Los Angeles Galaxy v Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Championship - Leg 2

Let’s dig into the Seattle Sounders condition; and we won’t be talking about refereeing decisions


Let’s hope some of the understandable, caffeinated consternation coming from Seattle has died down a bit overnight; a whole bunch of pitchfork and lantern-level animus rose from Rave Green Valley late Sunday.

The fans clearly care, and thanks heavens for them; the club’s impassioned support has done so very much to enhance and color in the sometimes black-and-outline drawing of MLS.

But as the sting of last night’s loss wears off, the balance needs to tilt away from officiating-inspired acrimony and wrongheaded league level conspiracy suggestions (claims of being “cheated,” egged on some of the owners, no less) and more toward thoughtful introspection.

The Sounders are done for 2012, and the reasons have a lot to do with the club’s own decisions.

Did the breaks fall Seattle’s way? Absolutely not. And that was on the essentials list for the dramatic rally Seattle Sounders FC needed. Former Sounders man Kasey Keller said as much before Sunday’s broadcast, and he was spot-on right. Which brings us to the point:

The Seattle Sounders and manager Sigi Schmid simply left themselves with too much to do. They put themselves in position to need those breaks.

Seriously, a 3-0 deficit? Again?

The Sounders made critical mistakes. Again. Worse, they were rooted in the same naiveté and lack of a collective, two-part plan that did in Schmid’s team in 2011. The Sounders simply must develop another approach on the road, one that seeks to limit the two-legged damage and give the team a chance to claim the series at home.

(MORE: Analysis of Sunday’s match from Richard Farley)

(MORE: Highlights from CenturyLink, including the controversial moments)

They need a little more Houston Dynamo-type pragmatism, a little less attack-minded, organizational hubris, the kind that says “We are Seattle, and this is how we do it.”

Just like a year ago, a 3-0 hole, one assembled imprudently on the road, was too much to overcome. The fault here lies in failure to focus on shape and defensive responsibility on the road, plus the choice to go with offense-minded Mario Martinez in the opening leg in Los Angeles.

Speaking of that lineup and the revisions made Sunday: the Sounders used 34 different lineups in 38 MLS matches this year. How can that be? Injuries and attempts to rest older players certainly count for some of the lineup instability. But this much?

Finding a consistent lineup is about dodging the ill effects of wanderlust, this illusion of infinite choice, one that says “something better is always out there.” Sometimes a club has to look at its roster, identify its best 12 or 14 and go with it. Seattle had 19 players who started at least 10 matches. The Houston Dynamo, as a comparison, had 15.

Mauro Rosales is one of the issues. He’s 31, which is hardly ancient. On the other hand, he seems to wear down, this being the second year Seattle’s top playmaker wasn’t there at the critical, playoff moment.

Then there’s Fredy Montero, a wonderfully talented young striker who can carry the team when he collects full speed on one of those signature streaks. But the evidence is in, unfortunately: he cannot be counted on for the playoffs. Ten matches (zero goals) is a big enough sample. Whatever choices are made going forward, Seattle management cannot hide from this one, and the Colombian attacker’s inconsistent ways simply must be part of that conversation.

“Streaky” can carry the playoffs – but it can also be a playoff ambition’s undoing.

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
Leave a comment

The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to FIFA.com ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
Leave a comment

I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.