The time has come when the shamans and holymen come down from their safe haven in the inky shadows of Mount Rainier. They have blessed the Northwest summer with three fruitful months of sun and boilerplate heat. The fire of leaves beckons forth the Seattle fall and the time for the wild raindance and brisk screech of the Chinook wind is upon us once again. There is a tonal shift as winter knocks. These specters of men do not come forth with protection and comfort of the elements. With a victory on the field by the noble Seahawks, they’ll channel their energies to herald in a stormfront of chaos and confusion that is the Sounder’s Hydra.
The increasingly onerous task to bring forth this obstinate beast lies with the sacrifices that Head Grandmaster Sigi had to perform throughout the seasons. The Hydra’s defensive potential were boosted with AirMarshall flight capabilities and the borrowed yet reliable Yedlin speed gems have become legends of themselves. The Great HoneyBadger and his pupil, Gonzo, lent their knowledge of the landscape providing a focussed calm of the monster’s temper. All was not well as missteps were taken through treacherous territory. Injuries hampered the monster and incompatible magic from the Anibaba spirit delayed the monster’s rise to dominance. A steadfast collective of Faithful looked to the past on many occasions, very nearly pushing the ominous Panic into reality. Obagoals, DeuceRockets, Tigershots, and Barrett Barrages railed against the tidal wave of an alternative reality where loss was the only possible outcome. Through sheer will and talent, Sigi concentrated his rage at the timeshift and the Hydra obeyed his sinister yet noble commands. Goats were slayed, whole Timber forests crunched beneath its claws, free Red Bulls were tamed by its mighty banshee roar.
One more obstacle now blocks the Hydra’s ascent up the Whitecaps to the extinguish the Galaxies’ light and its reward of an impenetrable Shield. An ear-splitting crash of furious water creates a moat around the mountain. The Hydra and the Rapid have sparred once before, the immense water god slaying the Hydra many moons ago. Sigi sees weakness as the fluid motion of the Rapids is crippled and fatigued. Sigi concludes it is because of too many laps around itself and formulates plan to wrestle the Rapids into submission. He only has one chance.
Will the Hydra obey?
ON YOU SOUNDERS!
Prediction: Sounder 2, Rapids 0
Q: What exciting and new thing happened this week?
A: Popular belief would have you thinking that people from the Northwest want the sunshine all summer long. That we long for the heat of a solar flare, the tans of Greek goddesses, and the days that include a preemptive Mexican siesta. Apart from the siesta (I am in favor of sleeping after eating), the first two are farces. Many have said it is a proper summer but even I can tell when the morning KOMO4 newscasters are no longer excited about the human roasting fest. We, the mass majority of Washington State, have a threshold for the heat we have been getting for the past two months. And Friday was the tipping point.
The sky was of brushed steel, a few tears from heaven drifted upon my windshield and I giggled at the thought that the weather might be turning back for the better. I stayed inside the office for the majority of the day, wondering what chilled breeze would welcome my bare arms as the clock’s long fingers struck the 2 and the 6 in sync.
That breeze never came.
The heat lingered for an eternity as the metallic atmosphere choked on its own insulation. Humidity consumed my pores, gasping for fresh air. It only came unnaturally as I ran for the car. A silent sigh of relief filled the cabin as the air conditioning put its profession on the line and earned a gold star.
Saturday night, we still had to open all the windows as it was still too warm to sleep with them closed. It is a shame because Kristen’s pregnant and this heat isn’t helping any of the cliche albeit natural responses that women have to baby-making. I know, I know. #firstworldproblems
We are only 12 weeks into this adventure and it’s something neither of us have encountered. Congratulations! You are one of the first to know.
It’s a trying time to be a Sounders supporter. The past two years have seen varying degrees of late season non-finishers. From nearly clinching the Supporter’s Shield to our first loss of the USOC to the Great Implosion of 2013, the Sounders as a team have tried our loyalty. That was a right thumping by Real Salt Lake. It wasn’t an unexpected form from them. They played well. The Sounders played reactively, which hasn’t suited them as of late. They still have 12 more games in the regular season. I say the next four are where they need to dig deep, find strength and focus as a team, and go big. I honestly wouldn’t mind if they lost as long as they played well (some would argue that playing well should not result in a loss. I digress). That first game of four will start with the mid-week tweekers of MLS, the San Jose Earthquakes.
