Friday, April 2, 2010

Greetings from Seattle

The first year success of Seattle Sounders FC has delighted fans of other MLS teams and annoyed them in equal measure. 

First the good - and it's almost all good.  The club has undeniably made a huge impression on the sports landscape here in the Pacific Northwest. Tuning into one of the local sports wrap-up shows last night, we got a solid 15 minutes of Sounders/MLS talk, including player interviews, the latest news on Freddy Ljungberg's feud with Peter Nowak, a chat with Don Garber and discussion of the new designated player rules with Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer.  That is really extraordinary, when you consider that most New York-area sports reporters wouldn't be able to explain the DP concept if you held a gun to their heads.

With all the gushing over Seattle's success (Garber went so far in his TV interview to call it the most successful launch of a sports franchise ever), there comes a bit of arrogance that everyone is just going to have to deal with.  For a few years TFC was the model MLS franchise.  Now they've been knocked down a rung, as the Sounders passed them (and the Red Bulls) in terms of major trophy success in their very first year, when they won the US Open Cup

I got a little taste of the SSFC fans' swagger when I went to lunch yesterday in my Red Bulls hoodie.  Our waiter noticed it immediately, asked if I was out for the game and stated confidently that we had no chance on Saturday.  We had a good laugh about it, and in the end I was much more pleased about being able to talk soccer with another fan than I was annoyed at having my team's chances dismissed so casually.  But there is undeniably a confidence bordering on arrogance that the Sounders bring to the table.

With the arrival of Red Bull Arena, I am starting to have more of these casual soccer conversations with fans in the New York-area, but it is going to take a long time to reach the critical mass that the Sounders have achieved.  With nine professional sports franchises to compete against in the tri-state area compared with just two here in Seattle, the day may never arrive when the Red Bulls are as ubiquitous in our market as the Sounders are in theirs, but it's a great goal to shoot for.

As for tomorrow's game, the big unpredicatble factor is the Seattle weather, which can go from sunny to windy with showers in the matter of a minute (and has several times this week).  As I write this, the rain is lashing down on my mom's house here in Maple Valley, but it is expected to be better by gametime tomorrow.  Fingers crossed.
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