July 16, 2011 in Sports

Blanchette: True excitement found down street from Safeco

By The Spokesman-Review
 

SEATTLE – With a dragnet out to find the offense missing from Seattle sports here this weekend, it turns out we only needed to look across Royal Brougham Boulevard.

But who would have thought we’d find the ’27 Yankees of footie?

Four goals? Four goals?

Do you realize that the last time the local stick-and- ball team scored four times in a game is 11 days ago?

Or this: That in their last seven games the Seattle Sounders have scored 18 goals – while the baseball Barreners had managed exactly 10 runs in the same span? And the Barreners are issued, you know, bats.

Oh, you soccerphobes – you’ve got to be hatin’ on that.

“Who says soccer’s not exciting?” teased Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid.

No one among the 36,424 who witnessed the Sounders’ 4-3 slugfest over the defending Major League Soccer champion Colorado Rapids at that place that isn’t Qwest Field anymore.

Look, this isn’t going to sway you anti-soccer hawks who think the game is for socialists and sissies, and insist there’s more entertainment value in algebra, boiling water or real-time film footage of thistle growth. And you won’t have to endure a lecture here or jokes about your tinfoil hats and the earth being flat.

But if there are any fence-sitters out there, be advised that the ticket to have here this summer is to the stadium where the biggest cheers aren’t for the hydro races on the big screen and the home team actually scores.

Unless Felix or the big kid is pitching. Then maybe it’s a draw.

The Sounders are good – a point out of first in the Western Conference. The atmosphere – from the march to the pitch to the songs in the stands – is self-generated, and the fans don’t Bartman-up the game as happened at Safeco Field on Saturday night. Best of all, the game’s not over when Seattle spots the opponent even the slimmest of leads.

Maybe Felix and the big kid might want to change teams.

Twice on Saturday, the Sounders fell behind by a goal – the first time before the game was a minute old. In neither case did the deficit last more than five minutes of play, and both times was wiped out in spectacular fashion – Alvaro Fernandez stagger-stepping his way through a collision to fire one by Rapids goalie Matt Pickens, and Roger Levesque finessing in a redirect.

The Sounders milked the moment until the 82nd minute, when two pretty passes and Brad Evans’ deflected shot led to a diving header by Fredy Montero, who can’t miss these days. Two minutes later he found Mauro Rosales for insurance – which the Sounders, carelessly, needed.

“This was probably the worst disciplined defensively that we were all year,” admitted goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “You can’t just expect to gift goals and keep having to come back from behind, to keep keeping teams in the game.

“I have no problem with making a mistake in the first minute. OK, there’s your one goal – now go win the game 4-1 if you’re better than they are.”

Yeah, but where’s the thrill in that?

Just last Saturday, the Sounders twice came from a goal down and beat the hated devils from Portland. Montero had a pair in that game, and two more on Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Galaxy, the team that leads them in the MLS standings.

Say this, too, for soccer – it keeps a lot of balls in the air.

While the baseball team can only sink or tread water in the American League West, the Sounders are busy on multiple fronts. There’s the MLS schedule, in which they haven’t lost in their last nine matches going back to May. They’re trying for a three-peat in the Open Cup. There are CONCACAF Champions League dates in the next couple of weeks.

And on Wednesday night, they take on Manchester United – 19-time champions of England’s Premier League, the Yankees of soccer – in a friendly here that will be attended by 67,000 true believers.

“I think it will be tremendous,” said Schmid, “and a unique experience for Manchester United from the standpoint that they’ve been to America before and they’ve played games (here), but it’s going to be one of the few times they walk into a stadium where there’s 60,000-plus and find the majority of the fans actually behind the Sounders.

“I’m sure there’s going to be some red in there and Manchester United fans, but our fans are going to come out in droves.”

At this rate, the Sounders may have to open up the upper reaches of the top deck regularly.

“If you came to today’s game and didn’t enjoy it,” Schmid challenged, “they you don’t enjoy sports.”

Barreners beware.


Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email