Is this the year the Seattle Sounders finally answer the call and win the MLS Cup? Following their 2-1 first-leg victory over FC Dallas, the Sounders are in position to make this continued hope a definite possibility. However, it won't be easy. I know this because Dallas is good.
You know what though, the Sounders are good too. Even after allowing Fabian Castillo to score an easy goal by simply outrunning Zach Scott, a man who suffers from reverse Benjamin Buttons disease, the Sounders said, "Yeah, no more of that shit," and locked it down, even scoring two goals in the process to head down to Texas with a series lead. That series lead is huge as a win or a draw would see the Sounders through to the conference finals.
This isn't breaking news though, we know this. What the Sounders do with this knowledge is something else entirely different. This is uncharted territory: going into the 2nd leg of a series with a lead. The edict is simple; the Sounders must protect the lead. Doing so without Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso is a tough ask, though the team just proved they can be successful without them.
Dallas fans gave us a lot of shit for predicting a Sounders victory this past week. It was all done over twitter though, so you might not have seen it. Do you know what occurs to me though? After defeating LA Galaxy in the knockout rounds, the Sounders have become the boogeyman. We are the team people fear. We are the team everybody wants to avoid. Check out this quote on MLSsoccer's end of season power rankings, "Go back and watch the first 35 minutes of that win against RSL and tell us you're not a little bit scared of this Seattle team."
The beauty of that quote is that when Seattle is clicking, nobody can beat us. While that is obvious, what is less obvious is that more often than not during this 11 game unbeaten streak the Sounders have rarely been clicking. Instead they're just powering their way to results. They're using their superior talents and experience and the knowledge that the other ten guys on the field can and will exert their dominance over their opponents and force submission. If I'm any other team remaining in these playoffs, I'm not looking forward to facing Seattle. I want to line up against teams that don't make me wish brown shorts were an option.
That's the reality facing opposing teams, especially defenders. As a coach you've got to devote two centerbacks and two defensive midfielders to clogging up the area Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins utilize so expertly. That's their focus: stop Clintfemi, prevent the drift. But then you throw in Andreas Ivanschitz, Nelson Haedo Valdez, Marco Pappa, Tyrone Mears, Erik Friberg, Andy Rose, Cristian Roldan, and even Chad Barrett and you're thinking to yourself, "What the fuck can I do?" You can't. You just hope your goalie has the game of his life and you're able to poach a goal against the team that gives up the fewest amount of goals in a season.
It's like aiming at a target a mile away and trying to hit it while dodging a house-sized projectile that's being launched from five feet away. The inevitability that is the Seattle Sounders is rolling through opponents, leaving them stunned, exasperated, and defeated. Teams won't win shootouts against Seattle, they won't win defensive stalemates. Seattle is too balanced. Seattle has trump cards coming off the bench. Seattle has Ozzie and B-Rad waiting in the wings.
If I'm Oscar Pareja I'm telling my team to do what Dallas does best and to hope, to dream, to wish that luck will damn the Sounders chances, or that Daniel Radford gets the center referee spot for Sunday's game, because otherwise they can't dam the floodgates for long enough to overcome the deficit they find themselves in right now. If I'm Oscar Pareja I'm telling my young team that we had a good run this year but were just unlucky in having to face Seattle when they're busy steamrolling any and all comers, that to take this lesson as a learning experience and regroup for next year.
This is the year of the Seattle Sounders. Gird your loins, friends, because shit's about to get real. Everything's coming up Rave Green and there's nothing anybody can do to stop it. Best hold on and enjoy the ride.
Oh, Kevin Stott is the ref? Brilliant.
Dallas is playing a dangerous game and it'll come back to bite them.
An away goal?
Zach Scott almost caught up to Castillo on that goal.
It's okay though. We'll be okay.
We can do this, Seattle, just work together as a team.
Whoa! Amazing goal! I did not expect that from Ivanschitz!
And Dallas thought they'd get out of here unscathed?
Come on, Sounders, hit them while they're down.
Clint Dempsey! Oh my word!
A playoff victory!
And here Dallas thought they had a chance.
I'm really enjoying this ride the Sounders are taking us on.
Can't get too ahead of ourselves though, as there's lots left to do.