SPORTING KANSAS CITY v. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. Our Sounders make the trip to State Avenue to face Sporting Kansas City in their native environs. A Sunday matinee, and a chance at Green redemption in America’s breadbasket.

It’s been a rough go getting jounced out of CONCACAF Champions League by Chivas, losing Jordan Morris for the season to a torn knee, generally watching player after player either getting injured or sent off, losing all three of our league matches whilst failing to score a goal in the league. All of this is given and has led to a certain amount of despair and a glittering sea of empty pint tins in my recycle bin.

That’s a lot of downside for a league season that is only three matches old. The metrics say that the Sounders start crap only to return to a vein of form that makes the better clubs of MLS desperately wish to avoid facing us in matches of any consequence.

The thing is, none of that matters in the end. We support our Boys in Green no matter what. Come rain or shine, taking the good with the bad, the yin with the yang, and any other metaphor for form and chaos imaginable. We are the fans and supporters of the Sounders FC. That is all. If total devotion and towering support are too much to ask, you signed up for duty on the wrong ship.

PINTS, MATES, VOLUME, FOOTBALL, MAGIC!

Join me before kick-off in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

seattle sliver of light
It can’t rain all the time.

The Good News
Alonso may return to the team this afternoon. The word is he’s past his quadriceps troubles, and ready for action.

Although Kansas City has always been a poxy away match for the Sounders, we’ve won slightly more than we’ve lost (4-1-3 all-time).

Most of the team is healthy enough to be available for selection. Aside from Morris who is out for the year, the list of injuries seem the type that might magically go away when the line-up is presented on match day.

It’s possible that the long layoff has created some cohesiveness in training that will generate the Sounders’ first positive result of the season. It seems likely enough, and we have a solid group of players, so why not?

Sporting are conceding an average of 1.5 goals per match.

The Bad News
Three days ago, the MLS Disciplinary Committee decided to add a second match to Clint Dempsey’s suspension as well as an undisclosed fine. So no Dempsey heroics possible in this vital away match.

Kelvin Leerdam will serve his one-match ban for slapping a player in the face against visiting Montreal two weeks past.

Current club discipline is what I would charitably refer to as shite, as we’ve had a player sent off in each of our first three league matches, a pace that would be unsustainable at any club. We love you boys in Green, but mind your temper, God sakes (feel free to insert appropriate deity of choice or if atheist a stream of proper swear words will do).

The Sounders have yet to score a goal in three league matches. This vortex of not scoring goals is deeply troubling and must be remedied sharpish. The universe knows we’ve had our chances. GET IN!!!

Kansas City are averaging two goals a match in the league. We are allowing just under two goals a match.

Kansas City added strong players to an already strong side for this season.

Only Atlanta United (13) have scored more goals than Kansas City (12) this season.

Know Thine Enemy
(based on the SKC side that faced Los Angeles Galaxy a week ago)

Goalkeeper –

Melia, 31, has 93 matches of experience in his nine-year MLS career, having played 87 of those with Sporting. Melia has 28 career clean sheets. Melia is a top professional who is perhaps unlucky to have not earned a chance at a United States cap.

Defence –

Medranda, 24, is a Colombian national developed by Deportivo Pereira. Medranda has played 80 times for Sporting, regularly starting in their back four for the past three seasons.

Besler, 31, is the current captain at Sporting. Besler has played 232 times for his club, dating back to their days as Kansas City Wizards. 2018 is the tenth year of Besler’s MLS career. Developed by Notre Dame (NCAA), and the KCFC Alliance, the Overland Park, Kansas native has earned 47 United States caps.

Opara, 29, has played nearly 100 matches with Sporting. Opara has started every league match in defence for Kansas City since the beginning of the 2017 season. Opara has played in 123 career MLS matches and has one cap for United States. Opara was originally a number three overall MLS SuperDraft pick for San Jose.

Zusi, 31, another career Kansas City man, has played 224 times for Sporting, scoring 27 goals. If he’s not hurt, expect him in the team. Zusi has 55 caps and five goals for United States.

Midfield –
Croizet, 26, has played every match in this, his first season with Kansas City. Croizet is a French national who is most notable for featuring in Belgian League football at Leuven and Mechelen where he played over 100 matches scoring 16 goals. He signed with Kansas City in December of 2017 on a Designated Player contract.

Sanchez, 27, is in his second season with Sporting. He has played 39 matches with Kansas City over two seasons. Before joining Kansas City in 2017, the Barcelona native had played 114 times with Barcelona B, 24 times for 1860 Munich, and 27 times on loan at Elche.

Espinoza, 31, has played his entire nine-year MLS career at Kansas City. The Honduran national has played 196 times for Kansas City scoring five goals. This is Espinoza’s second stint with Sporting, as he left the club in 2013 to play 36 matches at Wigan Athletic in England. Espinoza has 53 caps and five goals for Honduras.

Forward –

Salloi, 21, is a Hungarian national produced by Ujpest FC. Since his 2016 signing with Sporting, he has played 27 matches scoring four goals.

Shelton, 24, is a new signing for Kansas City that previously played for NYCFC. Shelton has a total of 59 matches scoring six goals in his four-year MLS career. The product of Lonestar SC and Oregon State (NCAA) earned eight United States youth caps.

Russell, 28, another new face at Sporting, has scored two goals in his first six matches with the club. The Scottish national previously played with Dundee United (102 matches/31 goals), and Derby County (182 matches/30 goals). Russell has four caps for Scotland. Suffice it to say; the man scores goals. Watch for him on the right wing.

Speculation and Musings
I like a team today that has Frei in goal, Torres and Marshall at centre-halves, Nouhou Tolo and Francis at full-back, Alonso and Cristian Roldan holding, Lodeiro as the #10, Neagle and Rodriguez on the wings and Bruin up top. That would be my selection. I wonder who Sounders manager, Brian Schmetzer will select. I don’t think today’s match is the time to test out youth over experience.

Familiar Face
Former Sounders skipper, Brad Evans, could face his former mates for the first time wearing the sky blue shirt of Sporting KC. Evans played 200 matches in his Sounders career. It’s going to be weird, and in any reckoning, a bit sad.

Squads
Sporting KC from: Melia, Dick, Zendejas, Amor, Besler, Didic, Evans, Lewis, Lindsey, Medranda, Opara, Sinovic, Smith, Storm, Zusi, Busio, Croizet, Espinoza, Gutierrez, Lobato, Sanchez, Kamal, Belmar, Gerso Fernandes, Rubio, Russell, Salloi, Shelton.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Alfaro, Francis, Kim, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Lodeiro, Neagle, Rodriguez, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Bruin.

Injury List
Sporting KC –
OUT: none.
MATCHDAY DECISION: Gutierrez (undisclosed injury).

Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Alonso (quad), Rodriguez (knee), Kim (calf), Wingo (thumb).

Discipline
Sounders FC: Dempsey (extended suspension), Leerdam (sent-off).

Fun Fact
Five days ago, Seattle Sounders FC2 announced the signing of Sounders Academy forward Alfonzo Ocampo-Chavez. Looks like the lad has a nose for goal. Well done, Alfonzo. Welcome to professional football, and good on him. I look forward to seeing his debut in the Sounders first team.

“Ocampo-Chavez, 16, has five goals in eight games for the Sounders FC U-17 squad, as well as two goals and two assists in two games for the U-19 side this season. He also won the golden boot with eight strikes at the 2017 Youdan Tournament, which Sounders FC’s Academy won back in August for the second consecutive year.” (as reported by soundersfc.com).

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SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. MONTREAL IMPACT

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. After last week’s howler in Dallas, our Sounders FC return to the friendly confines of the Evergreen to plot the way back to victory in the league. This week sees Montreal Impact headed out west to be our honoured guests under the lights at Royal Brougham Park.

The Sounders traditionally get off to a slow start in the league, so that’s nothing out of the ordinary. However, a rash of injuries has generated a situation where we are testing our squad depth. To date, the squad hasn’t been up to the challenge.

These circumstances should change nothing about us. We are the supporters and fans of this club, and it takes more than some injuries and a couple of crap results to get us down. So we wear the Blue and the Green with pride and press on to another matchday. We gather our Green Family where we may, at the ground, at the pub, in the vast array of locations that we have come to call our own, and in the numberless houses where those that can’t get out follow the team.

There will be no lack of faith. Only staunch support. Voices loud. Eyes Bright.

Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

dempsey
“Looks like you won’t be able to play football with your friends today, Clint.”

The Good News
Montreal has been having a tough time in the league as well, only winning the most recent of their three league matches. Montreal are averaging less that one goal scored per match.

Montreal’s defence is not too much better than ours in the league conceding 1.67 goals/match.

Montreal’s line-up seems to consist of star striker Ignacio Piatti and a cast of footballers that I would charitably refer to as obscure.

Over the last five matches, Seattle are 2-0-3 to Montreal’s 1-1-3.

Montreal lost both of their two previous road matches, and have yet to win away.

Of all of Montreal’s transfers in, I have heard of none of them.
All-time, the Sounders are 2-1-3 against Montreal, which is all-in-all a reasonably even record.

There are young players in the squad who have shown promise, such as Bwana, Alex Roldan, and Wingo. Should the new boys be able to match their upside with consistency, this could be helpful in shoring up the ship until the top players return to fitness.

We have quality veteran rotation players in the squad in Svensson, Francis, and Eikrem. Hopefully, they will play up to or exceed expectations tonight.

When at their nominal level of sharpness, we have perhaps the best goalkeeper and back four in the league (Frei, Marshall, Torres, Nouhou Tolo, and Leerdam). If we can’t build some counter-attacks out of that, I will be deeply disappointed.

An evening match at Royal Brougham Park is often the stuff of nightmares for MLS opposition. A sound argument could be made that we were hard done in our 0:1 season-opening loss against LAFC. If it weren’t for former Sounders’ goalkeeper, Tyler Miller making two top-shelf saves, it might have been a very different narrative.

The Bad News
Our guests sit at 16th place at 1-0-2, whilst we are bottom of the MLS table at 23rd place having lost both our league matches so far.

The Sounders have yet to score a goal in their two matches of league play.

Although Morris is out for probably the entire season with a torn knee ligament, it’s also likely that Alonso and Rodriguez will miss this match. Dylan Butler of MLS.com predicts that Bruin and Lodeiro will return to the team tonight, although they are listed as “questionable”.

Due to his complete and total inability to control his temper, Dempsey’s sending off in Dallas will see him miss this match in addition to the lengthy list of the injured mentioned above. The absent players constitute attrition of over half of Brian Schmetzer’s first-team selection.

The team we fielded in Dallas seemed strong enough to compete on paper but were bulldozed 3:0 by a rather ordinary team.

The Sounders are purportedly considering the signing of a Spanish winger who was unable to hold his place in the team at RSC Anderlecht. Alicia Rodriguez has reported that Diego Capel was spotted at a Sounders training session. It seems he is a trialist looking to sign a contract. The 30-year-old Spaniard has played with Anderlecht, Genoa, Sporting Lisbon, and Sevilla. He has been out of contract since August of 2017 when he was released by Anderlecht. A decade ago, Spurs valued Capel at £12.5M.

Montreal’s manager had most recently been employed by Aston Villa of the English Premier League. We will face a challenging and well-prepared opponent.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Bush, 32, has been the starting goalkeeper for Montreal since the 2015 MLS season. The native Ohioan is a product of Akron (NCAA) and has played in 113 MLS league matches, all with Montreal.

