Our soccer editor catalogs his descent into sleep-deprived madness while watching the Union play on the West Coast.
9:40 PM – I want to get a couple things off of my chest off the top, before we even know the lineups. This rescheduled match (moved from March to September and starting at 11 PM ET on a Wednesday no less!) is ludicrous, the result of MLS bending over backwards to accommodate one of its teams who made CONCACAF Champions League. Yes, I know it’s best for the league to give each MLS entrant every possible advantage in the continent-wide tournament. Yes, the Sounders did make it to the quarterfinals. But I also know that making a team fly across the entire country for a midweek match is absolutely uncalled for. To make matters worse, the Seattle Sounders the Union would have faced in March were in disarray and may have been easy pickings; compare that to the team the Union face right now who is on a nine-match winning streak. Nothing involved in this match says anything positive for the Union. The boys in blue will be most assuredly thrilled to get a point, or perhaps even to just play well and lose slightly. Low expectations, ho!
10:00 PM – Lineups are out. MLS assists leader Borek Dockal isn’t in the eighteen for the U, replaced instead by Derrick Jones. I have to wonder if Dockal (who played 72 minutes against Montreal this past weekend) was rushed back just a bit from an ankle knock and needed a bit more time. Couple that with the fact that Montreal absolutely punished the Union on the counter partially due to the lack of a Brian Carroll-esque midfielder (a role Jones can play) and one might wonder if Curtin is both resting Dockal while putting a true defensive mid on the field against another team in Seattle that loves to counter.
Ray Gaddis continues to start on the left despite having nothing going forward and being the source of some costly Union turnovers. If I’m Jim Curtin and I have a wish list for the offseason, near the top is to see if Matt Real can play left back consistently, or if not, to sign someone that can. At the top: buy Borek Dockal.
Union: Blake; Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry; Jones, Haris Medunjanin; Fafa Picault, Alejandro Bedoya, C.J. Sapong; Cory Burke
Seattle: Frei; Smith, Marshall, Kim, Leerdam; Alonso, Svensson; Rodriguez, Lodeiro, Roldan; Ruidiaz
10:23 PM – The life of a fan of the Union that’s been there since 2010 includes constantly wondering if Jay Sugarman will finally open his checkbook for someone like Dockal who makes all the difference in the world, and if Jay Sugarman’s checkbook has anything left in it. Basically think late 90s Phillies and you’re getting warm, with echos of “we’re just trying to compete” and “we’re not a big market team” (despite residing in the fourth-largest metropolitan area in the country) still in my ears. With the Phillies, we found that there was much more money being made than they had led us to believe (what a huge surprise!) and they eventually started spending and (another huge surprise!) started winning things. With the Union? No one really knows how this will end.
It’s been said there are two ways to run a professional sports franchise: you can run it like a business and try to turn a profit, or you can run it like your hobby or passion and sink more money into it than you may make back because it’s your thing. The Union are run like a business, and we’re not even sure there’s another option with current ownership. Let’s just move along.
10:34 PM – Have revised my expectations of this match to “if everyone leaves with the same amount of ligaments connected in their knees as they came in with, it’s a win.” Turf in soccer is such a joke.
11:00 PM – Just saw video in the opening of Freddy Adu scoring then hushing the Seattle crowd in 2011 when the Union last won there. We are doomed.
11:05 PM – We’re lucky to have J.P. Dellacamera as our play-by-play guy. It’s like how having Harry Kalas call the Phillies felt; they may be terrible and lose a lot, but at least you can enjoy listening to it while it happens.
11:07 PM – Keys to the game: don’t blow a knee out.
11:08 PM – Kickoff!
1′ – Cory Burke gets promptly mugged in the corner near Seattle’s goal. No call.
4′ – The U are doing a good job of harrassing Seattle and not letting them out of their own end. If they can keep this up, it might pay dividends.
5′ – And just like that, two Seattle chances on balls over the top. Blake almost gets chipped.
7′ – Smith in alone on Blake, opts to cross, Trusty heads it out. Union living dangerously.
8′ – Seattle cross across the goal and Rodriguez misses a sitter. Ruidiaz misses the follow-up. Somehow still nil-nil.
12′ – Another ball over the top is deflected out for a Seattle corner, which results in nothing.
15′ – Stefan Frei gets a touch on a pass back. I was starting to think he’d forget what the ball looked like.
16′ – Another ball over the top and down the middle finds Ruidiaz, who hits a well-placed shot up at the upper 90, but Blake does well to tip it over the bar. The resulting corner sees a Seattle shot hit the woodwork and bounce back to Blake. It’s all Seattle right now.
19′ – Cory Burke takes a Sounder down.
20′ – Alonso crushes Burke as Burke starts running down the right touchline with the ball.
21′ – Dockal update: ankle didn’t respond as well as they had hoped, should play this weekend at home against Sporting Kansas City and in the Open Cup Final at Houston.
24′ – Scary moment as Burke and Marshall go for a cross in the Seattle box. Marshall wins the header and the two clash heads, and Marshall stays down. The three-time MLS Defender of the Year eventually makes it off of the pitch and will be checked for a concussion; he’s struggling, and he’s had head injuries in the past.
28′ – Marshall still not back. Seattle playing a man down.
29′ – Marshall returns, and it appears all is well. Good to see. Ruidiaz is now down, holding an ankle. He limps off and will get the magic spray.
32′ – Medunjanin whips a ball into the box off of a throw-in and Burke puts a touch to it, but Frei does well to keep it out, diving to his left. Burke stunned it didn’t go in, hands on his head.
