If you’ve read this blog a few times, you know that I have unabashedly praised the management of Sounders FC since Day 1. I admit I’m a little biased due to my previous professional relationship with a person in a high level of management there, plus my overall interest in soccer. But I have objective arguments for how much I admire their work.
That being said, I’m not going to shy away from saying that tonight’s match with FC Barcelona left me underwhelmed for the first time out of the 11 or 12 games I’ve attended so far. On one hand, maybe my expectations were too high. The best team in the world comes to town, I want to see magic. And in the first half, I saw some really cool things from Messi, Xavi, Henry, etc..
Then a funny thing happenned at halftime. The Sounders decided that this was indeed a friendly, and they didn’t need to play any regulars for the second 45 minutes. After all, the team is 2/3 of the way through their season, in a playoff hunt and coming off their worst loss of the year. It made tactical sense to rest the starters.
And so for the first time all year, they forgot who they were. They confused themselves with the Seahawks and 1996-2003 Mariners. They forgot that out of the 65,000+ who came to the game tonight, 25-30,000 of them had never been to a Sounders game before. They forgot that the MLS is the MLS. And for the first time all year, they forgot to put on a show.
The result was 45 minutes of second half football that resembled 2 people kicking a ball of yarn away from a cat. The Barcelona second team seemed to be under strict orders not to attack the goal until at least 10 passes had been completed. (And yes, we were counting as they passed the ball easily from one side of the field to another.) The Sounders first team is a very competitive MLS team.. With all due respect, the Sounders second team is made up of guys who can’t play on a first team in Norway or Sweden. I don’t say this with contempt. I’m just saying when I fire up my Xbox 360 and play Fifa 09, a game with about 1.2 gajillion players in its database, the guys on the Sounders reserve squad are not in that database.
So, imagine you are the Sounders management. Your immediate response is, “Andy, what do you want? I brought you Chelsea and Barcelona. Oh, and we’re in 2nd place. Oh, and we made it to the US Open Cup Final. So take your blog and smoke it.”
And that is an argument I can totally agree with. So maybe next year, bring me one of Chelsea and Barcelona. And maybe bring me someone else not so good that we can actually compete with. Maybe AC Milan and Watford. Or Tottenham and PSV. Or maybe the MLS needs to give the teams a week off o they can book friendlies and not get screwed by the schedule.
My rambling point, is that the MLS lost out tonight when Barcelona’s subs playes Seattle’s subs for 45 minutes on front of 65,000 people that paid full price to see at least one of the teams play starters all night long. Or if you were going to sub everyone out, at least do it at the 50 minute mark and pull them off the field to a standing ovation. Instead, we got one half of fun soccer, then the teams sneaking the players off the field at halftime, with a level of play in the second half that simply confirmed for soccer haters why they dislike the sport. Blame it on the MLS, blame it on Barcelona, or blame it on the Sounders. But I think for the first time, they allowed a crowd to leave the stadium saying, “I don’t get what the excitement is all about.”