Defence –
Lovitz, 26, is a veteran of 69 MLS matches played for Toronto FC and Montreal. He has never scored a goal in a league match. The Pennsylvanian is a product of Elon (NCAA).

Raitala, 29, is a Finnish national with 31 MLS matches to his name. 2018 marks Raitala’s first season with Montreal, having played 28 times for Columbus last season. Before coming to MLS, his career was a bit of a tour of Northern Europe with notable stops at Hoffenheim and Osasuna. His longest tenure was between 2007-09 with HJK Helsinki where he played 66 times. Raitala has 39 caps for Finland.

Fanni, 36, is a French national who has just joined MLS and Montreal this season. His career has seen notable stops at Lens, Nice, Rennes, Marseille (127 matches/five goals), and Charlton. Fanni was capped five times for France, before his retirement from the national team in 2010.

Cabrera, 25, is an Argentinian national with 67 matches of MLS experience. Cabrera signed with Montreal in 2015 on loan from River Plate, the club that produced him. Cabrera only appeared one time for the first team at River Plate.

Petrasso, 22, is a Canadian national enjoying his first season with Montreal. Petrasso left Queens Park Rangers in January of this year signing with Montreal six days later. Petrasso played 11 times for QPR, alongside short loan spells at Oldham, Coventry, Leyton Orient, and Notts County. Petrasso has nine caps for Canada.

Midfield –
Taider, 26 is a French national who signed just this season with Montreal. Previously, Taider had played at Grenoble, Bologna (two tenures totalling 110 matches/six goals), Inter Milan, Southampton, and Sassuolo. Taider has 38 caps and five goals for Algeria.

Piette, 23, is a Canadian national in his second season with Montreal. Piette has a total of 14 matches of MLS experience. Before signing with Montreal in 2017, Piette played at Fortuna Dusseldorf and the reserve side of Deportivo La Coruna. Before signing with Montreal, Piette most recently played for Izarra of the Spanish third tier. Piette has 38 caps for Canada.

Krolicki, 22, is a dual-citizen of United States and Japan. Krolicki is playing in his first season with Montreal. His last club was K-W United of the Premier Development League. He was produced by Michigan State (NCAA).

Forward –
Piatti, is an Argentinian national playing in his fifth MLS season, all with Montreal. Piatti has played in 95 MLS league matches scoring 48 goals. He moved from San Lorenzo to Montreal in 2014. Notable stops on Piatti’s career include stints at Saint-Etienne and Lecce, before signing with San Lorenzo (63 matches/19 goals) in 2012. Beyond doubt, the most lethal finisher in the entire Montreal side.

Vargas, 20, is a Chilean national produced by Universidad Catolica. Vargas began his career with Universidad Catolica in 2014, playing 33 matches and scoring nine goals. Vargas moved in 2016 to Bologna where he remained for two seasons despite not once playing in the league. He was lent from the Italian club to Estudiantes and back to Catolica before signing with Montreal in 2018.

Familiar Faces
Montreal goalkeeper, Evan Bush, was a trialist for Seattle Sounders FC in 2009 but failed to earn a contract.

Squads
Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Alfaro, Francis, Kim, Leerdam, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Lodeiro, Neagle, Rodriguez, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin.

Montreal from: Bush, Beaulieu, Diop, Pantemis, Cabrera, Camacho, Duvall, Fanni, Fisher, Lovitz, Petrasso, Raitala, Beland-Goyette, Choiniere, Donadel, Edwards, Krolicki, Piatti, Piette, Shome, Silva, Taider, Vargas, Jackson-Hamel, Mancosu, Oduro.

Injury List
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Alonso (quadriceps), Rodriguez (knee), Bruin (concussion), Lodeiro (foot).

Montreal –
OUT: Diallo (Achilles).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Fisher (tibia).

Discipline
Sounders FC: Dempsey (Sent Off).
Montreal: none suspended.

Fun Fact
Neither the Sounders FC nor Montreal have any player who has scored more than one goal against the other side all-time in the league.

FC DALLAS v. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

One door closes, and another fast food joint opens…or something like that. The point is, we are supporters comprised of a reasonable level of mental toughness, and it will take more than crashing out of the CCL to bring us down. Still, three trophies to play for, so we keep spirits high and face our eyes forward.

Today’s Sunday matinee sees our boys in Green travel to Frisco, Texas, home of FC Dallas, formerly known as the Dallas Burn. Top marketing there, gents. Tip top indeed.

The Sounders FC will attempt to do their utmost to score as many goals as possible in Frisco before all our foreign nationals are deported. That’s right, Texas. I said it.

Vital for us to get all hands on deck. If you can’t travel to be with our supporters in Texas, gather your Green Family where ye may. Assemble at the pubs that have become our second living-rooms, in Seattle, California, and many other corners of America. Nonsense, that wasn’t at all an awkward sentence. Brighten up, mates. I’m certainly trying to, and I’m the better part of cynical.

Before the kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

Lamar Hunt Way
I hate it so much that we ever have to play matches here. So, so very much.

The Good News
Our last league match against Dallas saw us send them off in grand style 4:0 in the friendly confines of Royal Brougham Park.

We are (at best guess) a fiscally solvent football club that had an average home attendance of over 43,000 supporters for league matches.

There are still three trophies left to play for this season. Time for our rotation players and reserves to show what exemplary professionals they are. PLAY UP, YOU SOUNDERS!

I think it entirely likely that Dempsey is still fit for selection.

Stefan Frei is arguably the best goalkeeper in the league.

Leerdam is fit again.

If you assemble Neagle, Dempsey, Cristian Roldan, Eikrem, Svensson, Shipp, Nouhou, Leerdam, Torres, Kim, and Frei, I think it’s fair to say that’s a decent team, certainly a competitive team. It’s not ideal, but you have to admit that we have the most depth in the squad we’ve known for years. Now we have to see if it’s enough to win in the league when we’ve so many men injured.

Dallas weren’t even close last season to resembling the 2016 edition that won a League and Cup double.

The Bad News
It seems like everyone in the Sounders’ team is injured. If indeed Alonso, Rodriguez, Marshall, Bruin, and Lodeiro are all unavailable for selection, it’s going to make it that much harder to scrap out a win down six first-team players.

We’ve never had a lot of luck winning at Lamar Hunt Way. We’ve only won twice in 12 league matches since 2009.

Over the last five matches (in all competitions) Dallas has only lost once whilst we have dropped three of our last five.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Gonzalez, 22, played 29 times last season for Dallas. Gonzalez has spent his entire career with Dallas playing a total of 46 league matches over his previous five seasons. Gonzalez was highly rated by Yanks’ Manager, Bruce Arena, and was added to the USA’s Gold Cup roster last July. One to watch.

Defence –
Hedges, 27 has played 178 MLS matches, all for FC Dallas. This season will be Hedges’ seventh season representing Dallas. He has scored 13 career goals in the league. Hedges has five caps for United States.

Figueroa, 34, is a veteran Honduran footballer. Although this is only his third season with FC Dallas, his professional career began at CD Victoria 19 years ago. His football journey has seen him play for Olimpia (100 matches), Wigan Athletic (185 matches) and Hull City. Figueroa has 146 caps for Honduras.

Cannon, 19, in his second season with FC Dallas, has a total of 2 matches of MLS experience. Cannon is a product of UCLA (NCAA) and FC Dallas Academy. The Chicago native has played with the Yanks’ U-17 and U-19 teams. Promising, but just on solid food and out of short pants.

Ziegler, 32, is a veteran Swiss footballer produced by such youth setups as Servette and Grasshopper Zurich. He began his career with Grasshopper 16 years ago. His experience spans over 380 matches of football at such clubs as SV Hamburg, Tottenham, Grasshopper, Wigan, Sampdoria, Fenerbahce, Sassuolo, FC Sion, and most recently Luzern. Ziegler has 35 caps for Switzerland.

Midfield –
Gruezo, 22, is an Ecuadorian footballer beginning his third season with FC Dallas. He has nearly 60 matches with Dallas since arriving in 2016. A product of such youth academies as LDU Quito and Defensor, Carlos’ football journey has seen him play with Barcelona SC of Ecuador and VfB Stuttgart of the Bundesliga before his move to Texas. Gruezo has 17 caps for Ecuador.

Ulloa, 26, has played 117 times in the league for the Dallas since his arrival in 2011. If Ulloa is fit, it’s pretty likely you’ll see his name in the team sheet. Out of a possible 136 matches over the last four seasons, Ulloa has played in 116.

Mosquera, 23, a Colombian national, just moved to Texas from Millionarios of Columbia. Over the last two seasons, Mosquera played 54 times for Millionarios, scoring eight goals.

Diaz, 27, is an Argentinian footballer who came to FC Dallas in 2013 from River Plate, one of the premier clubs of Argentina. Diaz has played nearly 100 times in the league for Dallas, scoring 21 goals. Before his move, he played nearly 70 times for River Plate.

Barrios, 26, is a Colombian footballer who has played over 90 times for FC Dallas, scoring 19 goals. Before his 2011 move to Texas, Barrios played 140 times for Uniautonoma in the Colombian top flight, scoring 35 goals over four seasons.

Forward –
Urruti, 27, has played nearly 90 times in his six-year MLS career, scoring 36 goals. The Argentinian had previously played for Portland and Toronto in MLS, after beginning his career in 2011 with Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, playing 57 times and scoring 12 goals for the club that produced him. I guess the burning question for me with Urruti is: “If he’s such a good goal-scorer, how come he never played for Argentina?”

Familiar Faces
Not a one.

Squads
FC Dallas from: Gonzalez, Maurer, Zobeck, Cannon, Cano, Figueroa, Hedges, Nedyalkov, Reaves, Ziegler, Barrios, Diaz, Gruezo, Hayes, Hollingshead, Lamah, Mosquera, Pomykal, Ulloa, Akindele, Colman, Ferreira, Reid, Reynolds, Urruti.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Francis, Kim, Leerdam, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Neagle, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin, Dempsey.

Injury List
[So, the way I’m handling this season is that if someone isn’t nursing torn ligaments, a broken bone, or a confirmed concussion, the players in question will not be listed as Out.]

FC Dallas –
OUT: Acosta (hernia), Servania (surgery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Nedyalkov (Achilles).

Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Alonso (quadriceps), Rodriguez, (quadriceps), Lodeiro (foot), Bruin (head), Marshall (eye).

Discipline
FC Dallas: none suspended.
Sounders FC: Alfaro (sent off).

Fun Fact
On March 10th, Seattle Sounders Academy U-17s and U-19s beat their counterparts from Vancouver Whitecaps. The respective scores were 2:0 and 2:1. Well done on the British Colombia road trip, lads!

CD GUADALAJARA v. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC CONCACAF Champions League Quarter-Finals 2nd Leg – Circuito JVC, El Bajio, Zapopan, Jalisco, Guadalajara, Mexico

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. As it was in the second leg at Seattle against Santa Tecla in the Round of 16, so it is now in the Quarter-Finals against the Chivas in Guadalajara. The 2nd leg will determine who advances to the Semi-Finals. The trick is that our Sounders will have to get through the Chivas at their fortress of a stadium to win the cup tie.

