Tonight (after I briefly attended a work-related party), we took our good pals Kenneth and Joyce to the Seattle Sounders match against the Columbus Crew. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather. No second layer necessary, even at the end of the match at 10 p.m. We found decent free parking and got to the Stadium in plenty of time. Everything was going perfectly — until the game started.
Now, I think you all know I love the Sounders, but I have to be honest with you and tell you that tonight’s game was a mess. Yes, there were moments of beauty. But, they were rare amidst the shirt pulling and arm grabbing and pushing and knocking each other over from behind. Almost none of it got called by the ref, who chose to ignore it. It became a full-contact sport. At one point, Kenneth said that it seemed more like a rugby match, which was absolutely right.
The Sounders fell behind early, after Columbus scored an expertly executed goal. Freddy Ljungberg had the opportunity to tie the game in the first half with what I believe was our first penalty kick of the season. But, he wanked it. He flat out wanked it. Our $1.3 million player wanked it. I know it happens, but ouch. (Just to compare — many members of the team make $65,000 per year or less. Ljungberg is our premiere player.)
During halftime, Joyce presented us with delicious cupcakes in honor of Kenneth’s birthday tomorrow (Happy Birthday, Kenneth!), complete with a candle and matches so we could sing Happy Birthday to him. I told him to wish for a Sounders win when he blew out the candle. He got about half of that wish. The Sounders didn’t lose, but they ended up with a tie. So, it wasn’t a loss, but it wasn’t a win, either. I think they’ve tied the last four or five games now, which is tough to take when it’s clear they could have won at least two of them.
Ljungberg redeemed himself somewhat in the second half by assisting on a sweet goal by the 6’4″ Nate Jacqua. That energized the crowd, but the messy, sloppy play continued. The players were getting ticked off at the ref and it distracted them. The other major distraction was provided by #17 from the Columbus Crew, Emmanuel Ekpo, who had multiple “injuries” that caused him to writhe around on the field, kill lots of time, and piss off the crowd. After lots of writhing he would hop up and be magically cured, presto! Look, he’s just fine! It’s a miracle. We all started booing, of course, but the great thing was that after about 2 or 3 of these stunts, the entire crowd of 29,000 fans started booing every time he touched the ball. It was hysterical! And, so therapeutic. I know it sounds childish, but we sure had fun booing! And making fun of the Crew’s logo, easily the worst in the MLS (doesn’t it look like a high contrast picture of the Beastie Boys wearing construction helmets?), and their uniforms, which include a curiously placed black square right over their rumps.
Close to the end of the game, when I was sure we weren’t going to pull a win out of our hat, I asked Kenneth if he had wished for a win. He said either that or an Xbox.
When the game clock hit 90 minutes, 5 miuntes of stoppage time were added. That’s a lot of time in which so many bad things can happen and in fact did. One of the Sounders got red carded, although it wasn’t clear to us why. Ugh. No goals were scored, so I guess that’s good news, but wow. What a sloppy mess of a game.
The thing is, despite the sloppiness and the grabby hands and the tie score, we had a blast. It really is a pleasure to be outside on such a fine night and watch these athletes do their thing. Several of the Sounders worked their butts off and it’s not their fault that they lost. It’s Ljungberg’s fault. Just kidding. Mostly.