Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. At long last it’s time for our season opener. The potential victims: New York Red Donkeys. Why do I call them this? Because it’s impossible to take a sporting club seriously when they take their club’s name from a beverage. Welcome to Seattle, Red Donkeys. You’d better strap in for a rough ride at Royal Brougham Park.

With Roman Torres suspended, young Tony Alfaro may see his first appearance in the team this season

The Good News
Although we could only manage a draw at the Rue Sherbrooke last weekend, you’d have to be encouraged by a road draw against a playoff team from last season. Young academy graduate Henry Wingo performed well in his debut. Will Bruin’s late equaliser shows me that we’re at least one striker deep after Dempsey and Morris. Oniel Fisher’s return to fitness makes it so Svensson no longer need fill in for him at right-back (in theory). Young Jordy Delem, must have impressed last week in training to earn a place on the substitute’s bench. Considering all of the above, it’s possible that the Sounders are not as short on depth as I had thought. This can only be good news. Although the Sounders’ recent form is relatively poor, we statistically play well against the Red Donkeys when they venture into Seattle with a home record of  3-1-1 all-time. The conditions promise to be mild and (for here) dry. New York beat Colorado last week 1:0 with their only tally coming from an Eric Miller own-goal. This tells me that the Red Donkeys are, along with our Sounders, struggling to score goals. It is encouraging that the Sounders have been creating plenty of chances at goal. Should they finish a few of them today, our boys in Green may walk away with the three points.

The Bad News
The Sounders first two results in the league have seen them concede early goals to fall behind 2:0. A team such as the Red Donkeys will punish these types of errors with goals – every time. Should they build a lead of two or more goals early, the Red Donkeys have enough quality in the team to shut up shop and hammer out a win on the road. Although they didn’t finish out the pre-season well, New York is unbeaten having won their first two matches in the league. This includes a 2:1 win over newcomers Atlanta United. United have gone on to score 10 goals whilst winning their next two matches. Granted, their opponents were fellow newcomers Minnesota United and Chicago (who didn’t finish that well in the league last season), but it’s clear that in defeating Atlanta United, the Red Donkeys dispatched a team of some quality. With Brad Evans still out we lose not only the club’s spiritual leader but one of the most experienced defenders in the squad. With Kovar still recovering from surgery, we lose a clever winger who has shown promise in his limited appearances. Sounders are winless in their last five matches. The second half improvement against both Houston and Montréal is encouraging, but we played poorly in the first halves of both matches. Should that trend continue today, we are likely to lose – rather badly. Another casualty of our game in Quebec, is defender Roman Torres. Apparently he temporarily lost his mind and kicked Ambroise Oyongo in the leg after the play had ended. This will cost Torres a one match ban. Rumblings out of Seattle suggest that Svensson may be asked to fill in at centre-half in Torres’ place. If it comes to that, I really hope that ends well. Alfaro is the lone cover we have at centre-half. Andrew Wiebe of predicts that Alfaro will stand-in for Torres for this afternoon’s match. The all-time series between the sides is level at 3-4-3. over those 10 matches we have scored 15 goals against New York, but also conceded 15 goals.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – Luis Robles is a veteran goalkeeper who brings meaningful experience from overseas (nearly 50 matches of football in the meat-grinder that is the German Bundesliga), and has appeared over 140 times for New York.

Defence – Lawrence, although young at 24, has 34 caps for Jamaica. Long, has only played two matches of first-team MLS football. If there is a weak link, it is probably him. Perrinelle is an experienced French national. Developed by the SC Amiens youth system, Perrinelle has over 230 appearances in French football. Zizzo is a product of the very strong UCLA programme. Zizzo is an experienced defender having played  over 50 matches of German football, and over 130 matches in MLS.

Midfield – Felipe is one of several prominent scoring threats in the New York midfield. The Brazilian national played 75 matches in Swiss football before making a name for himself at first Montréal and then New York. Davis is another youngster at 24. He has 37 matches in the New York first team. Royer, 26, is an experienced Austrian national. He has six caps for Austria and has played over 180 times in his European career spent in Austria, Germany, and Denmark. The team captain, Kljestan has reprised his MLS career after a five-year, successful run (over 130 matches) at RSC Anderlecht in Belgium. Kljestan has 52 caps and six goals for United States. He is a constant danger man, likely to score, or set up a goal in any match he plays in.

Forward – Wright-Phillips has a wealth of English league experience (including time at Manchester City and Southampton) having played over 270 matches there. For New York, he has scored nearly 70 goals in over a hundred appearances. He is easily the most dangerous weapon in the New York side. Etienne is a young, and relatively inexperienced player. He has only played three matches in the New York first team, yet is rated highly enough to earn 4 caps and 1 goal for Haiti.

Familiar Faces
New York defender, Aaron Long played 27 times for Seattle Sounders Reserves in 2015.

Selections for Last Match
Sounders FC: Frei, Svensson, Torres, Marshall, Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Lodeiro, Dempsey, Shipp, Morris.

Bench: Miller (gk), Bruin, Fisher, Alfaro, Fernández, Delem, Wingo.

New York: Robles, Zizzo, Perrinelle, Long, Lawrence, Felipe, Davis, Royer, Kljestan, Etienne, Wright-Phillips.

Bench: Meara (gk), Collin, Murillo, Adams, Grella, Gulbrandsen, Muyl.

Injury List
Seattle –
OUT: Evans (calf), Kovar (surgery).

New York –
OUT: Lade (ACL), Baah (leg), Veron (hamstring).

Seattle: Torres (violent conduct).
New York: none

Fun Fact

The fun fact so nice, I had to print it twice:

“In 2010, the Red Bulls refused to pay a $1.4 million property tax levy to the city of Harrison, claiming that the stadium was exempt from paying taxes.[32] The team also refused to pay a $1.3 million for 2011. While the team did eventually pay the back taxes, it subsequently filed a lawsuit to have the payments reimbursed by the city, claiming the stadium was exempt from local taxes.” – USA Today / Associated Press.  What a swell bunch of guys.