The Sounders have flown to Guadalajara, Mexico for one of the toughest away matches they will play this season. At stake: a place in the CONCACAF Champions League Semi-Finals. Two teams enter. One team will advance.

Gather your Green Family where ye may. The match will be televised on Univision, with streaming video available on go90.com. A fraction of our number will no doubt represent the Blue and the Green, making the trip down to Jalisco to support our boys. For those who remain here in the Evergreen, as well as in our other corners of the country, find a pub that will screen the match or fill the bathtub with ice and beer and invite your mates over to watch the stream. Wherever ye may be, be loud, be heard, and be kind.

Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

kelvin2
Barring the ground opening up and swallowing Jalisco whole, you’d have to imagine that Schmetzer would select Leerdam, who has returned to fitness and is available for selection.

The Good News
Sounders, first-choice right-back Kelvin Leerdam has returned to training and should be available for selection.

The Chivas are struggling in the Liga MX, even against inferior opposition. They edged second from bottom BUAP in an away match four days ago 0:1. Chivas sit 15th in a table of 18 clubs in the Torneo Clausura.

We bested the Chivas 1:0 in Seattle last week, winning the first leg. Chivas’ failure to score an away goal, means the only way for Chivas to advance is to have the higher aggregate total at the end of tonight’s match. With a one-goal lead going into the second leg, it is the Chivas, not the Sounders who must show urgency in attacking. Where there is attacking football, there is the opportunity for counter-attacking. If Chivas push too many players forward, they could be exposed at the back.

In their last six home matches, the Chivas have only won one time, losing three, and drawing twice.

If he so chooses, Brian Schmetzer can select his best team, as there would be three days for recovery, before our match in the league at Dallas on Sunday.

Pulido is suspended as he picked up his second booking in Seattle last week. Pulido is one of the best strikers in the Chivas team. Although there are other players in their squad capable of scoring goals, it is a disadvantage that he is unavailable for selection.

The Bad News
Alonso and Rodriguez may not be available for selection. Every day Morris continues to be out is bad news.

In six matches played in Mexico in the CCL, the Sounders have a record of 1-1-4. The only win Sounders FC have managed in Mexico in the CCL was against Monterrey, and that was six or seven years ago.

In all competitions (including pre-season), Seattle have only managed to win one of their last five matches on the road this season.

With both sides scoring better than a goal per match and conceding less than a goal per game, the form comparison sees both clubs in a very even light. In situations like these, intangibles such as home ground advantage tend to play a more prominent role.

Regardless of the football, the looming shadow of spotty refereeing in CONCACAF could be the game-breaker in a hotly contested cup tie. This match is likely to get more chippy and angry the longer the Chivas are held scoreless.

The Chivas’ home ground has been a fortress over the years. As we were over 40,000 strong in Seattle, voices raised, so will it be in Guadalajara, but this time the cheers will not be for us and the deafening sound around our boys this night will be the angry sounds of frustration and damaged pride.

Simply put, this cup tie is too close to predict. It’s a crapshoot, and any sudden edge could decide the result.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Cota, 30, has been on loan at Chivas since 2015 from Pachuca. He was meant to be competition with Chivas’ then first-team goalkeeper Jose Rodriguez. Cota proceeded to displace Rodriguez and is now first choice for Guadalajara. During his time in Zapopan, he has played 77 matches. He has played 184 matches in his professional career, previously playing for Pachuca and Puebla. Cota has earned two caps for Mexico.

Defence –
Alanis, 28, has played 47 times for the Chivas scoring four goals. He has 21 caps for Mexico scoring two goals. His career league numbers are 199 matches and nine goals scored. He previously played for Tecos and Santos Laguna before his move to Jalisco.

Salcido, 37, has played over 200 times for the Chivas. He has 124 Mexico caps, scoring 10 goals. He also played over 120 matches for PSV Eindhoven between 2006-2010, and over 20 matches at Fulham FC. He’s played over 400 matches of top-level club football in his career and wears the Captain’s armband for Guadalajara.

Mayorga, 20, has played 46 league matches for the Chivas this season.

Midfield –
Lopez, 23, is playing in his fifth season for the Chivas. This season, he has played 28 times scoring three goals. Lopez has 90 matches and eight goals in his five-season career, all with Chivas.

Godinez, 21, has played 11 times for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. This season is only the second professional season of Godinez’ career. His total experience amounts to 12 league matches over two seasons.

Perez, 25, has played 18 matches with Chivas this season, scoring one goal. In his career, he has played 91 matches with two goals scored.

Pineda, 21, is playing in his third season for the Chivas. He has played 25 league matches this season. He has 130 matches of Mexican league football under his belt, scoring 14 goals. Pineda has nine caps for Mexico, scoring one goal.

Forward –
Carlos Cisneros, 24, has played 15 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. He’s played nearly 100 professional matches scoring 10 goals, all with the Chivas save for 29 matches and three goals with Atletico Zacatepec.

Jose Macias, 18, has played 12 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. It’s his first season in professional football. I estimate that he will be the suspended Pulido’s replacement.

Brizuela, 27, has played 22 times for the Chivas this season scoring one goal. Brizuela has played four seasons with Guadalajara, previously having played for Toluca, Atlas, and Atletico Mexiquense. His career numbers are 288 matches played scoring 26 goals. Brizuela has nine caps for Mexico. Brizuela wore the captain’s armband in the 2nd leg against Cibao.

Familiar Faces
Not a one.

Squads
CD Guadalajara from: Cota, Jimenez, Antonio Rodriguez, Antonio Torres, Aguayo, Alanis, Salcido, Pereira, Marin, Hernandez, Mayorga, Gurrola, Galindo, Pineda, Edson Torres, Lopez, Pizarro, Perez, Cervantes, Beltran, Oscar Macias, Brizuela, Sandoval, Benitez, Carlos Cisneros, Basulto, Ronaldo Cisneros, Godinez, Jose Macias, Zaldivar, Sanchez.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Leerdam, Nouhou Tolo, Marshall, Alfaro, Kim, Roman Torres, McCrary, Francis, Svensson, Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Victor Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Shipp, Delem, Eikrem, Wingo, Bwana, Dempsey, Adekoya, Bruin, Neagle.

Injury List
CD Guadalajara –
OUT: unknown.
MATCHDAY DECISION: unknown.

Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Alonso (quadriceps), Rodriguez (quadriceps).

Discipline
CD Guadalajara: Pulido picked up his second booking of the tournament in Seattle. He is suspended for this match. Godinez, Cota, and Carlos Cisneros are each carrying one booking.

Sounders FC: None suspended. Delem, Svensson, Dempsey, Roman Torres, and McCrary are carrying bookings into this match.

Fun Fact
The Chivas have never been relegated to the second division since their founding in 1906.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. CD GUADALAJARA CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Quarter-Finals 1st Leg – Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

The Chivas make the trip up to the Evergreen to face our Sounders in a vital first leg Quarter-Final in the Champions League. Guadalajara, struggling near the bottom of the Liga MX table, come to the Pacific Northwest looking for cup redemption against an injury-battered Sounders side attempting integrate their new reinforcements.

Gather your Green Family where you may. If you have a ticket to the match, enjoy yourselves at the ground. Eyes bright, voices loud. If you can’t manage a seat at the park or are out of town, link it up with your people at the local Sounders-friendly pub. Before kickoff, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

wingo
One of the more dangerous attackers for the Sounders in their Sunday league match was Henry Wingo. Likely to be replaced by Dempsey or Lodeiro for tonight’s cup match. Wingo could figure into the endgame as a substitute though.

The Good News
I doubt that we’ll get a better chance to win than right here in the friendly confines of Royal Brougham Park. If Chivas select a half-reserves team for the away leg, we’re in with a shout, and it’s just a question of can we score enough goals to hold on in the second leg in Jalisco.

The Chivas are struggling in the Liga MX, where they currently sit third from bottom in an 18-team league. Maybe there are chinks in their armour with some reasonable path to victory.

The Sounders won more balls defensively off STFC than Chivas off Cibao, 41:27.

Wingo, Nouhou Tolo, Bwana, and Eikrem played very well indeed on Sunday against the visitors from the Southland. If they can maintain that form, we’re going to have more depth than we’ve known in recent years.

The Bad News
MLS Clubs have a salary cap. Liga MX clubs do not.

The Sounders may need several goals tonight if we want to try to win this cup tie. I think it likely that the away leg will see Guadalajara select its strongest side. That version of their team will be extremely difficult to beat in an environment that could be amongst the most hostile an American club could play in.

The Sounders dropped their season-opener to an expansion team. Granted, it was an expansion team with a lot of talent and coached by a veteran professional, but it was still an expansion team on the road. If you look at the numbers, the Sounders had the better of the play, but just couldn’t finish a chance. Football giveth and football taketh away. Fast-forward to enough pints of lager to forget that hard-luck defeat.

The Chivas are struggling in the Liga MX, where they currently sit third from bottom in an 18-team league. Maybe they mean to take out their frustrations on the gringos from Seattle.

Chivas are coming off a 7:0 aggregate demolition of Dominican side Cibao. Over their cup tie, they outshot the Sounders 43:17. They were called offside 16 times to our zero times.

We’ve mirrored the form of Chivas over the last five matches. The difference being some of our opponents over those five matches have been softer than the opposition that Guadalajara faced.

The Sounders are averaging more goals scored than the Chivas, and conceding fewer. It has to be said again, MLS is a weaker league than the Liga MX. So maybe it’s just a dead heat, and we’ll have to see.

Chivas come at you the same way every time. Essentially the bulk of their team are highly skilful, technical players whose names you can’t recognise. They line up across from your team on the pitch, and you can’t get the ball off them. If you give up the football cheaply, you won’t see it again for a few minutes. Guadalajara attack in combination, and with pace. The Chivas attempted 607 passes against Cibao with 84% passing accuracy. The Sounders had 79% accuracy attempting 472 passes. Chivas plays Death-by-a-thousand-cuts brand of football. Pass, pass, pass, until the defending side is so tired they’ve forgotten their names. This will be simply annoying in Seattle. In Jalisco, it could be the difference between defeat and victory.

I’ve listed the selection that played against Cibao in the 2nd leg of the Round of 16. One reason I’ve chosen to do this is that Cibao lined up similar to the way the Sounders line up, 4-2-3-1. There’s no guarantee that Chivas will select the same team. I suppose it depends on the Chivas’ estimation of how worthy an opponent the Sounders are.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Cota, 30, has been on loan at Chivas since 2015 from Pachuca. He was meant to be competition with Chivas’ then first-team goalkeeper Jose Rodriguez. Cota proceeded to displace Rodriguez and is now first choice for Guadalajara. During his time in Zapopan, he has played 77 matches. He has played 184 matches in his professional career, previously playing for Pachuca and Puebla. Cota has earned two caps for Mexico.

Defence –
Alanis, 28, has played 47 times for the Chivas scoring four goals. He has 21 caps for Mexico scoring two goals. His career league numbers are 199 matches and nine goals scored. He previously played for Tecos and Santos Laguna before his move to Jalisco.

Basulto, 26, Has played 17 times for the Chivas since 2013. He has twice been on loan at U. de G. and Coras. He has 41 professional matches to his name, scoring one goal.

Mayorga, 20, has played 46 league matches for the Chivas this season.