34′ – Ruidiaz cannot continue and Will Bruin is subbed in.
37′ – Odd sequence where the ref plays advantage for the Union then the Union get away with a foul, resulting in a Medunjanin pass that unlocks the defense for Cory Burke, but Frei stops him at a sharp angle while Sounders players howl at the ref at midfield.
39′ – Derrick Jones gets the “you’ve fouled people a lot” points and warning from the ref, and a sure yellow for his next foul.
42′ – The book on beating the Union was written by Montreal last weekend and is being edited by Seattle tonight. Just hit long balls that split the back line or beat the corners and a plethora of chances await you.
44′ – Is this what fans of other teams felt when they faced the Union early in the year, when the U created a boatload of chances but couldn’t score? I’m thinking yes.
45+1′ – A good Union counter through Medunjanin sees Sapong hit the ball on goal from a couple yards out of the box, but Frei catches it easily. Three minutes added on.
45+2′ – Fafa Picault picks up some loose change in the box about twelve yards out and gives it a lash, troubling only the fans seated well behind the Seattle goal, and that’s how the first half ends. Somehow, the two sides are level.
Halftime – Alejandro Bedoya needs to make his presence be known. He’s back in his less preferred position at the 10, but a player of his caliber needs to adjust and contribute more. Also, does anyone else feel like this is the year Fabinho got old? You mean to tell me he can’t beat out Ray Gaddis on the left? Ugh.
It’s the first half highlights! In order: Blake save at the top of the box, Seattle missing an open net, Rodriguez missing a sitter, Blake leaping save on Ruiduiz, Seattle hitting the woodwork. Things are not going well.
Union manager Jim Curtin at half: “we weathered the storm, we took their best punch.” I’ve got nothing.
12:14 AM – Second half starts!
46′ – Chad Marshall subbed off at half. It’s safe to say everyone hopes he’ll be okay. Roman Torres on.
48′ – A Sounders free kick off of a Medunjanin foul in his own half is punched out by Blake. Rodriguez gets onto it at the top of the box and sends it high and wide.
50′ – Gaddis coughs the ball up in the Union box.
52′ – Jones sees yellow for accumulation. The ref has been more than fair this match.
53′ – On the counter, it’s Medunjanin to Bedoya to Burke.. who puts it just wide of the advanced Frei, who came out. Roman Torres destroys Fafa Picault in the box but there’s no call.
54′ – Gaddis gets crushed on a late challenge and stays down briefly.
56′ – Medunjanin has a go from the top of the box and Frei stops it, but the ball leaks to Frei’s left where Bedoya has a go. Frei gets over to stop that too. Still scoreless.
57′ – Gaddis sitting down and needs attention. The stretcher is out, but he won’t need it as he makes his way to the sideline.
59′ – Ray Gaddis is done for the night; Fabinho will replace him on the left.
62′ – A Sounders free kick and subsequent corner result in nothing. With all the injuries, both managers’ options are limited.
63′– Portland is beating Columbus 3-1. Even a point in Seattle would let the Union inch closer to the Crew.
65′ – Medunjanin finds Burke with a gorgeous pass on the right of the box; Burke takes a touch and beats Frei near post, a goal Frei will want back. Unbelievable! The Union lead!!!!!
66′ – And now, not. Video review convinces the ref that Burke was just slightly offsides. We are scoreless again.
68′ – Burke is now down holding his shin. Kim gave him a very obvious kick to the back of the leg after the ball left the area. No call. Burke eventually hobbles off.
71′ – Gaddis left with a left ankle injury. Seattle now threatening with extended possession.
72′ – Kim takes Burke down.
74′ – The ref is really letting them play; this is at least the third or fourth time that the players stopped playing in anticipation of a whistle and there was none.
75′ – Shipp in for Rodriguez. The Sounders are out of moves. Meanwhile Portland beats Columbus 3-2.
76′ – Wow. A Derrick Jones giveaway turns into a Sounders cross where both the man at the near post and man at the far post missed a gaping net.
78′ – Jack Elliott sees yellow and will miss the next match. The foul at the top of the box gives the Sounders a dangerous free kick. Blake punches it out.
80′ – Following several Union turnovers, Lodeiro loads up at the top of the box and misses everything.
81′ – Herbers on for Sapong. The Union have one move left.
83′ – Leerdam visibly limping for the Sounders. They can’t replace him, and the Union can’t hold onto the ball for anything.
85′ – Another Sounders corner, but Blake catches a strong header on the goal line.
88′ – Shipp gets on the end of a cross at the top of the box and hits a hard strike on goal, but Blake dives to his right and parries it, spilling it but then recovering it.
88′ – Burke out. WE HAVE A JAY SIMPSON SIGHTING. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
89′ – Jack Elliot out, sees yellow after a late challenge and is sent off for two yellows. Union down a man for the remainder.
90′ – Shipp bangs another shot wide. Union need to come up with any kind of possession here.
90’+1 – SIX MINUTES OF STOPPAGE. Is Alex Ferguson in the house?
90’+3 – AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!
Simpson puts pressure on Frei, Frei horks the ball up to Fafa Picault, who megs the keeper and puts it home! 1-0 Union!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
90’+5 – Nervous moments as repeated crosses are put into the box by Seattle, but somehow the Union keeps the ball out.
90’+7 – AND THAT’S IT! The Union somehow go into Seattle and steal all three points, putting them just a point away from the Crew in the standing and giving them some breathing room on Montreal again.
What a match. They have to get better on those balls over the top, but three points in Seattle is hard to earn, and they should take from this match what they can and move on to SKC on Sunday.