It is no secret that San Jose wants a rival. A dyed-in-the-wool rival that can elevate their game and draw crowds. Similar to what Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have. And so they settled on coaxing Seattle with a billboard (similar to Portland’s infamous taunt) and ruffling a few Twitter feathers. One of them being mine. I’ve never liked San Jose but it has to do with how annoying they are not the damned Heritage Cup. What they are doing is forcing an issue into becoming a reality and instead it’s just transforming into a piece of California plastic hardware.
It goes without saying that the Sounders need the win to get back on top of the MLS standings. Oba and Dempsey need to find their way past Jon Busch and there is couple of ways of going about that. Fancy footwork causes a lot of chaos and confusion and the guys paired with Barrett and Pappa have proven they can do the one-touch tango with the best of soccer players. They have to get selfish though and take the distance shots. You see an opening, trust your midfield and take the damned shot. Crosses aren’t going to work unless you’ve frazzled their defense and we haven’t done that lately to any team. Mix ups are the name of the game now and flipping the script on how Oba and Dempsey attack needs to happen if they expect double-digit goal stats by the end of the season.
Speaking of midfield and defense, I was quite proud of them. They looked on form and Ozzie’s own goal can only be chalked up to how hard he tried to save it. Trust me, there is no good goddamned way any goalie is saving that. Leo was spectacular and Marshall did Marshall things. With San Jose settling back into thuggery, I expect our midfield to bring the pain and not put up with any of their shenanigans. Oh, one more thing: No Anibaba. None. Zilch. I don’t want to see him on the field at all. I want see someone marking Wondolowski and never taking the gas off. Don’t give the man a chance for a goal let alone an assist. This means no Anibaba.
It’s time to get back on the horse and not panic. With 12 games (and the insufferable “2-in-hand” rhetoric being spewed), the Sounders can still make a true push for glory and not burn themselves out. We cannot be that team that almost makes it every year. Let that be Houston. They’ve earned the title.
ON YOU SOUNDERS!
Prediction: Sounders 2, San Jose 1
Jotting down this past week’s events have left me thinking the Sounders played on Sunday and that Manchester United might have won their match against my editor’s Swansea. With both transforming to lies, I am left with the midweek US Open Cup win wherein I don’t have eat my shoe and the Sounders travel to Philly. Oh and #schmetzerghini is apparently a thing and is now part of Sounders Twitter lore. We are a weird bunch of fans sometimes.
The Sounders travel to The Fortress to meet and defeat Real Salt Lake. It won’t be as easy as May’s encounter wherein the we decimated RSL 4-0. For one, Oba is out on accumulation of yellows from Houston’s game. It was dumb but not life-changing. I am over it but it would have been really nice for Dempsey to run the attack with Oba against Rimando. We have Cooper who just doesn’t provide that spark. Neagle isn’t really an option due to some funk that he’s in. I’d like to see Bowen get his first start but not against in this stadium. It’s a tricky position to be in. Real Salt Lake counters our loss with the addition of a few key players in this match that were absent from May, notably Rimando, Beckerman, and Plata. We’ve been in that position before where the backups forget how to play soccer and get humiliated. Naturally, RSL will be out to regain some dignity.
As is all Sounder versus Real Salt Lake games, it is a battle of the giants. I love these games because it isn’t a true rivalry. It’s like Ken versus Ryu in Street Fighter. They are so equally matched with their own dominating styles that it’s a treat to see them face off in the hands of professionals. Beckerman versus Marshall. Dempsey versus Rimando. Ozzie versus Plata (or everyone, natch). Both are well-oiled machines and I have a dump truck load of respect for Real. Hell, I’ll go so far as to say that if the Sounders didn’t exist at all (let’s go all Doctor Who on this scenario), I’d be an RSL fan. That’s how much I like these teams squaring up against each other.