Midfield –
Sandoval, 22, Has played six matches for the Chivas in this, his first season in Jalisco. Previously he was with Santos Laguna and Juarez. His total numbers are 90 matches with two goals scored.

Cervantes, 20, Has not played in the league for Chivas this season. He was loaned to Leon but was recalled in December. He has played only eight matches of Liga MX football this season, all with Leon.

Perez, 25, has played 18 matches with Chivas this season, scoring one goal. In his career, he has played 91 matches with two goals scored.

Jose Macias, 18, has played 12 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. It’s his first season in professional football.

Forward –
Carlos Cisneros, 24, has played 15 matches for the Chivas this season, scoring two goals. He’s played nearly 100 professional matches scoring 10 goals, all with the Chivas save for 29 matches and three goals with Atletico Zacatepec.

Ronaldo Cisneros has played five matches with the Chivas this season scoring one goal. This is his first season in Zapopan with the previous four played at Santos Laguna. His career league numbers are 14 matches played, and one goal scored.

Brizuela, 27, has played 22 times for the Chivas this season scoring one goal. This is his fourth season with Guadalajara, previously having played for Toluca, Atlas, and Atletico Mexiquense. His career numbers are 288 matches played scoring 26 goals. Brizuela has nine caps for Mexico. Brizuela wore the captain’s armband in the 2nd leg against Cibao.

Speculation and Musings
It’s a funny game, football. Top of the world one moment, then trying to figure out what the crap happened the next. Last Thursday, we’d triumphed in the return match over Santa Tecla, after having struggled so mightily against them in the away leg. Which led me to wonder “Why have the Sounders played only five regular starters in the away leg? What is Schmetz playing at?” Well, there wasn’t a good reason for having only five regulars on the pitch in my estimation. My estimation, upon further reflection, was completely wrongheaded.

Thursday, we rolled out seven starters, and there were some good reasons that we started cover players for Alonso, Leerdam, Morris, and Torres. With injuries the likely cause. I wonder if it were injuries at work determining the side in the first leg in El Salvador as well. Perhaps we started the season a bit more beaten up injury-wise than we had anticipated.

Did a bit of reading last night about muscle recovery as it relates to football. The consensus is that complete recovery can only be had with a minimum of 72 hours of rest. The FIFA recommendation is two days at a minimum between matches. There’s also training to consider, and what intensity to train at considering fixture congestion. It’s a knotty puzzle, and that’s why clubs have fitness coaches to sort this kind of thing out.

So my first thought at the start of Sunday’s match was: “Why are we playing only five regular starters today? What is Schmetz playing at?” My second thought was that several players are hurt, and another handful knackered from playing against the Salvadorans midweek in the Champions League. I feel like the Sounders have decent squad depth this season. Perhaps enough to contend for all trophies this season. This with the provision that we only need to provide cover at one or two positions per match. I think it’s a hard ask to leave out half the team and expect them to produce the same results as when we have our best selection on the pitch.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m glad that on Sunday we rested players for the Champions League Quarter-Final first leg against Chivas tonight. And the second thing I’m saying is that I’m disappointed that we lost to LAFC in our home opener. The third thing I’m saying is that if Schmetz is selecting cover players in the team, he probably has a good reason for doing so. I needed to work out the maths for myself, and that took a few days.

What I’ve learned about goalscoring on the Chivas. Pizarro has the most goals in the team with five. Jose Macias is the only Chivas player with more than one goal in the CCL, as he’s hit two. In light of this, the scoring could come from anywhere. Likely bets to score though would be Jose Macias, Pulido, Lopez, and Pizarro.

For the Sounders, I’d expect to see pretty much the team from the 2nd leg against Santa Tecla, with maybe Alfaro left out for either Torres or Svensson. Possibly McCrary could give way to Francis, but Schmetzer seems to rate McCrary. There’s been enough time for muscle recovery from Sunday’s match that Schmetzer can select any players fit enough to go.

Squads
Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Nouhou Tolo, Marshall, Alfaro, Kim, Roman Torres, McCrary, Francis, Svensson, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Victor Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Shipp, Delem, Eikrem, Wingo, Bwana, Dempsey, Adekoya, Bruin, Neagle.

CD Guadalajara from: Cota, Jimenez, Antonio Rodriguez, Antonio Torres, Aguayo, Alanis, Salcido, Pereira, Marin, Hernandez, Mayorga, Gurrola, Galindo, Pineda, Edson Torres, Lopez, Pizarro, Perez, Cervantes, Beltran, Oscar Macias, Pulido, Brizuela, Sandoval, Benitez, Carlos Cisneros, Basulto, Ronaldo Cisneros, Godinez, Jose Macias, Zaldivar.

Injury List
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL), Alonso (quadriceps), Leerdam (ankle).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Victor Rodriguez (quadriceps).

CD Guadalajara –
OUT: Sanchez (undisclosed injury).
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.

Discipline
None suspended from either side. For the Sounders: Delem, Svensson, and Dempsey carry bookings forward into the Quarter-Finals. For the Chivas: Pulido and Godinez are also carrying bookings from the Round of 16. Any of the above listed who pick up a booking will be out next match.

Fun Fact
CD Guadalajara has only won this tournament once, in 1962 when it was the CONCACAF Champion’s Cup.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. LOS ANGELES FC

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

Look who’s got a full dance card this week. It’s our beloved Seattle Sounders FC, that’s who. This afternoon’s match against the newcomers from Figueroa Street, followed by a midweek matinee against Mexican stalwarts Chivas of Guadalajara in the Champions League. Two matches in four days…no worries. It looks like we’ll be rounding into match fitness sooner than expected. Excellent.

Gather your Green Family where ye may. Get ye to the ground if you can manage a ticket. If you can’t, find your way to your Sounders-friendly local pub and assemble your mates to flip some beer mats.

Before kickoff, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

magnus
Newboy Magnus Wolff Eikrem, loomed large in our defeat of Santa Tecla. He could make his league debut for the Sounders today.

The Good News
We are currently riding high. After getting edged in San Salvador by Santa Tecla 2:1, we showed the visitors a resounding thumping 4:0 last Thursday at Royal Brougham Park, in the Evergreen. It was real. It was loud (Said I would lose my voice from shouting for the team, and am still a bit croaky two nights later). The night was ours. The 5:2 aggregate puts us through to the Quarter-Finals against CD Chivas of Guadalajara in the CONCACAF Champions League. So well done us, but the next round will be fish of a different kettle. More on that Wednesday.

Regardless of what the competition is, the Sounders are putting the football in the back of the net. Sounders have 13 goals in their last five matches (Includes three preseason friendlies and the Round of 16 CCL cup-tie against Santa Tecla). Averaging two goals scored per match is never a bad thing.

Our defence seems all on the same page as we’ve only conceded five goals in the last five matches. Averaging one goal or less conceded every match is never a bad thing.

All signs point towards favourable form. Trying to find a flaw, but a flaw is not forthcoming. Not after Thursday night’s masterpiece.

LAFC on balance look equally a threat to concede a goal as score one. This inconsistency plays into the hands of the Sounders, who will baptise the newcomers to MLS league football in the venue known both as Green Hell and Royal Brougham Park.

The Sounders beat Sacramento Republic 1:3 whilst our friends from the Southland could only defeat them 0:1.

The Bad News
Morris tore his knee in the first leg of the CLL tie versus Santa Tecla. We have the depth to cover for one injured forward, but none of our current forwards can match Morris’ pace. Don’t wish to belabour the grim news. I just want Jordo to get well soon.

I’m a bit worried about a letdown after the emotional peak of the Cup victory against our friends from El Salvador. Can’t imagine Schmetz, Preki, and their colleagues in the Sounders coaching staff would allow such a thing to happen. Still, it sticks in the back of my mind. The mentality has to be right, especially against hungry newcomers, such as LAFC.

The LAFC manager is Bob Bradley. A decorated American manager and I think the only one ever to manage in the Premier League unless you count David Wagner with Huddersfield Town, and I don’t think he was born in the States. Regardless of who LAFC line up on Sunday afternoon, they will be well-prepared, and Bradley and his coaches will get full effort from their boys.

Speculation and Musings
Wondering if Eikren and Kim will make their debuts today.

If Bradley, with defenders Ciman and Gaber hurt, opts for youth it’s possible that their draft pick Joao Moutinho (no not “that” Joao Moutinho, this one just left university) might play at the tender age of 20. Before playing at Akron in the NCAA, his youth football was learnt at Sporting Lisbon of the Portuguese league. Therefore, Moutinho is not your average university graduate who has little to no experience in a professional programme. Just sayin.

I doubt Kovar will feature, as I imagine his loan agreement prohibits him from playing against the Sounders who pay his wages.

Murphy also seems unlikely to start, as he has zero experience in first-team top division football. It’s not impossible though. Bradley is known to favour youth if they have skill, demonstrated by having Mike Magee in training at Chicago Fire at age 15.

Bradley has steered the ship of his career through fair weather and stormy. Bradley managed Chicago Fire in their expansion season to an MLS Cup and US Open Cup double. I don’t know if anyone else has accomplished that ever in MLS’ short history, but I bloody well doubt it. He later managed MetroStars who never won any domestic trophies, followed by a season with Chivas USA which produced no tin pots to demonstrate success. Then he managed United States U-23s and then was appointed Bruce Arena’s successor with the USA senior men’s team. Given the sack by the Yanks in 2011, Bradley would go on to an international whirlwind tour of managing Egypt (nearly helping the team qualify in the midst of the Arab Spring), Stabæk, Le Havre, and Swansea. Then Bradley took a two-year break before taking the job at LAFC. I know this was exhausting to read, but you should know what it is we’re facing. Bob Bradley has a made a career of getting the most of the talent he’s given.

Know Thine Enemy
[LAFC lineup as best as I can guess it]

Goalkeeper –
Lopez, 24, has played 124 times for Real Espana of the Honduran League. Lopez has 11 caps for Honduras. Based on experience alone, he would be my first team choice. It’s possible that Bradley will select Miller, our former backup, but he doesn’t have the same big-match experience as Lopez, and it’s my guess he’ll back-up Lopez. Lyon was a Sounders backup as well and is there for cover in my best assessment.

Defence –
Beitashour, 31, most recently a champion with Toronto FC last season, played 51 times for Toronto during his two years at the club. Sounders supporters may also remember his time with Vancouver and with San Jose. Beitashour has the better part of 200 matches of MLS experience and earned six caps with Iran. Suffice it to say; he’s highly rated.

Harvey, 34, last played for Vancouver Whitecaps FC where the California native amassed nearly 180 matches played in his six years at Pacific Boulevard. Harvey has 270 matches of MLS experience.

Zimmerman, 24, last played for FC Dallas where he played nearly 90 times over his four years in Texas. He has two United States caps and was rated highly enough that LAFC parted with $500,000 in allocation money to sign him. I’m guessing he’ll suit up.

Jakovic, 32, last played for the New York Cosmos of the new-look NASL. He has nearly 100 matches of MLS experience, all earned with DC United. Jakovic has 40 caps and one goal for Canada.

Midfield –
Feilhaber, 33, is well-known to our supporters for a rather nasty set of incidences in an MLS Cup play-in match happening to the best of my recollection in 2016. His last club was Kansas City, where he played 180 matches scoring 33 goals in his four years at State Avenue. He has 44 United States caps and two goals in senior internationals. Feilhaber has played over 200 matches of MLS football scoring 34 goals in the league. From 2005-2011, Feilhaber travelled Europe playing for SV Hamburg, Derby County, and Aarhus for a total of 84 first-team matches. It’s not his resume that has me thinking he’ll play though. LAFC parted with $400,000 in allocation money to sign him from Kansas City. Pretty sure he’ll suit up.

