SEATTLE, Wash. – Saturday’s match at CenturyLink could be see as an example of what Major League Soccer’s all about. Seattle was one of the best teams in the league, Chivas USA is one of the worst, yet the hosts needed a 89th minute goal to take full points from the Goats. True, Seattle did throttle Chivas 6-2 two weeks ago, but the rematch nearly proved the American sports’ “any given Sunday” adage that has strangely become used in all sports that dare play while the deities rest. Writers do love their clichés, but given Major League Soccer’s never shied away from implement some of the strategies of that Sunday league, the slogan’s not entirely ill-used.
On Sautrday, the Sounders had the better of play through most of the night, but their advantage wasn’t so huge that Chivas, having scored in the eighth minute, wouldn’t have gotten out of town with a point on another night. But Fredy Montero made sure this wasn’t any other night. So did Osvaldo Alonso. So did Eddie Johnson. For all talent Chivas has brought in this season, they have nobody in their squad as valuable as those three. On Saturday, it showed.
If Seattle were going out and buying that talent, leveraging some intangible trait that transcended MLS’s salary rules, we could just chalk this up to a good team beating a bad. But only one of those three guys is a Designated Player (Montero), and he didn’t come to Seattle as one. Do you think any of those three players came to Seattle because they just loved the idea of playing for the Sounders? No. When people from Colombia, Cuba, and Florida see Seattle on a map, the first thing they think is cold. Seattle went out and got that talent, their ability to do so distinguishing them from most organizations in the league.
We read so many hyperbolic articles about Seattle (in particular), Portland and the Pacific Northwest being this nirvana of North American soccer, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to success on the field. Seattle fans can extol the endemic quality of their organization, but you look at Real Salt Lake (the other team that seems to scout as well as Seattle) and you see that even the smallest markets – ones that players from Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia have never heard of – can land talent. Hell, Columbus got Guillermo Barros Sche-freaki’-lotto to come to a city defined by college football (before Designated Players existed). It’s about the people who go out and find that talent.
Whatever Adrian Hanauer and Garth Lagerway are doing, it’s exceptional, it’s remarkable, and it’s producing results.
On Saturday, while going up against a team that has spent money and has brought in a broad array of talent, Seattle showed their quality. And as much as that quality is about players like Alonso, Johnson, and Montero, it’s also about the people who find them, get them in under the salary cap, and keep them around.
Seattle has reason to be proud of Hanauer, Chris Henderson, and Sigi Schmid. And the rest of the league (well, most of it)? They have reason for envy.
Players you’d want on your team (starters):
Seattle: Jeff Parke, Osvaldo Alonso, Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy, Jorge Villafana, Nick LaBrocca
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