So where does my prediction fall? Rimando is the best goalkeeper in the MLS and only chaos and confusion will bring him to his knees. I don’t think Pappa’s tigershots are going to be a problem (but I always hope for one anyways). Assuming Cooper takes Oba’s spot, the attack will be spotty and not as crisp, something RSL will capitalize on before losing the ball again due to stupid errors. Say what you will about Traore but the man knows what he’s doing out there and 7 times out of 10 will make the right decision. Lining him up with Yedlin, Leo, and Marshall fortifies our backline into a near perfect show-stopper. As our midfield is shored up by the backline, Gonzo and Ozzie are resilient to any team changes. They are the Wonder Twins, consistent and cool, making impacts where they see necessary. RLS’s Plata will avidly avoid the both of them but don’t think for a second that’s going to go according to the script.
The Sounders are on top of the charts again. Where they belong. RSL is still working out the kinks with their youth versus experience project but have been seeing glimmers of hope. They are still the Juggernaut to our Hulk and it can go either way. It’s a toss up and I have the Sounders’ back. We just have to make zero mistakes and cause a little chaos and confusion in the box. It’s doable. Let’s snatch those points!
ON YOU SOUNDERS!
Prediction: Sounders 1, RSL 1
Polygraphs are a funny thing. Before my job, I had always envisioned them being conducted in an abandoned warehouse in the middle of BFE (Ohio for those who don’t know what BFE stands for). Lights low, a frigid concrete floor on top of which a metal desk stands, it’s four thin substitutes for legs digging in as it was dragged to the middle of the light source for maximum effect. The 1970s faded orange plastic chair was a companion but not comforting as it might have been in primary school. Two men approach, bad cop and well, come now, bad cop. One carrying a machine designed to measure all sorts of inconspicuous approaches to the truth. The other? A more direct route of encouragement, his granddad’s billyclub. Looks like it’s found the truth a number of times by the amount of dried blood on its timber.
They aren’t anything like that though. It’s a white room with one plastic desk and two equally well-worn chairs. Ten minutes in and the proctor sets up shop. A laptop that connects to a data grabbing machine via SCSI. Not USB, SCSI. The shit a computer geek notices and takes shock over still bowls me over. The gentleman, and he is a perfectly nice man in the way of mannerisms and tact, has made sure I am fully relaxed. And then the questions.
I am not allowed to go into detail as to what he asked or the procedure in which his line of questioning took. That would give you all an edge and I have worked too hard to get to this point to let any slackers pass me by with my unwitting help. It was glaringly obvious to me that I wasn’t going to pass without digging into God’s pocket and pulling out some humor. I went to my happy place where British comedy occupies a great deal of the real estate. As I listened and answered the questions, I stepped about until I found the person that reassured me that making up Olympic sports was a viable career path if it all went south: Robin Williams.
By the rapid communication and childhood lamentation, I am assured that many people are aware of the passing of Robin Williams. From technology sites to gossip rags to celebrities all the way down to us grovelling peons. Many will extol his outright virtues, his long-lasting demon exorcism, his wit and satire. All have brought up Goodwill Hunting, The Fisher King, and Good Morning, Vietnam. Many others have cited their fondness of him in yesteryear’s movies such as Aladdin, Jumanji, and Hook. The man deserves praise heaped upon him for being versatile and progressive in his comedy.
I will always remember him for this though:
Robin’s Live on Broadway was so out of the ordinary for me. It was fresh and had me in stitches from beginning to the very gorilla end. I had never heard anyone talk so tactfully about their addictions that I began to challenge my own sense of humor. He was loud, not so brash but sly in his delivery. He made you want to go to Hell and enjoy it without so many words. Soon after, I found the comedic mainstream staples: Prince of Punch, George Carlin, Voice Extraordinaire Eddie Murphy, and of course father-figure Bill Cosby and old-potty mouth Richard Pryor.