Mallace, 28, was recently a Sounder. Despite having played 80 times for Montreal in MLS, Mallace found it impossible to break into the Sounders’ first team, with Cristian Rodan, Osvaldo Alonso, Rodriguez, and Svensson ahead of him in the defensive midfield pecking order. If I were Mallace, I’d have a giant chip on my shoulder for having not even been given a runout. If I were Bradley, I’d use that motivation as well as Mallace’s knowledge of his teammates and their tendencies.

Atuesta, 20, has played 29 times for Independiente Medellin in his home country of Colombia. He has seven caps for Colombia U-20s.

Kaye, 23, has played zero games of MLS first-team football. The Ontario native does, however, have five caps for Canada. Kaye’s last club was Louisville City of the USL where he played 43 times scoring five goals. He is a youth product of Wexford SC and Toronto FC.

Vela, 29, a Mexican national, was produced by CD Chivas and Arsenal FC youth systems. He is most known for his over 200 appearances for Real Sociedad of the Spanish La Liga, where he scored 66 goals. He played at Arsenal, Salamanca, Osasuna, and West Bromwich Albion before his move to Anoeta. Vela has 63 caps and 18 goals for Mexico. He is expected to feature this afternoon in his league debut for LAFC. Although a nagging leg injury may keep him out, I bloody well doubt it. Vela is listed as a striker, but I’ve marked him in the midfield as LAFC purportedly play a five-man midfield.

Forward –
Urena, 27, is a Costa Rican national who most recently played for San Jose in the MLS. He began his career at Alajuelense in his home country playing 59 times scoring 10 goals. He would later play for Kuban Krasnodar in Russia, FC Midtjylland and Brondby in Denmark. Since his first season in Costa Rica, he’s never played more than 25 matches in a season. His career numbers are 157 matches and 20 goals. Urena has 55 caps and 14 goals for Costa Rica.

Familiar Faces
Midfielder –
Aaron Kovar is on loan at LAFC, but he’s one of ours. Goalkeeper, Tyler Miller, backup Goalkeeper, Charlie Lyon, and midfielder, Callum Mallace were all recently with our Sounders. Defender, Jordan Harvey played for the USL iteration of the Sounders in 2006 as a loan player.

Squads
Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Alfaro, Francis, Kim, Leerdam, Marshall, McCrary, Nouhou Tolo, Torres, Alonso, Bwana, Delem, Eikrem, Lodeiro, Neagle, Rodriguez, Cristian Roldan, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin, Dempsey.

LAFC from: Miller, Lopez, Lyon, Beitashour, Gaber, Harvey, Jakovic, Moutinho, Zimmerman, Atuesta, Feilhaber, Kaye, Kovar, Mallace, Murphy, Blackmon, Blessing, Pacheco, Rossi, Urena, Vela.

Injury List
Sounders FC –
OUT: Morris (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Leerdam (ankle), Alonso (quadriceps), Rodriguez (quadriceps), Torres (leg).

LAFC –
OUT: Ciman (MCL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Vela (leg), Gaber (groin).

Discipline
As this is the first league fixture, no one is suspended from either team.

Fun Fact
Comedian Will Ferrell is part of the LAFC ownership group. This discovery is not just a fun fact; it’s a funny fact. See what I did there, Will?

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. SANTA TECLA FC – CONCACAF CHAMPIONS LEAGUE Round of 16 2nd Leg – Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington

by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green.

Battle lines have been drawn. Santa Tecla make the long trip up north to the Evergreen and face our Sounders to conclude this Round of 16 CONCACAF Champions League tie.

Morris fell injured last week in San Salvador and is gone for the season as he attempts to rehabilitate his torn knee ligament. Our first concern is for Jordan’s health, but we’d all be lying if we didn’t say it makes us wonder how it will affect our chances to win a trophy this season. Mend soon, Jordo.

A 1:0 win puts the Sounders through to the quarter-finals. A 2:1 win for the Sounders would bring extra time, and possibly penalties. You know how the cup tie math works. Any tie in aggregate score makes away goals count double. So there’s a lot at stake.

Time to gather the Green Family, at the ground, and at local pubs in Seattle and MLS cities across the country. Assemble your people and sing loud, be heard, and be kind. For those at the match Thursday night, eyes bright, voices loud. One club. One voice.

I will be in attendance at the ground, and I will lend my voice to the thousands in attendance. I expect to be completely hoarse when I return home.

Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

dempsey
Tonight’s match is a massive one. Guess who plays well in massive fixtures?

The Good News
Santa Tecla holds a 2:1 advantage coming into the second leg. However, our Sounders scored a vital away goal, via Nicolas Lodeiro’s stunning, cheeky, 40-yard chip. Lodeiro’s shot arced over Santa Tecla goalkeeper, Almeida, who had been embarrassingly caught out and was racing back to cover his line, and by extension, his arse.

The Sounders have had an additional week of training. Hopefully, this means that our fitness level should be higher than we demonstrated in the 2nd half in San Salvador.

Sounders Manager, Brian Schmetzer, has announced that he is “…going to put out the best lineup for Thursday…” Looks like the kid gloves are coming off, this can only be good for the Sounders who fielded only five regular first-team players in San Salvador a week ago.

If history is to have any bearing on the match, the Sounders have won 10 of 16 at home in the CCL. Far better odds than their away record in the competition, four wins in 16 matches.

Santa Tecla is a small club that only achieved promotion to the top division roughly six years ago. They feature some younger players that in some instances have played for El Salvador, and cobbled in a few veteran mercenaries to harden up the side. In a way, not unlike the process that forged the Sounders.

The two biggest clubs in El Salvador are Alianza and Audaz, both having stadia that seat over 50,000 supporters. Santa Tecla’s ground only seats 3000, the lowest capacity in the division.

I’ve looked at the Apertura results from this season which show Santa Tecla only managed a 1:1 draw at Alianza, and narrowly won 2:1 at Audaz. Thursday’s match will feel, for them, like playing against those giants from their league, as Royal Brougham Park seats nearly 40,000 (more for American Football), expanding to the better part of 70,000 when the upper bowl is open. We have the potential to be as intimidating as Alianza and Audaz.

Our last CCL match in Seattle was against Club America of Mexico, and we drew nearly 43,000. I think we can do better. It’s going to be very, very, loud.

Having said all of the above, I favour the Sounders FC against any club that has the misfortune of having to play such a decisive fixture against us in the Evergreen.

The Bad News
Jordan Morris tore his ACL in the first leg and will miss the rest of the season. The severe injury for Morris, in his first competitive match this season, comes as a sudden shock as well as an irreplaceable loss for the Sounders. Bruin and Dempsey have plenty of quality, but neither has the pace of Morris.

Santa Tecla have superior match fitness as they are already five matches into their Torneo Clausura and have played 25 overall league matches this season. The Sounders will be hard pressed to equal STFCs match sharpness.

Matamoros, The Honduran referee, gave Santa Tecla what I would charitably refer to as a soft penalty in the 75th minute of the first leg. In my estimation, the STFC attacker went up for an aerial challenge with Marshall, committing hand-ball in mid-air, landed safely with no harm done, took two steps, promptly fell to the pitch and Matamoros pointed to the spot. A fellow FCF observer remarked to me that our defender McCrary swept the attacking player’s leg, but that he still thought that the penalty call was a harsh one. Either way, I don’t think anyone who follows football in the CONCACAF Zone would say that the officiating is what one would refer to as consistent or even-handed. Let’s hope that the cup tie doesn’t turn pear-shaped on the hinge of one dodgy call.

We were outshot 11:5 by STFC in the first leg. It can’t be like that again. To be fair the shots on target were a more even 5:4 in favour of the Salvadorans.

Passing accuracy was a win for STFC at 88% with the Sounders lagging behind at 78%. We’ll have to do better.

I pointed out above that Santa Tecla is a small club that tries to play giant-killer against the two most visible clubs in Salvadoran football. It’s become startlingly clear to me that STFC is unafraid of any club they line up against, regardless of whether there are 3000 or 60,000 in attendance. In fact, I feel like STFC manifest a massive chip on their shoulders when they face bigger clubs.

As I pointed out last week, America has much to atone for with our Salvadoran neighbours. I imagine these transgressions are used by Salvadoran clubs and the El Salvador national team as (understandable) justification for cheating at football and is sometimes aided and abetted by CONCACAF officials, particularly at away fixtures in Central America. Perhaps telling 200,000 mostly law-abiding immigrants that they have to go back to El Salvador probably doesn’t do much to improve America’s tarnished image with regards to foreign policy.

Know Thine Enemy
[This list reflects STFC Manager, Ruben DaSilva’s selection for the first leg]

Goalkeeper –
Joel Almeida, 27, is the clear favourite to start. The Mexican national has started 92 matches over the last three league seasons for STFC. Ramirez, 26, the back-up has only started five matches this season. Mancia, 19, is the young apprentice of the three and has yet to play in the league this season.

Defence –
Barahona, 23 has played in 28 matches for STFC, scoring five goals. It is his third season with Santa Tecla during which he has amassed 118 matches of experience. He has 14 caps and one goal for El Salvador.

Quinones, 29, is a Colombian national playing his first season with STFC. He has played six matches in the league. In 2010, his professional career started with Tauro in the Panamanian league and has seen him play in Bolivia, Colombia, and Peru before moving to San Salvador.

Dominguez, 20, has played in 23 matches this season. He has played 97 times in three seasons for STFC since he arrived in 2015 from Juventud. He has 13 caps for El Salvador.

Tamacas, 23, has played 28 matches this season scoring three goals. It is his fourth season with Santa Tecla, and the sixth of his career. He has played 150 matches of Salvadoran league football, scoring six goals. He has 11 caps for El Salvador.

Midfield –
Reyes, 18, has played 30 matches this season. It is the third season of his career. His career totals are 59 matches and five goals, all for STFC. He has no senior caps for El Salvador but played six times for El Salvador U-20s.

Mayen, 29, has played in eight matches in the league for STFC, scoring one goal. He wore the captain’s armband in the first leg. His professional career began in 2009 with Chivas USA of MLS where he played three seasons. This season is Mayen’s fifth with Santa Tecla. His career numbers are 243 matches scoring 38 goals. He scored both goals for STFC in the first leg. Mayen has 27 caps and two goals for El Salvador.

Quintanilla, 20, has played in 15 matches for STFC this season, scoring one goal. This season is Quintanilla’s first in professional football.

Rivera, 27, has played 21 matches this season. It is his sixth season with STFC. His career totals are 99 matches and two goals, all with STFC.

Forward –
Ricardinho, 31, a Brazilian national, has played 31 matches this season and leading the club with 10 goals. In his six seasons with Santa Tecla, he has played 144 matches and scored 55 goals. Couldn’t seem to find a regular place in Brazilian league football, but found a measure of success in El Salvador.

Wilma Torres, 23, has played eight league matches this season for STFC, scoring two goals. This season is Torres’ fifth in Salvadoran football. His career numbers are 133 matches and 16 goals.

