"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
September will remind us that we absolutely crushed Chivas USA this year, and in retrospect I feel a little bad. But those two thrashings bookended a month that saw the height of success and glory but also two humbling defeats in league play. The Supporters' Shield lead had almost vanished. The same questions began to swirl: did we put too much emphasis on the Open Cup? Are Sigi's Sounders now a team that can't stay consistent for a season's second half?
League Play: 4-2 Win at Chivas USA, September 3
Despite the scoreline, this match wasn't even close. Despite playing away the Sounders scored nearly at will against a listless Chivas defense. Here are the highlights. Four goals in the first half, and it could have been more. Clint Dempsey had a bit of an off night for finishing. However, Brad Evans was wearing his free kick boots or something, because his service was Mauro-esque in this match.
But the second half saw the Sounders play down to their opponents level a bit. Marco Delgado scored a great header goal early in the second half, and Zach Scott is whistled for a foul in the box late. The penalty is buried.
Or as Jeremiah put it, "the Sounders seemed very much like a dog who had caught a cat for the first time. They had caught up, pinned it down and were a little shocked that the little critter started scratching back. Once the dust had settled, the Sounders were forced to settle for a 4-2 win."
League Play: 3-2 Win vs. Real Salt Lake, September 12
While Marco Pappa was off scoring all the goals for Guatemala and just being a general badass, the Sounders kept rolling in MLS, this time at home against perennial rival Real Salt Lake. Here are the highlights.
In the 30th minute, after some sloppy defensive plays, Javi Morales received a pass in a great position inside the box and buried it, surrounded by Sounders looking flat-footed. The Sounders reacted strongly, with several big chances in the next few minutes. Despite the first two heads of the hydra doing hydra things, it took a third head to snag the equalizer. Lamar Neagle picked up a pass on the wing, fought his way inside to the corner of the box, and absolutely ripped his signature "once or twice a season I hit the top corner from 25 yards with either foot" shot. It was glorious.
Like so many other times this season, this unlocked the power of the rest of the hydra. A few minutes hence, Dempsey and Martins interchanged with some short passing that freed Oba one-on-one with Rimando, but with a tight angle. Nick got a hand to Martins perfect shot, but it dribbled on into the net.
Plata would grab a second after a ridiculous deflection and bounce off the post that Frei could never have stopped. Then Borchers stops Oba with a pullback, sees red, and RSL are down a man without much of an argument. In the 93rd minute, Andy Rose continues his scoring streak and drives home the poached winner after a free kick bounces around in the box.
This was a feel good win, an exciting, high quality match that could have easily been a draw. The Sounders were flying high with a 4-point lead in the Supporters' Shield race.
US Open Cup Final: 3-1 Win at PPL Park, September 16
Just four days later, across the country, the Sounders had a shot at a fourth US Open cup trophy. They made no mistake about it, it was time to bring the Cup home, for the fans. And the way that victory was shared with the fans was legendary.
There were nervy moments. Edu struck first after some missed chances for the Sounders and nice saves from Frei. Then Barrett found a way to scramble in a ball that was bouncing around, and the game was anyone's to take. Frei, the woodwork and the defenders made more incredible, seat-of-the-pants saves. MacMath was on top of his game as well. But in the end, this was one game the Sounders were not going to allow to go to penalties. When Philly got tired, the hydra got going, scoring two in extra time enjoying the win with the travelling fans.
But the celebration continued off the field. Traveling support headed to a nearby bar, and before long some Sounders and the cup showed up. The Cup was passed to ECS, who were given custody of the trophy for the week and trusted to transport it to the NYRB match.
Here's a photo of mine of the cup in transit to New Jersey:
League Play: 1-4 Loss at Red Bull New York, September 20
Speaking of that New York match, well, let's not. Match congestion was clearly an issue. Travel, tired legs, many other excuses. But this was a very disappointing match for a Sounders team that was getting used to flying high.
Barrett and Cooper were the starting forwards. BWP scored in the first minute. What else can you say? However, still high from the Open Cup victory, this was seen as simply a blip.
League Play: 1-3 Loss at FC Dallas, September 24
But the road trip wasn't over, and neither was the losing spell.
Continuing the game-every-four-days pattern, the Sounders headed to Texas to take on a Dallas team that was looking very good. This was the Sounders' "game in hand," proving the rule that games in hand are useless to discuss until they are played.
Oba and Clint were back in the lineup, but things weren't clicking. The Sounders were a step slower, and Dallas was drawing them in and getting behind on the counterattack. Despite another Neagoal, this was another game to forget.
That didn't stop us from dissecting this Dallas goal from every possible perspective.
The Sounders closed the locker room after this one, and didn't make any players available for interviews. Was it all happening again?
Long wait before locker room opened. Not one Sounder remained in locker room to discuss 3-1 loss.— Don Ruiz (@donruiztnt) September 25, 2014
League Play: 4-2 Win vs. Chivas USA, September 27
Well, nothing like a 4-2 win at home to calm the nerves. Beating Chivas certainly didn't solve everything, but the points and getting back home to recover were badly needed after a brutal month.
Once again the Sounders gave up an early goal, a worrying pattern. But Oba decided to Oba and let rip from distance in one of his best goals of the year, emphatically tying the single-season goals record.
Then...just watch this goal again. I had forgotten about it. Oba was back:
But Oba wanted to get Dempsey going again too, so he fed him this perfect little assist and Dempsey knew what to do with it.
A little sloppy here, a little too reliant on hydra magic there, but at least the Sounders were back on track, and entertaining the fans at home.
"First place and scoreboard watching feels real good. If that's the last ever bite of goat, it tasted pretty good." -Dave Clark