Late Friday night I was graced with a moment of quiet contemplation. I sat there, staring at the stars, filled with American pride. Liberty is a glorious thing. Freedom another. But my pride wasn't just for the birthday of my country, celebrating its day of independence, it was also buoyed by the men who represented the Stars and Stripes in Brazil, the men who hang their boots in Seattle after a long, hard fought journey.
This World Cup journey was different from others. The United States were the underdog in nearly every game. Outmatched. Outclassed. But that didn't matter. No matter who lined up against them, they weren't afraid. It was American pride. "We can do this. We will do this." That belief took them far, but not far enough. Their exit from the tournament was not a betrayal, instead America was filled with that same pride I felt late Friday night.
However, perhaps more importantly, I felt proud that leading the American charge were Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin, two Seattle Sounders players who'd get to come home to a first place team. But not just a first place team, it was a team that stretched their lead to an absurd 10 points in their absence, who had stretched their lead into a Supporters' Shield favorite. That filled me with pride.
It wasn't just the best XI players who brought Seattle to 35 points in 16 games, it was players 1 through 30. Whenever a player was asked to step up, they donned the Rave Green, put forth their utmost effort, and found a result. There was no quit in them, no giving up. They were Sounders at Heart, and nothing could stop them.
Later that Friday, I slept, and in that sleep, I dreamed.
I woke up with a start. There was somebody else in my house. Grabbing a leftover Roman Candle and a lighter I proceeded to the noise and discovered it to be Roger Levesque. "I am the ghost of Sounders past," he told me. "Your pride is teetering on the edge of being overly confident in the Sounders abilities."
Putting aside my confusion and my makeshift home-defense mechanism, I replied, "But the Sounders are really really good this year, and they could win every game."
"Just because they could win every game this season doesn't mean that they will. Don't you remember the Sounders from seasons past?" After that question, Roger took me on a journey that showed other talented Sounders teams and how despite their obvious talent, they always ended the season earlier than they'd like. "Temper your expectations," he said, "and be grateful for the success they do find. When they win the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup, whether it's this season or the another in the future, your joy will be exultant, not just because they won, but because their success will excise the failings of Sounders past."
I asked the one question that had been on my mind since he showed up, "How can you be a ghost if you're not dead?"
"Just roll with it, dude. Don't analyze it too much," he answered.
I woke up early on Saturday, the odd dream staying with me throughout the day. I waited impatiently for the Sounders to play the Vancouver Whitecaps that evening, and wasted my time away with two World Cup matches and a couple episodes of the show Arrow. Eventually the time came and the game was played and Seattle lost. For only the 6th time in 17 attempts the Sounders did not record a victory, this time coming against our rivals from the north.
The game itself was odd. Every healthy and available Sounder suited up, no matter where they fell between 1 and 30. What looked like a Vancouver runaway turned into an ultimately winnable match for the Sounders, but they couldn't do it.
That night, as always, I slept, and in that sleep, I dreamed.
I woke to someone shaking me. When the fuzziness from my eyes dissipated, I saw it was Brad Evans. "I am the ghost of Sounders present," he said. "You must be pretty bummed we lost today."
"Yeah," I told him. "I knew that it'd be a tricky game, since we were missing so many key players, but we've pulled out results from lots of games this season where the Sounders were left for dead."
To his credit, Evans nodded his head. "We believed we could win too, and we put it all out there. But sometimes you just lose despite your best effort. Every team in the league has amazing players capable of having great games, capable of beating any team any game. You know how when you play basketball against a little kid and you could easily block their shot? That wasn't what we did this game. Sometimes you just have to give those other teams credit."
Brad took me on a trip where we saw the coaching staff watching a replay of the Galaxy and Portland game, taking copious amounts of notes. We saw Obafemi Martins receiving treatment for his hamstring. We stopped by David Estrada and Dylan Remick's house where they were replaying the Seattle Vancouver match in FIFA14 and running up the score in favor of the Sounders.
When it was all over, Brad looked at me and said, "We're going to win games when we should lose, and we're going to lose some games we should win. It's the nature of soccer. And sure, the destination matters, but you've got to lean back and enjoy the ride."
"Mr. Evans?" I asked.
"You're so cool."
He laughed and smiled, "Thanks, but I'm just a manifestation of your subconscious."
I woke up on Sunday and it was already warm outside. My TV was still on from the night before when I'd fallen asleep watching 13 Assassins. I read a book, took a walk and a drive, ate dinner at a new restaurant, and just enjoyed the Seattle summer.
That night I slept, and in that sleep, I dreamed.
I woke up to someone turning off my TV. "I am the ghost of Sounders future," the figure said, "And you really shouldn't fall asleep with your TV on. It's not good for you and it wastes electricity."
"Wait, who are you?" I asked in a half-sleep groggy whisper.
"I'm Jordan Morris. I wanted to let you know that we're all disappointed the Sounders didn't win in Vancouver this past Saturday, but don't take it so hard. There are so many games yet to play; games we'll win, games we'll lose. Some seasons we'll win multiple trophies and some seasons we won't win any."
I interrupted him, "I get it. You win some, you lose some. And it's the losing that makes the winning that much sweeter."
"Exactly," he said. "Fandom is a fickle mistress. There are fans out there who expect their teams to win every year, through hell or high water, and when they don't, their lives are over, figuratively speaking. What we have here in Seattle is a good process, a smart front office who prioritizes winning but not at the expense of the future. We'll win the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup eventually, maybe even this season. And when we do it'll be because our team learned from the losses and became stronger as a result."
"Wait, but aren't you the ghost of Sounders future?" I asked. "Wouldn't you know if the Sounders won the Supporters' Shield and the MLS Cup this season?"
"I'm not a real ghost, idiot," he said as he faded out of my dream.
I woke up and my TV was still on. The Sounders were still in first place by 7 points. They'd still scored the most goals, had the best goal differential, were set to get some of their best players back from World Cup duty, and were on pace to collect 70 points. Not half bad.
And now for something completely GIF
Time for another trip to Canada.
Everybody is so nice there.
That lineup though.
I don't have a good feeling about this game.
C'mon, Seattle, weather this early storm.
Uh, Vancouver, do you mind if we play too?
This is looking like OH COME ON, Fernandez, you jerk.
Your offense is better than this, Seattle.
Uh oh. Sigi's pissed.
This game. Ugh.
I still believe we can pull this off.
Well, we can't win them all, I suppose.
I need to distract myself after that game.
Time to take it out on Portland.
Knocking them out of the Open Cup would make me feel better.