New Faces
Defender, Kim Kee-Hee was signed on 27 February by the Sounders FC. His last club was Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League. It cost Shenhua a reported $6M to prise him away from his Korean club at the time, Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors. Kim has 174 matches of professional football under his belt. His career began with Daegu FC of Korea. Kim plays both centre-half and defensive midfield. Welcome to the Evergreen, Kim!

Squads
Santa Tecla from: Almeida, Ramirez, Mancia, Arevalo, Ayala, Barahona, Dominguez, Flores Jaco, Mendoza, Yosimar Quinones, Tamacas, Walter Torres, Valladares, Acosta, Baires, Callejas, Cornejo, Mayen, Quintanilla, Reyes, Rivera, Wilma Torres, Alas, Argueta, Canales, Ricardinho, Majano, Moreno, Liber Quinones.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Nouhou Tolo, Marshall, Alfaro, Leerdam, Roman Torres, McCrary, Francis, Kim, Svensson, Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Delem, Eikrem, Wingo, Mathers, Bwana, Dempsey, Adekoya, Morris, Bruin, Neagle.

Injury List
Typically and infuriatingly there was no verifiable injury information at press time for Santa Tecla.

Jordan Morris suffered a torn ACL in San Salvador and is out for the season.

No other known injuries.

Discipline
No players suspended from either side. Mayen of STFC is carrying a booking, as is Delem for the Sounders.

Fun Fact
Joseph Mondello of SoundersFC.com reported that Sounders Academy players Ray Serrano and Josh Atencio have been selected by John Hackworth for a United States U-17 camp. Well done, lads! I believe the children are our future…

Santa Tecla FC v. Seattle Sounders FC – CONCACAF Champions League – Round of 16 – Estadio Las Delicias, Santa Tecla, El Salvador

Pre-Match Analysis by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. With spring roughly a month away from springing, we can only draw one reasonable conclusion from our calendars: It’s time for competitive football and the return of our beloved Sounders FC.

We may have lost the MLS Cup Final in 2017. A given and grim fact. However, winning the 2016 MLS Cup has given us a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. And this leads us to…El Salvador. That’s right, El Salvador, the once vital producer of such commodities as coffee and indigo, is the setting for this match which enjoys a high profile with…well, at least anyone reading or writing this article. The Sounders will play in the Estadio Las Delicias which seats 3,000 spectators. I doubt the welcome will be very warm.

That’s right, The CONCACAF Champions League, the crown jewel of football in the Americas, seems to set the benchmark for which Mexican club has most efficiently and extravagantly spent more money on top footballers than any other clubs in the zone. A tournament that shall likely be won by either Mexico’s Club America or CD Saprissa of Costa Rica, in my opinion, be it ever so humble. Please feel free to send all opposition (in layman’s terms: “trolling”) to my predictions to the new president of US Soccer, and Gene Garber, the commissioner of MLS.

It is my great hope, however, that a Rave Green tide of justice will strike a blow for domestic football in America. A bold statement, seeing us win the CCL in a gobsmacking upset whilst simultaneously striking a blow for union-busting that will have MLS and US Soccer executives patting themselves on the back for their fiscal gree- I mean, acumen and ingenuity. Yay.

At the end of the day though, it’s us versus them innit? For those of you not making the trip to Central America for the kick-off, raise your glass or bottle at home, or amongst friends at your local pub, and join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

CCLtrophy
So shiny. So deceptively difficult to win.

The Good News
Let’s bright-side this a bit, shall we? Salvadoran clubs are hardly the power-brokers in CONCACAF football. No Salvadoran team has won since their last champion, CD FAS in 1979. So I think it’s fair to say, all things being equal, that we’re in with a shout.

The Sounders haven’t lost very many players in the offseason, which is a pleasant surprise, with Evans and Jones moving on, Fisher sold for General Allocation funds to DC United, Mallace dispersed in the MLS Re-entry Draft to LAFC, Miller dispersed in the MLS Expansion Draft to LAFC. Aaron Kovar is currently on loan with the newly-minted Los Angeles FC joining former teammates Callum Mallace, and goalkeeper, Tyler Miller. All said and done; we’ve held on to pretty much everyone else. Stability is a good thing, and hopefully, the standard for seasons to come.

In essence, we have the entire team that was the MLS Cup runner-up, with possible positive additions from the offseason. That’s not a bad start.

If we play our best team, all things being equal, we have a better than average chance to win.

The Bad News
Sadly, Brad Evans and Joevin Jones were out of contract at the end of last season and moved on to Kansas City, and Darmstadt 98, respectively. Evans was a paragon servant of the club, a fan favourite, a leader on the pitch, in the dressing room, and in the community. Evans played 200 matches for the Sounders, and will never be forgotten. Jones was the architect of many inspiring attacks down the left flank utilising his pace and passing skills. Also, he was a quality left-back in defence. Jones opted for the fiscally greener pastures of German football, which is understandable given the salary structure within MLS. They will both be missed.

Things are rarely equal when American football clubs play matches outside the friendly confines of our sovereign territory. The Yanks and our clubs have never been popular in Central and South America, but I’d say anger with America’s ham-fisted foreign policy and current isolationist posturing with regards to immigration policy has probably ramped up a fever pitch of anti-American sentiment. Could these things adjust the way referees make decisions in matches? Maybe they could. I know, I know, you want to keep politics and sport separate, I hear you, but it’s just not possible to separate these things or to deny that there is the inevitable intersection. If we play our best team, I can’t guarantee that one or more of our players won’t leave the pitch on a stretcher.

It’s been a tough couple of years for America, but you have to admit that when taking a look at the last century of history, El Salvador, and it’s people have taken repeated savage beatings. Political corruption, civil war, you name it, they’ve been through it. When things turn pear-shaped all around you, sometimes this lends a heightened relevance to sporting events and also ramps up the level of nationalism. Looks like Santa Tecla and the Sounders are caught in the crossfire.

As much as Salvadoran clubs aren’t setting the zone ablaze in international competition, American clubs have also only won CONCACAF twice. DC United in 1998, and LA Galaxy in 2000 back when it was the CONCACAF Champions Cup. So the takeaway from all this is just repeating that it’s difficult for American teams to win on the road in Central America.

Santa Tecla is in second place in the Salvadoran league table. They only earned promotion to the top division in 2012, so it seems they’re still hungry for results. There’s nothing like that newly-minted smell of going up a division. US Soccer and MLS take heed. Santa Tecla has won the Salvadoran league three times, and their domestic cup, once.

Recent form is probably not a factor for this match, but just to tick the box, Santa Tecla has won only two of the last five and one out of the last four matches in the Torneo Clausura. The Sounders will not begin their league schedule until March 4th but have played in seven pre-season friendlies winning three of the last four. The difference being Santa Tecla’s opponents were in the league, whilst we were playing training matches against lower division clubs such as California United’s reserves, Reno 1868 (who defeated us), and Sacramento Republic. As such, I have to give the edge in match fitness to the Salvadorans.

Speculation & Musings
Santa Tecla’s manager is former Uruguayan striker Ruben Da Silva. So quality acknowledged there.

I’d imagine the only question with the Seattle lineup for the match would be “Are we playing our first team or a mostly reserve team?” I would say that if you wanted the best chance to win, obviously you play your first team guys. Could we win playing a mostly reserve side…maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it, especially in an away match in El Salvador.

So if Schmetz selects what you would imagine would be the preferred team for the MLS league, we’d have Frei, Nouhou, Marshall, Torres, Leerdam, Morris, Alonso, Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan, Dempsey, Bruin?

If we select a team of reserves, I reckon it might look like: Meredith (or Brown), Francis, Svensson, Alfaro, Delem, Rodriguez, Shipp, Eikrem, Mathers, Bwana, Neagle.

Or you could mix and match from the two. I guess it all depends on how invested the club is in attempting to win this tournament. In the past, I have noted a distinct pecking order with MLS league fixtures being the priority; US Open Cup ties a distant second, should I expect the CCL an even more distant third? The starting eleven will speak volumes about what the Sounders ambitions are, and also how seriously they rate Santa Tecla as an opponent.

Then there’s the cheating. O the cheating. But then again, the Salvadorans are just responding to the way our country purportedly interfered in their dealings. Repeatedly.

Again, politics and football – we’d like them separate, but the world just isn’t tidy that way. I’d expect a pretty hostile reception from the 3,000 at Estadio Las Delicias.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Joel Almeida, 27, is the clear favourite to start. The Mexican national has started 92 matches over the last three league seasons for STFC. Ramirez, 26, the back-up has only started five matches this season. Mancia, 19, is the young apprentice of the three and has yet to play in the league this season.

Defence –
Barahona, 23 has played in 28 matches for STFC, scoring five goals. It is his third season with Santa Tecla during which he has amassed 118 matches of experience. He has 14 caps and one goal for El Salvador.

Ayala, 24, has played 21 matches scoring two goals this season. He has played 128 times for STFC over the last four seasons.

Dominguez, 20, has played in 23 matches this season. He has played 97 matches in three seasons for STFC since he arrived in 2015 from Juventud. He has 13 caps for El Salvador.

Mendoza, 27, has played 26 matches this season. It is his first season with Santa Tecla after arriving from FAS. He has played 192 career matches of Salvadoran league football. He has 31 caps for El Salvador.

Tamacas, 23, has played 28 matches this season scoring three goals. It is his fourth season with Santa Tecla, and the sixth of his career. He has played 150 matches of Salvadoran league football, scoring six goals. He has 11 caps for El Salvador.

Midfield –
Reyes, 18, has played 30 matches this season. It is the third season of his career. His career totals are 59 matches and five goals, all for STFC. He has no senior caps for El Salvador but played six times for SLV U-20s.

Baires, 27, has played 24 matches scoring seven goals this season. It is his third season with Santa Tecla. His career spans the better part of nine years and has seen him play 214 matches and score 33 goals in Salvadoran league play. He has 10 caps for El Salvador.

Rivera, 27, has played 21 matches this season. It is his sixth season with STFC. His career totals are 99 matches and two goals, all with STFC.

Forward –
Ricardinho, 31, a Brazilian national, has played 31 matches this season and leading the club with 10 goals. In his six seasons with Santa Tecla, he has played 144 matches and scored 55 goals. Couldn’t seem to find a regular place in Brazilian league football, but found a measure of success in El Salvador.

Canales, 23, has played 21 matches scoring one goal this season. It is his second season with Santa Tecla and his fourth season of Salvadoran football. His career totals are 78 matches and five goals. He earned two caps with El Salvador U-20s but has no senior caps.

New Faces
Over the winter, we added Costa Rican international Waylon Francis from Columbus for $50,000 in allocation funds. Handwalla Bwana, a former Sounders Academy footballer, played at UDub last season and signed a Homegrown Player contract. Bwana scored two goals in the Sounders’ seven pre-season friendlies. We added Norweigan international Magnus Eikrem from Swedish club Malmo FF on a free transfer. Eikrem was developed by the youth academies of Molde FK and Manchester United. He played nearly 70 times for both Molde FK and Malmo FF, with brief stopovers at Heerenveen and Cardiff City. At the age of 27, I’d say he’s going to be a nice veteran pickup with a bit of spring left in his step, and with 17 caps for Norway, it looks like a lot of managers rate him. In his 66 matches for Malmo, he scored 12 goals. We also added Cristian Roldan’s little brother, Alex whom we drafted in the first round of the 2018 MLS SuperDraft. We added Jordan McCrary who last played for Toronto FC II, and goalkeeper, Calle Brown, who was last with Houston Dynamo.

