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Maybe friendlies don’t have to be so awful

The trick is changing your perspective on what they should be.

Not my daughter.
Max Aquino/Sounder at Heart

I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a big fan of friendlies. Prior to Saturday’s game against Club Necaxa, the only other time I had attended one in person was the 2010 game against Boca Juniors.

Interestingly enough, that was the first Seattle Sounders match I had attended. Now, my daughter will be able to say the first Sounders match she ever saw in person was a friendly, too.

In doing so, I had a bit of an epiphany about the nature of friendlies and how they fit into the Sounders ecosystem. At their worst, they are blind money-grabs that disrupt the season and anger the fan base. The game against Celtic in 2010 may have been the best example of this.

But we’ve also seen friendlies fill a dead part of the schedule, give rarely used players a chance for exposure and provide a fun night out for fans who might not otherwise go to a match. The opponents aren’t always sexy -- or even that interesting — but they can be a positive part of the season-ticket experience.

I should probably take this opportunity to note that this is the first year I’ve been a full-season ticket holder. I actually paid for this game.

I won’t sit here and try to convince you that the Club Necaxa match was necessary or even important. I will, however, point out that I had a great time and am glad I took the opportunity to bring my 4-year-old.

It should also be said that I used this opportunity to show her around the press box, where I normally watch the games. She got to eat dinner with the other working press, said hi to Stefan Frei and even turned down the opportunity to have her photo taken with Brad Evans. Even though her favorite part of the press box visit was getting to choose a treat from the cookie tray — I’m not sure I’ve seen such wide-eyed amazement -- I like to think it was a memorable experience for her.

Once we made our way to our seats in the 300s, it became clear my daughter was not remotely out of place. We met up with two of her friends and one of the concession stand workers even asked us if there was some special kids promotion going on because of the sheer number of youngins he saw running around the concourse.

Which is to say I think a lot of the fans who came did so with the same idea as me: That they’d treat this as “something different.” Friendlies like this are easy gateway drug for uninitiated fans. They can ask lots of questions, make requests for concession-stand runs and choose to go the bathroom at the most inopportune times and not have to worry about seriously inconveniencing the people they came with. If they force you to miss a goal, you’ll live. If they decide to leave at halftime, no big whoop.

Obviously, ever season-ticket holder doesn’t have a 4-year-old they want to bring to the game. But I think a similar ethos can be used for any fan, whether that means pre-funking at a new spot, bringing an uninitiated co-worker

I suppose that’s not really a ringing endorsement for friendlies, but I had fun and am glad I chose to use my ticket the way I did. And, who knows, maybe there were a few new fans made that night.

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