It’s not often I come home from a Sounders game and say to my wife “Well, I want those two hours back.” Last night was such a night.
A resounding, crushing defeat from a club that had never before posed a threat, delivered from On High with smiting force upon the Seattle Sounders. That’s how I can best describe the events that took place at Century Link Field last night.
I once said that any time Arlo White started a game with the phrase “Seattle has never done [x] before”, they usually wound up doing it. That was high praise for Arlo, higher praise for the Sounders. It was usually in reference to them achieving some incredible feat, such as blasting through RSL’s 29-game no-loss streak, at Rio Tinto no less, or beating Monterrey in Mexico.
So when my good friend Ryan Sales (Sales On Sounders) made a post yesterday that seemed similar to Arlo’s boasts of old, touting the greatness of the Seattle line-up, and the magical threat of a “Curse of Sigi” on the Crew, it seemed almost prophetic that the Sounders would deliver a sound whacking to the Crew, and come away with The Three. What transpired instead will forever live in my memory as the single worst game I’ve ever seen from the Seattle Sounders Football Club.
We’ve occasionally seen poor play from a member or three of the team – no player is On every game. It’s impossible. They’re human. Human’s are fallible. But we’ve rarely seen the entire team play poorly. The last time in my memory was at Rio Tinto last season on the first leg of the set against RSL. And even then, the boys seemed to have some fight in them.
Last night, I watched every possible thing go wrong that could go wrong in a game. I’d like to say that it was poor gamesmanship on the part of the Crew, diving so often, I thought it looked like they were looking for pearls on the grass. I’d like to say that it was abysmal officiating, from a referee that threw calls as badly as a paid-off Champ in the ring taking a dive in the 7th. And if I said those things, I wouldn’t be lying.
But I wouldn’t be telling the truth.
The truth is that the only one who beat Seattle last night… Was Seattle.
Last season, I would harp on the Sounders’ game-play. Their passing game was sad. They flubbed passes, they failed to trap the ball, failed to connect with their crosses, failed, failed, failed. That was early in the season, perhaps 4 or 5 games in. Then the team gelled, meshed, and became a unit functioning as a team. The wrinkles smoothed out, and the game-play became a thing of beauty to behold.
Last night was all of those worst moments from the 2011 season rolled into a single game. Lackluster passing, lazy trapping, abominable running games, strikers standing around like 5 year olds in the Outfield, keepers so far off the mark, they might as well have been on the sidelines watching the game.
And that was the tip of the iceberg. That didn’t even count the atrocities of their set pieces. Lately the boys seem to have decided that the best way to set up the ball on front of the goal is to shoot for the far post. The method seems to have this thought behind it: “Ok – I’ll kick the ball for the far post, and maybe if the heavens are aligned, someone can bring it back in.” Never mind that far post goals are as rare as hens teeth and snake shoulders. Get the ball in the box! Give it a chance to find net. Don’t take that chance away before a player even makes contact with it!
And while fouls happen, and referees are there to see the penalties awarded quickly and correctly, bad calls also happen. What should not happen is that a player should stand around trying to convince the referee that a foul just happened. Don’t wait for the call, boys – keep the game flowing. If there’s going to be call, trust me, you’ll hear the whistle.
Sigi Schmid tried to take the blame. He hadn’t led the boys correctly, he said. He hadn’t given them the will to work the strategy right, he said.
But the coach is on the sideline, not on the pitch. What it comes down to is the players on the pitch, and how well they work as a team. The Beautiful Game isn’t about stars, it’s about teams. It’s about sets, and magic, and the skill and strategy of the moment. All the pre-game strategizing in the world only pays off if the players remember to carry it with them onto the grass.
Last night, the Seattle Sounders failed to carry it with them, and the price was paid.
As my wife and I always tell each other – any given day, any team can beat any other team. Last night, it was Columbus’ time to shine. Yes, they dove. Yes, the ref made horrible calls.
But in the end, the Seattle Sounders FC’s worst enemy was wearing Rave Green.