We also drafted Chris Bared and Markus Fjortoft who played for Villanova and Duke of the NCAA. At press time, neither had signed a first-team contract.

Squads
Santa Tecla from: Almeida, Ramirez, Mancia, Arevalo, Ayala, Barahona, Dominguez, Flores Jaco, Mendoza, Yosimar Quinones, Tamacas, Walter Torres, Valladares, Acosta, Baires, Callejas, Cornejo, Mayen, Quintanilla, Reyes, Rivera, Wilma Torres, Alas, Argueta, Canales, Ricardinho, Majano, Moreno, Liber Quinones.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Meredith, Brown, Nouhou Tolo, Marshall, Alfaro, Leerdam, Roman Torres, McCrary, Francis, Svensson, Alonso, Cristian Roldan, Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Alex Roldan, Shipp, Delem, Eikrem, Wingo, Mathers, Bwana, Dempsey, Adekoya, Morris, Bruin, Neagle.

Injury List
At press time, there was no verifiable injury data available. Or any injury listings for either club. Typical.

Discipline
As this is the first match in the Tournament for both clubs, their disciplinary slates are clean.

Fun Fact
When I tried to do some research on our esteemed opponent at the Santa Tecla FC website, I was unable to access it here in Washington State. Fun. Fact.

 

TORONTO FC v. SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC MLS Cup Final – Princes’ Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Pre-Match Analysis by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. It’s true what they say:

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

We took that first step in March of this year, and it was a wobbly one. But true to Sounders FC form, we eventually roared back into a proper shape, and General Manager, Garth Lagerwey provided some much-needed reinforcements to replace the veterans waived after our maiden 2016 MLS Cup title. 10 Months and 39 matches later we arrive in the rarefied atmosphere of the 2017 MLS Cup Final. Again! Against our familiar rivals from a year ago! In the same venue! In the words of the immortal Yogi Berra:

“It’s Deja voux all over again.”

That’s right; it’s time for our lads to line up in the bitter chill at Princes’ Boulevard near the shores of Lake Ontario. Then watch the captains trade commemorative pennants with each other to mark the occasion. Watch them shake hands with the officials, and then get on to the gritty business of winning the most coveted trophy in North American domestic football. Which is weird actually, if you think about it. The Football League Cup is the trophy that can be done without in England, yet our league cup – the MLS Cup is the one most sought after and best publicised on this side of the pond. Go figure. At any rate, it’s a very, very, very, very shiny tin pot, and we wants it. Don’t we just? ECS and it’s member groups stand ready, all hands to action stations. Keep each other warm in the stands and roar like lions, sing like drunken pirates and release the fierce joy in your hearts into the wilds of Ontario that it might echo there forever. Those of our Green Family that couldn’t or didn’t make the voyage north, form rank. File into each other’s houses and our pubs for viewing parties. It’s time for us once again, in the name of our club and the city of Seattle, to generate a beautiful and towering noise such as never been heard on Earth or it’s heavens. A noise so powerful and so massive that it threatens to tear the fabric of reality itself. Be kind, be jovial, be heard. Be the best expression of what makes the city of Seattle, and our football club, so extraordinary. Please join with me before kick-off in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

mlscup
Shiny…sooooo shiny…must…have.

The Good News
We’re a better team than last years’ MLS Cup champions who couldn’t manage a single shot on frame against Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup Final.

Toronto has actually conceded a goal in the MLS Cup, to the Red Donkeys, losing the match but not the cup tie. Toronto needed the away goals rule to struggle past a side composed of living adverts for an energy drink.

The back four of Jones/Nouhou, Marshall, Torres, and Leerdam have provided rock-solid stability at the back this season.

The Sounders FC have yet to concede a goal in this MLS Cup tournament. Marshall and Torres are, in my well-researched opinion, the best centre-halves in MLS, and Kelvin Leerdam is the best right-back in MLS, regardless of what the hare-brained selectors for the MLS Best XI have forced us to choke down.

Dempsey and Bruin scored a combined 28 goals in the league this season. That’s nearly as many as Giovinco and Altidore scored for Toronto, and that’s no small feat.

Before the MLS Cup semi-final first leg, I don’t think we’d ever won a match in Houston before. Well, we won, which tells me that pretty much anything is regardless of how much of a fortress they think their home ground might be.

The Bad News
Toronto FC are also a better team than the side that opposed us in the MLS Cup Final a year ago. Toronto mauled the rest of the league on the way to being crowned league champions. In doing so, they racked up more points in the standings than any club in the league’s 22-year history.

Toronto beat us 0:1 at Royal Brougham Park this season. It was the only match we lost at home this season. It hurt my feelings plenty.

With Vazquez pulling the strings in the TFC midfield, the Reds have more ways to shear a defence to shreds than a Swiss Army knife has attachments.

Giovinco and Altidore scored 33 goals between them in the league this season. Although that doesn’t terrify me, it does give me a moment’s pause.

Toronto have only lost twice at the Princes’ Boulevard ground this year. Once in the League against Montreal, and once in the MLS Cup to the Red Donkeys.

Speculation & Musings
The high temperature in Toronto will be 34ºF, with 59% humidity, and a 20% chance of precipitation that would likely manifest itself as snow showers. Wind will be a brisk 10 mph from the south-southwest. Break out the thermal underwear ECS. It’s gonna get frosty. Then there’s the matter of the weather.

According to the line-up in the semi-final second leg at Seattle, Lodeiro started the match as a holding midfielder, presumably in place of the injured Alonso. Will he do so again?

Although Jordan Morris is still listed as a matchday decision, you’d have to imagine there’s no way he could be prevented from lining up at the start of this one, yeh?

And further on in that line of thought: If Morris starts the match at left-wing, does Jones replace Nouhou at left-back and Rodriguez also to the bench?

Dempsey at striker, #10, or right-wing? You’d imagine that Dempsey at #10 with Bruin up top is a working formula that shouldn’t be tampered with, yeh?

Toronto has played an odd sometimes five at the back, sometimes three at the back shape this year. How are we going to find space in the midfield?

Does Svensson have another goal in him? I think he just might.

With Alonso ruled out due to his quadriceps, do we lose too much bite in the midfield? We’ve held it together so far, but Toronto won 20 matches in the league this season. Will it be enough for Svensson or Lodeiro to pick up the slack?

Although Dempsey has signed a one-year contract for next season, Joevin Jones will move to Darmstadt 98 later this winter. Will the Sounders’ circle of attrition continue? Perhaps it’s time to loosen up that salary cap, Mr Garber. It’s not a very good business plan if clubs have such thin squad depth that they must contest US Open Cup ties with players that look like they haven’t yet attempted their driver’s exam. I say this because viewing that US Open Cup match in San Jose featuring the better part of Sounders II against the San Jose first team made me want to go to the league office and slap someone in the face. Except for the free kick goal by Kovar, which was utterly delightful.

Joevin Jones will play his last match in Sounders’ Green today. I’m gonna miss that bloke.

A Year Ago
After we defeated Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup Final, Graham Parker, a journalist for the UK newspaper, The Guardian, wrote: “For years, Seattle have built a reputation for attacking flair that wilts in the playoffs, but their gutsy charge through the second half of a difficult season has been built as much on defense as attack, and this final was an extreme example of that. Having beaten Sporting KC 1-0 in the play-in game with their only shot on goal, Seattle went one “better” in the final – becoming the only team in MLS history to not have a shot on target for the two hours of regular play.” The Guardian also wrote a sub-heading after the historic match: “The Sounders have won their first MLS championship after a 5-4 victory on penalties following a dreary 0-0 stalemate.”

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Bono, 23, has taken the starting job away from Clint Irwin. Developed by Syracuse (NCAA), Bono has 45 matches at MLS level. He started 28 of Toronto’s 34 league matches this season. Toronto’s record this season with Bono between the pipes is 19-6-4. He has played all four contests in the 2017 MLS Cup.

Defence –
Morrow, 30, has played over 190 times at MLS level and has scored 17 goals in his career. He was produced by Notre Dame (NCAA) and has earned three caps for United States.

Mavinga, 26, is a French national produced by several clubs including Paris Saint-Germain and Liverpool. Never played for Liverpool who lent him to Belgian club Genk. He would later move to Rennes, Rubin Kazan, with loan spells at Reims and Troyes. In his first year at Toronto, he played in 26 league matches. He has played every match this MLS Cup and has earned four caps for DR Congo.

Moor, 33, is a domestic footballer produced by Furman and Indiana (NCAA). In his 13-year MLS Career he has played over 360 times for Dallas, Colorado, and Toronto, scoring 27 goals. In this, his second season with Toronto, Moor has played 22 MLS Cup matches in his career including every match of this MLS Cup. He earned five United States caps before retiring from international football in 2008.

Zavaleta, 25, is a domestic footballer produced by IMG Academy, FC Pride, Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, Columbus Crew, and Indiana (NCAA). Zavaleta has played over 80 matches of MLS football in his five-year career. This is his third year with Toronto following stints at Chivas USA and Seattle Sounders FC. He played in 29 league matches this season and has played in all four matches of this MLS Cup. Zavaleta earned 23 youth caps for United States.

Beitashour, 30, is a domestic footballer produced by San Diego State (NCAA). He began his professional career in 2010 with San Jose Earthquakes. He would later move to Vancouver in 2014, and Toronto in 2016. The eight-year MLS veteran has played in nearly 200 league matches, including 22 appearances for Toronto this season. He has played in 14 MLS Cup matches in his career, including all four in this campaign. Beitashour earned six caps with Iran before retiring from international football in 2014.

Midfield –
Vazquez, 30, is a Spanish national developed by FC Barcelona. He played nearly 150 times for Barcelona reserves in his seven years at the club, and one match in the first team. In 2011, Vazquez moved to Club Brugge playing over 120 times and scoring 15 goals. This was followed by a brief stint at Cruz Azul and his subsequent move to Toronto for the 2017 season. In his first year at TFC, he appeared in 31 matches scoring eight goals. He has played every match in this MLS Cup. Vazquez is the engine that makes the Toronto attack go, setting up 16 goals in the league.

Bradley, 30, is a mainstay for the United States team (140 caps, 17 goals), often captaining the Yanks. His resumé is well known as is the $10M fee it cost Toronto to pry him from AS Roma. With well over 350 matches as a pro, many of them in Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, it’s safe to say Bradley is a seasoned pro of established quality.

Osorio, 25, was produced by Nacional (Uruguay), and Toronto FC. His six-year career began with SC Toronto of the old CSL. Osorio then moved to Toronto FC in 2013 and has since played over 140 times for them, scoring 13 goals. He has 11 matches played in MLS Cup, including all four matches from this campaign. Osorio has earned 19 caps for Canada, scoring twice. Although he only started nine matches for Toronto this season, he appeared in 27.

Forward –
Giovinco, 30, has an impeccable resumé. A product of Juventus (93 appearances/14 goals) and the Italian national team (23 caps, one goal), he played nearly 200 matches of top-flight Italian league football. He has 97 goals in 280 appearances as a professional. Agile and nimble, he is a force to be reckoned with whether dribbling at the defence or on the ball for set pieces. He is more than capable of providing the killer ball in the final third. This is his third season with Toronto and has played 86 matches for them, scoring 55 goals and setting up 37 others. He has 10 matches of MLS Cup experience scoring five goals and has played in all but one match in this year’s tournament.

