Dire days are back, and this time they are worse than before. Each season offers progressively more pain, assimilating our soccer life to follow the conventional plot diagram — introduction, conflict, rising action, failure, climax, resolution. Now, in the fourth installment the pain is more significant and the emotional threats heavier than each previous version.
There have been dark times in Seattle Sounders history. There were the original Dire Days, rising out of the Red Card Wedding, 2015’s latter season was trash. Emergency signings were made. The playoff run was interesting, finally Seattle surpassed the LA Galaxy in the postseason. The Dire Days didn’t die with that playoff run.
They came back in a new form. 2016 started awful. The coach was abandoned by players. Once beloved by fans, they were no longer “All in” on Sigi Schmid. That fateful match at Kansas City was the turning point, less than a week after the stunning five-nil crushing of Dallas. 2016 was quite a bit like a blockbuster film. Enter local hero. Enter the emergency talents from the past. Enter a god from one of the grandest soccer nations in the world — Poseidon. Enter victories and curb-stomping the league both in regular season and in playoffs. Enter MLS Cup, late night airport greetings, a parade through the city. Dire Days 2.0 was a damn good film.
Onto 2017 and the pressures are even higher. Now we all know that the Sounders aren’t just capable of winning MLS Cup, but that’s the new standard. It was a slow start, another grind. Things were going fairly well in the middle and a few new heroes emerge, one from the most storied franchise ever. It looked a bit like an Avenger’s movie. It was the same evil faced in the last film, but Seattle couldn’t surpass Toronto FC this time. It ends in failure, but in hope as well.
But like so many movie franchises and TV shows, the fourth movie in the series needs even more drama, more pain. That’s where we are at now. This is Infinity War. This is the Upside Down. This is the end of hope. This is the whatevs to hay fe. In the fourth installment the pain involves threats to the beloved steward, it is a captain who is no longer Captain. This fourth installment in the Dire Days series involves seeing The Greatest just be a man. It raised our attachment by putting our motto on the very uniform. It raised our connection by drafting our adopted son’s brother, and signing a few more of our neighbors to the squad.
We cannot be as connected emotionally to a season as we could be to this one. We’ve watched the Dire Days franchise grow with us. We’ve seen the rising action result in greatness and fall just short. We’ve seen heroes come and go. But this one is different, for we are built with hope, and so in Dire Days 4: The Reckoning, the writers and directors seek to destroy that hope.
The Author is threatening our heart and soul in ever increasing fashion, and so we turn the only way we can — on each other.
There is only (soccer) pain now.
Of the 65 pro soccer teams in the American system, only six are performing at a lower standard (by points per game then goal differential) than the Seattle Sounders are right now. Two of those are purely developmental squads (S2, TFC II), two are in Oklahoma so that’s OK (Energy, Roughnecks), one is the Rapids and the other is Sky Blue in the NWSL. Even #TheFuture is bleak, if you are concerned with wins/losses at that level.
This sequel sucks. I would not wish it on anyone. How can Seattle get out of this malaise? It isn’t just health. It isn’t just coaching. It isn’t just the “summer signings GM.” It isn’t just the old players fading. It isn’t just the young players not taking that step. It’s everything.
Will the Author get Sounders through this as Marvel did in Infinity War? Will the path to the climax involve new heroes emerging? Are we to see the dreams of the faithful fulfilled by one last series of greatness from Captain America, from El Corazon, from The Steward? Do our heroes have anything left?
Or does everyone die and the Dire Days franchise die with it?