If they win it, you must go, right?
It’s a big supposition, whether the Sounders win their U.S. Open Cup semifinal with USL co-leader Charleston. But if they do, the cup final is coming to Seattle.
If the Sounders advance on Tuesday night, they will either host D.C. United on Sept. 3 at Qwest Field or New England on Sept. 15.
"We’re obviously excited to have won the right to host the final," says Bart Wiley, the team’s general manager. "We have a tough game in front of us in Charleston, but the potential of coming home to Seattle and playing a game, especially with the magnitude of a U.S. Open Cup final in front of our fans, in this, the last season of the USL Sounders, is exciting."
Indeed, getting out of South Carolina with a win is a tall order for Seattle.
The injury-riddled Sounders, winners of three straight after blanking Portland, will be playing their third road game in six days. The Battery will be returning from the road themselves, yet they will have an additional day’s rest.
"I would love for us to be a little healthier," says coach Brian Schmetzer. "This year, more than most, we’ve had untimely injuries to a lot of different guys who have a lot of impact on the team."
Among those in question are six regular starters: Leighton O’Brien, Taylor Graham, Roger Levesque, Hugo Alcaraz-Cueller, Michael Rodriguez and Kenji Treschuk.
"We have to put a lot of faith in our young reserves on this squad," Schmetzer says. "These guys are going to have to catch on quickly and do the job."
Fortunately, the addition of MLS loaners Ciaran O’Brien and Nik Besagno are already paying off. They were paired in central midfield in both last week’s hard-fought win in Puerto Rico and again in Portland.
In their last home game on July 26, the Sounders beat Charleston, 1-0, and there was no shortage of significance. In previous encounters, they had drawn and lost on the road.
"Charleston was leading the league and had been playing with a ton of confidence," he says. "We didn’t want to go against them in the open cup at ‘O’ for 3."
Schmetzer and Wiley both credited owner Adrian Hanauer for giving them the necessary resources at critical times. Schmetzer will take every available roster player on the trip to Minnesota and then on to Charleston. Wiley was able to prepare a cup final bid second to none among the semifinalists.
"That’s what Mr. Hanauer, is all about," says Wiley, "giving us the opportunity to play big games at home, and that’s what we did."
Start on a High Note
Two months after they first formed, the Sounders FC band is truly making music.
Steve Baretich, the band’s associate director, has his 50-plus musicians/fans practicing several numbers, from funk to jazz to hip-hop and R&B.
"First of all, I'd like to say that the band we have assembled is comprised of some outstanding players," says Baretich. "This first inception of the Sounders band will set a high mark."
Baretich and band director Keith Rousu’s first handout to the group was entitled, appropriately, Get Ready, the classic groove by The Temptations. For now, the rest of the songs will remain under wraps.
"By the time our season starts in 2009, we should have dozens of tunes in our book," Baretich says.
"I believe that we are on a path to creating the gold standard of musical groups in professional sports."
As for the first public performances, the Macy’s Holiday Parade on Nov. 28 and a Seahawks game Dec. 7 are on the docket.
Hammers’s Numbers, Less Moore’s
Certainly the world’s game is taking root in America. So, too, are our sporting customs being adopted around the world.
This weekend, West Ham United will retire the number ‘6’ shirt so famously donned by the late Bobby Moore beginning 50 years ago. There is already a statue depicting Moore outside Upton Park.
Moore played 16 seasons (1958-74) for the Hammers and is best known for lifting the World Cup after England’s 1966 win. He later played for the original Sounders before retiring.
Effective immediately, defender Matthew Epson will relinquish the No. 6, and theoretically it will never be worn by the Claret and Blue ever again.
Purists in East London will undoubtedly hold West Ham to its word, no matter what future superstar demands otherwise. The Argentine federation proved more spineless, retiring Diego Maradona’s ‘10’ in 2001, only to make it available again five years later.
In England, where tradition trumps nearly all else, Moore’s number is the first of the single-digit variety to be taken out of circulation. Until the mid-90s, the numbering of players was predicated by position rather than the player. The starters wore shirts 1-11. Moore was a central defender.
At World Cup USA ’94, FIFA required all players’ names to be printed on the jersey backs. Later that year, the English Premier League was the first in Europe to assign players permanent numbers.
American teams, with the head start, have been retiring numbers since the Forties. The New York Yankees have put 15 on the shelf, 16 if you count Jackie Robinson’s 42. American professional soccer, by comparison, has only two: Cobi Jones (No. 13, L.A. Galaxy) and PelÈ (10, Cosmos).
The argument for retiring shirts works both ways. For instance, the fact that Cristiano Ronaldo wears the ‘7’ shirt first made famous by George Best at Old Trafford only serves to keep the memory of Best alive. Wearing it becomes the tribute.
However, if a number is to be retired, clubs are advised to do so in a prominent way. Hang it from the stadium rafters or run it up a pole, such as the Seahawks. Make it public and make it permanent. Unlike players, jerseys should never come out of retirement.
Turn On, Tune In
It’s time to get cozy with your friends around your computer.
The biggest Sounders game of the year is available only by way of the Web. Tuesday’s cup semifinal at Charleston can be seen at USLlive.com (4:30 p.m. Pacific). And free of charge, no less.
As for the more conventional means of watching games, start the weekend early–really early–by staying up late and watching the USA-Japan women’s Olympic match. Kickoff for this must-win match on USA is at 2 a.m. The MSNBC offering of Brazil-North Korea is also promising.
An upset win by the U.S. men against Holland on Sunday (4:45 a.m., USA) would push them through to the quarterfinals.
Group play concludes for the American women on Tuesday (2 a.m., MSNBC) versus New Zealand while the men meet Nigeria on Wednesday (2 a.m., USA). For true atmosphere, you might try the home side, China, against Ronaldinho and Brazil at the same hour on USA. Women’s quarterfinals begin Aug. 15, men the next day.
Elsewhere, a stripped-down Manchester United meets Portsmouth for the FA Community Shield on Saturday morning at 7 on Fox Soccer Channel. The most compelling of the MLS matches on the tube is Saturday (4:30, HDNet), with Chicago playing at New England.
Next weekend, Aug. 16-17, the English Premier League opens with live doubleheaders on FSC each morning.
The U.S. Adult Soccer Association finals continue through Sunday at Starfire…Sounders keeper Jessica Salvi was named to the W-League finals all-tournament team…New England is lining-up a potential treble or quadruple. The Revs won the SuperLiga earlier this week, they play D.C. in the other cup semifinal and they currently are in the poll position for the MLS Supporters Shield…Glasgow’s Rangers, once in lineup for a quad only to fade in May, continued their downward slide this week, and the season’s only just begun. The Gers were bounced from Champions League qualifying by Lithuania’s FBK Kaunas and now will fail to even factor in the UEFA Cup draw, three months after being runners-up to Zenit…Old Trafford was the lone English sanctuary for Cristiano Ronaldo in 2006, following his role in Wayne Rooney’s World Cup red card fallout. Now one wonders if there will be any refuge following his summer-long flirting with Real Madrid. How many goals will it take the fans to forget?…Eugene native Nate Jaqua’s return to Houston is netting instant results. Jaqua has a goal and an assist in three matches as the Dynamo have gone 2-0-1…And it’s back to work for Marcus Hahnemann. Reading opens English Championship play Saturday at Nottingham Forest.