A few summers ago I was driving down the street, all casual and cool. My windows were down due to the warm day. The breeze felt nice. As I neared my destination, navigating my way through quiet residential neighborhoods, I spotted a crow hopping along in a yard to my left, doing crow things. When my car slowly passed him, he took flight in my same direction, then suddenly veered toward me. Little moments of panic hit me as I feared I might actually hit this crow. I've never hit anything ever whilst driving and immediately my "oh noes" alarm went off in preparation for the inevitable mutual destruction. But it never occurred. Instead that crow flew right into my open window; right into me. His wings buffeted the back of my head as we both struggled, for the moment, to understand exactly what was happening. In my infinite wisdom and poise I shouted out, "Bird! What the heck, bird?" Thankfully, between the two of us the bird was the more composed, extricated itself from my car and my life and flew away to go do more crow things. It never apologized but I still forgave it.
You're probably sitting there reading that thinking how weird of a thing to occur and how it could've been worse. And you know what, you're right. But where it gets a little wilder is here: I'm deeply allergic to birds. Well, feathers actually, I'm allergic to bird feathers. So while this crow was in my car making my head a perch as I drove down the road, I was worried about the effects such an encounter would have on me, not just psychologically but physically. I've insulated myself from birds since this allergy was discovered, and I didn't know if this encounter would set off a series of allergic reactions that would ultimately result in my sudden and presumably tragic death. Obviously it didn't, but I didn't know that at the time. So there I was, driving down the street, shocked and fearful, a black specter of death having just latched onto my head.
But nothing happened. I didn't die. The bird didn't die. I didn't say anything decidedly awkward that would require my fudging of the story during retellings, unless you consider "Bird! What the heck, bird" to be an odd turn of phrase. All in all it was just a fluke happenstance that was over as quickly as it began. It wasn't so bad and could've been much worse.
I was thinking of that story after watching the Seattle Sounders lose to the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night. The Sounders have been on the receiving end of four disheartening losses in their past five matches, a run I've never seen from this Seattle squad. Each loss individually stings and hurts, having expectations built up throughout the years that every game should be won, just to have that victory dashed without mercy. It sucks. Losing sucks.
But it's not so bad. It could be worse. See, the Sounders aren't losing because they're simply bad. There are teams out there, in MLS and other sports, that are bad due to bad processes. Seattle isn't a bad team. Wednesday yielded a lineup with three regular S2 starters (Oniel Fisher, Jimmy Ockford, and Aaron Kovar), a rookie (albeit a damn fine one in Cristian Roldan), and Gonzalo Pineda who hadn't played in a month due to injuries. Filling out the squad was Zach Scott, Micheal Azira, Dylan Remick, Marco Pappa, Lamar Neagle, and Stefan Frei. Minus the last four and maybe Pineda, that's a who's who of non-starters. And you know what, they didn't play poorly. Sure, they weren't fluid and it certainly didn't appear to be Hydra-esque out there, but that was a lineup playing in a formation that they've probably only practiced in a handful of times.
As these players become more acclimated with the nuances of the formation and the proclivities of their teammates, they'll turn these frustrating losses into draws and wins. Despite starting players 12-26 on our roster, we're still being competitive within these matches against MLS foes. Again, this isn't bad results due to bad processes. This is bad results despite good processes. Have you seen that handy chart?
Given time and practice, the players will figure it out. Neagle plays lone forward much differently than when he's paired up top with another forward. Chad Barrett will be back soon and that'll allow Neagle to make his runs behind defense or through the centerbacks like he wants to do. Osvaldo Alonso will be back soon and get straight to bossing around opposing teams' offenses, then quickly distributing the ball to start quick counter attacks. All will be well.
In the midst of it all, standing amongst the wreckage with a bird on the back of your head, it's easy to see despair. Four losses in five games is not something we're used to experiencing, and with the Gold Cup, injuries, and suspensions, we fear the next seven weeks as being potentially more of the same. For me, however, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sounders pull out a string of results sooner rather than later. Let's hope it starts on Sunday against Portland.
Let's get this game started and win, okay?
Gotta love these midweek cross-country games.
This is an interesting lineup Seattle is rolling out.
These young Sounders might actually pull this off.
Nope. Nope, there's that goal for Philly.
Seattle very nearly burst into PPL Park and left with a result. But they didn't.
For a second there I actually thought Seattle could pull it off.
It'll all be okay guys, I promise.
Next up is Portland. Ugh. Portland.