These are difficult days for football’s know-it-alls.
If you dare to voice a strong statement, beware: Much like the weather, if you wait a minute, circumstances are nearly certain to change.
In print, in pubs and on the air, there are judgments and sensational statements being made every minute. Players, managers and teams are built-up or torn to shreds. Rarely is there middle ground.
Witness the England doomsayers early this week. Following a resounding road win, the catcalls gave way to hosannas for Fabio Capello and Theo Walcott less than 48 hours later.
Such is sport in this age. A team is either the greatest show on earth or, alternatively, a collection of individuals with a dearth of ability.
When pundits put pen to paper or are put in front of the microphone, shades of grey don’t play well. There are thousands of strong opinions seeking to be heard, and the voice of reason rarely can be detected.
So what are we to make of it all, this topsy-turvy world in which it’s all or nothing?
Searching for sage advice, there’s no need to go further than Jimmy Gabriel. In so many ways, Gabriel is Mr. Sounder and the Scotsman’s seen it all in 50 years as a player and coach.
So, what about Portugal losing at home to Denmark and Croatia croaking against England in Wednesday’s World Cup qualifiers?
First of all, says Gabriel, national teams are susceptible to fluctuations simply because the players are brought together only a day or so before such a match.
“Ronaldo is a huge player for Portugal, but even without him you would bet money on them to win at home,” he adds. “Still, it’s a blip, and you’ve got to expect one or two of them when your best player’s not playing.
“Croatia tends not to play their best when they’re expected to win, and England, when they’re on form, can beat anybody. And it looks like they just hit form. (Hat trick hero Theo Walcott) could do that any given day. When you click, that’s big in national team games.”
According to Gabriel, club football is far more predictable.
Newcastle appears to be going down in flames while Manchester City seems to be the Next Big Thing, just weeks after looking like it would run out of cash. Money can cure a lot of ills, but not always fast.
“Sometimes when you come together real quick, with all the transfers, halfway through the season something goes amiss,” Gabriel offers. “It happened last year at City. They brought in new players, got up to fourth, I believe. Then it all came apart at the seams.”
On the other hand, “You know Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool are going to be strong,” he says. “They only brought on a couple new players. But the Manchester City’s, you wonder whether they can continue on.”
It may not sell newspapers, but it sounds reasonable enough.
In the end, perhaps the Golden Rule should read, ‘On a given day, anything can happen. Yet over time, quality shines through.’
Supporters Groups 101
More than 150 Sounders FC curious fans convened at West Club Lounge of Qwest Field on Thursday evening. Aside from song or two from some Emerald City Supporters, they were pretty much all ears as they heard the ground rules and incentives for organizing supporters groups.
The Sounders FC staff is encouraging the formation of these groups of super fans. “Fueled by you, the fans, this stadium will become a fortress,” said Gary Wright, the club’s senior business executive. “You, the fans, create the stadium atmosphere and you will raise the bars for supporters groups throughout MLS.”
Supporters groups will generally populate the stands behind the south goal, and Daryl Niles, the security chief for Qwest Field, says those groups will be given privileges such as storing flags, drums and large banners.
Bart Wiley, liaison to supporters groups and the members association, states that the club will be open to the ideas of such groups, so long as the match day experience remains safe and fun for all.
One incentive for those forming or growing groups is a program by which individuals can earn themselves a Sounders FC replica jersey by referring 10 season ticket purchases in the supporters sections. Groups will receive 3 percent of all funds generated by their members’ referrals.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys, and girls, it’s time to go forth and prosper.
Win & Move On
Only time will tell if the Sounders’ final season in the USL first division will end divinely.
Seattle looked to be rolling before Wednesday’s run of upsets extended from Zagreb to Starfire, with Montreal taking all the points.
The Sounders can extend their season by beating Atlanta in the penultimate regular season match Saturday night. A victory would assure the defending champions of a playoff berth while all but eliminating the Silverbacks, last season’s runner-up.
Going into the weekend, Seattle is fifth in the table. Of the four league championship sides, no Sounders team prevailed when finishing lower than fourth.
The final regular season home match is Sept. 20 against Vancouver.
Turn On, Tune In
European clubs return to action and in a big way this weekend. Set the alarm early, however.
The Prem resumes at 4:30 Saturday morning, with some pubs opening their doors at that hour for the Liverpool-Manchester United (Setanta) match. It’s the debut of Dimitar Berbatov for United and Steven Gerrard is now in the mix for the Reds.
During the daylight hours, the Man City makeover takes center stage. Against Chelsea (9:30 a.m., Fox Soccer Channel), the Sky Blues will feature newly-signed Robinho, whom everyone thought was bound for the Blues.
The Newcastle-Hull City fixture (7 a.m., FSC) may be intriguing for what happens in the stands. To say the Toon Army is on the warpath following the departure of Kevin Keegan may be putting it lightly. A boycott of the match has been proposed by supporters, and some have promised to walk away for good.
While Washington has yet to play a men’s regular season game at home, you can catch the Huskies live on Friday night, playing at Portland (8 p.m., FSC). Brent Richards, the UW freshman forward, has scored three times in the first four games.
In MLS, if the Galaxy folks are to resurrect themselves, they must start Saturday when they face another struggling side, Kansas City (2 p.m., HDNet). Next Thursday’s ESPN2 featured match has Columbus, the No. 1 team, hosting New York (4 p.m.).
Also next week, the Champions League returns in earnest for lunchtime matches on Tuesday and Wednesday (11:45, ESPN2, both days). Chelsea hosts Bordeaux and Real Madrid plays BATE Borisov of Belrus, respectively.
Talk about hallowed ground. Germany’s Hamburg SV has opened a cemetery for its most devout supporters. It features grass from the Bundesliga club’s pitch, an entrance marked by a concrete goal replica and each lot has a view of the stadium…In the inaugural Forbes study of existing MLS club values, the Galaxy topped the list at an estimated $100 million. Toronto was next at $44 million. Seattle was excluded, since Sounders FC begins play next season…Portland and Vancouver are all-in for the next round of MLS expansion. It turns out that the New York Mets ownership is backing a second NYC team to rival the existing Red Bulls in 2011…The UW women’s 4-0-0 start is the best since 2004. Over at Seattle Pacific, Chuck Sekyra notched his 100th win after just 119 games (100-10-9) with the Falcons (5-0-1). Meanwhile, Seattle U. is 3-1-2 in its first six women’s matches vs. Div. I opposition…The Eastlake High School girls of Sammamish are No. 14 in the initial national rankings.