all of Monterrey's subpar play (and there was a lot), Seattle earned the win. Alvaro Fernandez patrolled the left wing like the cultured, ball controlling Designated Player we've hoped for since the day he was signed and we all Googled him in a frenzy. Carrasco played like the somewhat disturbingly composed and mature rookie we've come to know. Noonan settled into his role as a 'forward' who has no intent to do anything threatening towards goal but instead enables others, and he enabled Fernandez all the way to the winning goal with a mystical pass threaded between two Monterrey defenders. Sigi was willing to shut off the 'we always attack' mentality and roll out a relentless series of defensive midfielder substitutions until we were playing a sort of 5-4-1-0. And it was enough.
In a way it's good that FC Dallas broke the Americans-in-Mexico streak last week. Because this game was already too wonderful and bizarre to carry that additional weight. It's saved from going into any record books and becoming the property of the American soccer establishment. Let Dallas have that. Instead, it's just ours as Sounders fans. It's our game to remember forever and the game of those 14 misfits in Rave Green and Shale who we will never look at the same way again.