Turns out that I can ruin any joke but those are just the setups. It’s those moments of awkwardness and silence that I thrive in. Spontaneity has a way of making people turn off their brains and produce a natural reaction of true laughter. It backfires from time to time but I’ll turn back to look at those that taught me not to take life so seriously. Robin Williams will be standing front and center, shouting about cocaine and sweating like pig. All for laugh.
Save me a spot up there, won’t you?
I missed documenting the Sounder’s first game back from international break. Sue me. All you need to know is that combining our B-squad and parts of our A-squad doesn’t really work. It’s something I’ve been harping on about on Twitter for the past couple of years. This inability to plug and play teammates is incredibly frustrating but as one Aaron Campeau pointed out to me during the World Cup, there are my expectations and then there is reality. Trust me, I am trying to accept the reality. My doctor tells me my blood pressure is finally down after the last four year. Yes, this accepting realistic expectations is a good thing.
What is a better thing was that USOC game versus the Timbers. Oh my Lord! This game proved that the USOC passion is still alive and well in the Sounders. The first half was battle of the midfields with a few run-and-gun moments that never finished for either side. It’s well-documented Sigi and Co have been putting Ozzie through a three-week marathon of Naruto animes. It seems to have paid off because his goal off of a Neagle cross was absolutely dark art bushido. You could almost hear him call out the name of the move: “Stinging Badger Shuriken!”
It came down to seconds at the end when the Timbers equalized in the 93 minute. All that relentless pressure was too much for the Sounders defense. Frei was playing on point up until the goal. I’d even say that the Timbers played a little Chaos and Confusion in the 18 to cause that goal. Much respect to Fernandez for the follow-up that caused most of Washington to go into cardiac arrest. The game was evenly matched and with Zakuani on for the Timbers (yes, that is a thing I have to consciously think about) and Yedlin off, the tipping point was Chara. Chara though, came up to play the villain. Studs up and scissorkicking like M.Bison, Chara straight dirty tackled Marco Pappa and pulled a red card for his lack of judgement. From this game-changer, Kenny Cooper’s head and Marco Pappa’s tigershot (My pet name for his famous longshots) gave the Sounders two more goals to end the hot and muggy game 3-1.
It’s been said on the other side of the Pacific Northwest that this game was unfair for two reasons: It was played at the subpar venue that is Starfire and that the call on Chara was unfair. To the first point, Starfire has character and personality which is more than what I can say about a lot of other venues in the MLS. It should actually appeal to the Portland mentality of being quirky and out of the ordinary kind of like Providence Park. Those qualities are the only reason I like Providence. Starfire brings teams and supporters a little reminder of where we all came from when we were eight years old. It’s a break from the World Cup, from stadium play, from huge crowds chanting. I am sorry if you don’t like it but it’s not about how many people we can stuff in a stadium for USOC; it’s the brotherhood and tight knit community that soccer brings. That’s why I like playing the USOC at Starfire.
As for the second point, it is an incredibly simple philosophy. Soccer is like life. It’s unfair. Deal with it and move on. With that out of the way, Chara should know better. The problem is that he doesn’t. That thick-headed move was being rushed out several times throughout the game and it was only a matter of time before consequences were doled out. Either Chara needs to learn (doubtful) or Porter needs to learn how to coach that kind of player (again, doubtful).
On Sunday, the official Cascadia Cup scrum between the these two teams takes off. With a morning of World Cup Finals between Germany and Argentina (Go Germany!) and a healthy coat of 90+ degree weather rolling through the Emerald City, soccer lovers will be going into one of the hypest games in the league. Nay! The world. So come out and help us celebrate the birthday of our very own Jacob Cristobal, the man who keeps the machine running and my words fresh here at Cheeky Backheel. Will we see our two World Cup stars duke it out in Centurylink? What tactics will Porter bring to the table? Will the heat die down in the evening to allow for a whole 90 minutes of running and dominating? The most vital question though: What will the tifos be like???
All these questions will be answered on Sunday!
ON YOU SOUNDERS!!!!!
Prediction: Sounders 3-Portland 1 (run it back, boys. Let’s give them nightmares).