First off, let me set the record straight. Today’s “point” against Tottenham didn’t count for anything. It was a friendly, meaning that the game was merely for the entertainment of fans and somewhat of a “tune-up” game before Hotspur begin their Premier League schedule in a month. So it’s very easy to throw this match out the window and say that there was really very little significance to anything that happened at CenturyLink Field today.
I would argue differently, however. The result actually reflected the balance of play. In other words, our Sounders FC played toe-to-toe with a Premier League opponent – a team that finished 6th in the EPL last year. In fact, I would say that Seattle looked more dangerous than Tottenham for most of the match. Yes it should be taken with a grain of salt because of the differences in form of the two clubs. Tottenham is in “pre-season mode” which means they are more after gathering form than a win, while the Sounders are in peak form and enjoy a modest 3-point lead in the Supporter’s Shield (awarded to the top team in the MLS every year) race. That should not take away from the fact that, for the first time since the Sounders have joined MLS, Seattle actually looked like it could play with an elite European team.
In the past, the likes of Chelsea, Manchester United, and Barcelona have had their ways with the Rave Green, winning by at least 2 goals in each match (Manchester United beat the Sounders 7-0 in 2011). But from the beginning of this match, something felt different.
The day started off with a truly heartwarming moment as 18-year-old Xander Bailey‘s dream of playing professional soccer came true. Bailey signed with the Sounders as a part of the Make-A-Wish program this past Wednesday. After training with the team Friday, Xander suited up (and started!) in Seattle’s All-Black Kit as a member of the team. In a lovely sequence between he and Clint Dempsey at the beginning of the game, Bailey was awarded with a shot-on-goal before being substituted, but not before the crowd of over 55,000 stood on their feet cheering, “XAAAANDDEERRRRR! BAAAAAIIILLLEEEYYY!!!!” It was a truly special moment for a truly special young man.
From there the teams played a relatively even match to the tune of a 3-3 draw that was very entertaining for the fans. There was great soccer played by both clubs, highlighted by Ozzie Alonso‘s incredible strike from 30 yards out to put the Sounders up 2-1 in the second half. The combination-play of Dempsey and Obafemi Martins up front created numerous chances for Sounders FC. It was actually scary how well they read each other sometimes (other MLS squads should be scared of the duo). Seattle also got scores from Gonzalo Pineda‘s first-half PK and Tristan Bowen‘s late goal.
It’s certainly easy for teams to not play all-out during a friendly, but, for the most part, both squads were competitive. Even better, both teams came out of the match healthy with no significant injuries to report. But most importantly, our MLS-club from Seattle earned the respect of an elite European team with a storied history. Saturday’s match may not have had any real implications for Sounders FC, but they should be delighted with the result. While it shouldn’t be taken too significantly, there definitely is no reason to not feel good about a draw like this.
Oh, and by the way, Clint Dempsey was named as the cover-athlete for FIFA 15, which makes two Seattle stars on the cover of games this fall.
If you missed the game here are the highlights.