Altidore, 28, has 96 goals in 270 appearances. He’s played in England, Turkey, Spain, and the Netherlands. From 2011-2013 scored 39 goals in 67 matches for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie. He is notorious for having the highest fee ever paid to MLS for a transfer, $10M (€7.4M) to Spanish club Villarreal CF. No one pays that much money unless you have a tonne of skill. He’s a tank of a striker, much like Morris, only far more experienced. When not busy scoring goals, can sometimes be found laying the ball off like a traditional holding centre-forward. He has earned 110 caps and scored 41 goals for United States.

Familiar Faces
Defender, Eriq Zavaleta, played five times for the Sounders FC in the 2013 season. He was drafted by Seattle in 2013. He was traded two years later to TFC for a 2nd round draft pick.

Squads
Toronto from: Bono, Irwin, Pais, Alseth, Aubrey, Beitashour, Hagglund, Hasler, Hernandez, Mavinga, Moor, Morgan, Morrow, Zavaleta, Bradley, Camargo, Chapman, Cheyrou, Cooper, Delgado, Edwards, Hasler, Osorio, Vazquez, Altidore, Endoh, Giovinco, Hamilton, Ricketts, Spencer.

Sounders FC from: Frei, Miller, Meredith, Alfaro, Fisher, Jones, Leerdam, Marshall, Nouhou, Torres, Delem, Fisher, Kovar, Lodeiro, Mallace, Mathers, Neagle, Rodriguez, Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin, Dempsey, Morris.

Injury List
Toronto –
OUT: none.
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.

Sounders FC –
OUT: Evans (back), Alonso (quadriceps).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Morris (hamstring)

Discipline
Disciplinary slate wiped clean for MLS Cup Final. So no matter who tried to run whom in the semi-final second leg, there are none suspended from either side. [exasperated sigh]

Fun Fact
At press time on Friday night, Ladbrokes listed MLS Cup Final bets on Toronto had odds of 3/4 (your bet times .75 plus the original stake) and bets on Seattle had odds of 18/5 (your bet times 3.6 plus the original stake). Suffice it to say that the famous London bookmakers believe that Toronto FC are likely to win. Well. We’ll just have to see about that. Won’t we?

P.S. if you’re going to bet be sensible. It’s plenty sad to lose the farm (or your shirt) due to gambling debt.

SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC v. HOUSTON DYNAMO MLS Cup Semi-Final 2nd Leg, Royal Brougham Park, Seattle, Washington.

Pre-Match analysis by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)

Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. I hope that you exulted and rejoiced nine days ago because the lads have managed the impossible. Sounders FC won at Houston! A historic event. To cut down the Creamsicles, right in the midst of the hated fortress on Dowling Street. Exquisite. Up 2:0 in the tie, we have only to finish the job. We get to make the attempt at Royal Brougham Park in the Evergreen of Seattle. If the Sounders win this cup tie, and every indicator points to a positive result, it will set up a rematch of last year’s MLS Cup final in the frosty confines of Toronto. If all goes well tonight ECS and her subgroups had better pack their thermal underwear. Saddle up, Green Family! We’ve got work to do. Link up when and where you can, hopefully at the ground tonight. Raise every voice to our boys in Green. Make noise, be merry, sing well, and support the lads. Buckle up. It’s going to be a woolly one. Before kick-off, join me in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY!!!

creamsicles2
In space, no one can hear creamsicles melt. Lock up your daughters and hide the animals, Seattle. Prepare for…INVASION OF THE CREAMSICLES!!!

The Good News
Sounders are up 2:0 in the tie before anyone even kicks a football tonight. Jordo might be back in the team, so hopefully, he’s fit. With both Elis and Anibaba out for Houston, the Sounders are positioned to cement their place in the final.

The Bad News
Houston have their backs to the wall. Much has been achieved in this world with nothing but desperation and adrenaline. We’d better be on our sharpest watch. As I wrote last week, Houston have sneaky good quality. To fail to respect that would be foolish.

Speculation & Musings
It would be bad for the Sounders to play an understrength side, and possibly crash out of the MLS Cup.

It would be equally bad for the Sounders to play those that could benefit from a rest and they hurt themselves worse. A difficult quandary for Sounders FC Manager, Brian Schmetzer.

It’s possible Wilmer Cabrera might select Manotas over Quioto at left wing to replace the suspended Elis, but I doubt it. Quioto is a bit older and a lot more experienced.

Lodiero failing to convert his penalty kick in Houston was deeply troubling. I do love a good redemption story though. Perhaps he’ll have a chance to hit one tonight.

Unless closely managed, the combination of Erick Torres, Quioto, Martinez, and Alex could conceivably cut us apart should we lumber out to a sluggish start.

Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper –
Willis, 29, is a domestic product developed by Denver (NCAA). Saw limited playing time with Houston this year playing in only eight league matches. During his seven-year MLS career, he has compiled 60 matches of MLS experience with 11 clean sheets. Won the US Open Cup with DC United in 2013.

Defence –
Remick, 25, developed by Brown (NCAA), was a former Sounder (see below) for four seasons. He moved to Houston this season on a free transfer. He’s played 14 times for his new club this season. He has 58 matches of MLS experience in his career.

Machado, 32, has played nearly 300 times for clubs in Guatemala, Panama, Honduras, and Costa Rica. Moved from Saprissa to Houston in December of 2016 and played 33 matches for his new club. Machado once served a two-year ban after testing positive for a banned substance. Machado has 65 caps for Panama.

Senderos, 32, is a Swiss national developed by Servette. His career reads like a whistle-stop tour of European football destinations. He is most known for his time at Arsenal (where he moved from Servette for £1.35M) and Fulham. In addition, Senderos played for Servette, had loan spells at AC Milan and Everton, and saw time at Valencia, Aston Villa, Grasshoppers, and Rangers. Released from Ibrox in May, he joined Houston in the summer transfer window in August. Though he only played twice for Houston in the league, he has played every match in the MLS Cup so far.

Beasley, 35, is a decorated footballer with a career that has seen him play in America, the Netherlands, England, Scotland, Germany, and Mexico. Produced by the IMG Academy’s USA U-17 residency programme, Da Marcus has been capped 126 times for United States scoring 17 goals. He has played 184 matches over his nine years in MLS, 86 of those for Houston, scoring twice. In the current American domestic player pool, it would be difficult to find his equal in quality, experience, or honours. Still has pace, although not quite the quicksilver variety that he had earlier in his career.

Midfield –
Alexander, 29, is a domestic footballer developed by Indiana (NCAA). He moved from Montreal to Houston in 2016 and has since played 22 matches for his current club. His seven-year MLS career has seen him play in 191 matches scoring eight goals. Alexander has two caps for United States.

Cabezas, 26, was a loan signing from Colombian giant Deportivo Cali in the off-season. He has played over 150 times as a professional including nearly 75 appearances for Deportivo Cali and over 130 times total in top-level Columbian football. In this, his first year with Houston he played 27 matches in the league, and all four MLS Cup matches.

Alex, 28, has over 240 appearances as a professional, nearly 90 matches of his experience were played in Switzerland with Wohlen and Gossau. He was produced by Gremio, of Brazil. His six-year MLS career has seen him play over 150 matches for Chicago and Houston, scoring 12 goals. He has 62 appearances and seven goals for Houston. He has played all four matches in the MLS Cup.

Martinez, 22, is an Argentine national produced by River Plate. He has also seen spells at Tenerife and Braga. Martinez moved from Braga to Houston for €1.68M in July of the 2017 summer transfer window. Played nine league matches in his first year for Houston, and has played in all four MLS Cup matches. Martinez has 10 youth caps for Argentina.

Quioto, 26, another of Houston’s burgeoning Honduran contingent, might be the most likely replacement for the suspended Elis. Once scored 38 goals in 96 matches for Olimpia in the Honduran league. Has 39 caps and seven goals for Honduras. Has played all four MLS Cup matches. In this, his first season for Houston, he played 22 times in the league, scoring seven goals.

Forward –
Erick Torres, 24, has played over 90 times in MLS scoring 36 goals. Produced by Chivas of Guadalajara, he played over 70 matches for the club that developed him and over 40 matches on loan at Chivas USA in MLS. He has represented Mexico 21 times at youth levels and has seven senior caps. For Houston, this season, he has scored 14 goals in 49 matches, with all his goals scored this season. He has played in three 2017 MLS Cup matches.

Familiar Faces
Former Sounders FC players Jalil Anibaba and Dylan Remick now play for Houston. Anibaba played 16 times for Sounders FC in 2014. Remick made 44 appearances for Seattle and was a substitute defender for us just last season.

Squads
Sounders FC from: Frei, Miller, Meredith, Alfaro, Fisher, Jones, Leerdam, Marshall, Nouhou, Delem, Kovar, Lodeiro, Mallace, Mathers, Neagle, Victor Rodriguez, Roldan, Shipp, Svensson, Wingo, Adekoya, Bruin, Dempsey.

Houston from: Willis, Brown, Beasley, Kevin Garcia, Hunter, Machado, Remick, Leonardo, Senderos, Alex, Alexander, Cabezas, Clark, Escalante, Boniek Garcia, Holland, Lucatero, Martinez, Memo Rodriguez, Ward, Wenger, Manotas, Quioto, Sanchez, Erick Torres.

Injury List
(note: This is all relative to MLS.com’s injury list. Keeping in mind that this is cup football, barring a shredded ligament or broken bone you’ll just as likely see a player in the team as not.)

Sounders FC –
OUT: Evans (back), Alonso (quadriceps).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Morris (hamstring).

Houston –
OUT: Malki (ACL), DeLaGarza (ACL).
MATCHDAY DECISION: none.

Discipline
Suspensions:
Sounders FC: Ramon Torres (2nd booking).
Houston: Elis (2nd booking), Anibaba (sent off), Deric (see below).

Note: Although Deric’s innocence or guilt in this matter has yet to be determined, it didn’t seem correct to simply write ‘Off-field conduct’ as a reason for his suspension as it was reported on the MLS.com’s Discipline Report page. Tyler Deric has been suspended pending the results of investigations by both MLS and local law enforcement into domestic violence charges. I direct those further interested in this matter to this article in the Houston Chronicle. It’s not for me to write any more about it one way or the other. May the Light protect us all.

Note: The players listed below carry a booking into this match, but it doesn’t matter, as all players’ disciplinary slates are cleared before the MLS Cup Final. I wonder who’s going to use their blank cheque to have a go at someone tonight. Pay close attention should the aggregate become lopsided or with full-time close at hand. Hopefully, at this stage of the match, neither Dempsey nor Lodiero will need to be on the pitch. What a densely stupid rule. Perhaps MLS should re-name their subhead ‘Lack of Discipline Report’ or ‘Discipline Report, except when there isn’t any’.

Houston – Senderos, Clark, Machado, Quioto, Alex, Boniek Garcia, Martinez.
Sounders FC – Roldan, Lodeiro, Nouhou.

Fun Fact
Gustav Svensson’s 11th-minute header last match was the first goal scored for any club outside of his native Sweden. Or for that matter, the first goal scored for any club other than IFK Goteborg, the club that developed him.