Jordan Morris

by A.J. Coltrane

On Monday night the Sounders advanced to the Western Conference Finals with a tense 0-0 tie at CenturyLink. (No, really. It was *tense*.) The Sounders will play the Galaxy on the 23rd and 30th. The winner goes to the actual Finals.

Which makes this next bit interesting to me:  The U.S. squad has a couple of friendlies coming up,

The U.S. takes on No. 3-ranked Colombia on Friday at 2:45 p.m. ET in London at Craven Cottage with more than 20,000 tickets already sold. On Nov. 18, the U.S. team will play Ireland for the first time since 2002 at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium, beginning at 2:45 p.m. ET.

Dempsey was left off the squad. DeAndre Yedlin is making the trip, though it looks like he’ll have time for adequate rest before the games with the Galaxy.

The U.S. roster:

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

Defenders: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt), Greg Garza (Club Tijuana), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Monchengladbach), Jermaine Jones (New England Revolution), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders FC)

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Julian Green (Hamburg), Alfredo Morales (Ingolstadt), Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution)

Forwards: Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Miguel Ibarra (Minnesota United FC), Jordan Morris (Stanford), Rubio Rubin (Utrecht), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

One name on the list sticks out – Stanford student Jordan Morris. I figured I’d look into whatever his story is a little bit.

As it turns out he’s a 20 year-old member of the Seattle Sounders Academy. He was born in Seattle and graduated from Mercer Island High. He’s a sophomore at Stanford — bio is here.

I think it’s pretty cool that the Sounders Academy has produced two potential National Team members in a short period of time. Here’s hoping that the Northwest will continue to represent a rich pipeline of talent, and that it will funnel through the Sounders.

Jordan Morris

DeAndre Yedlin Is Fast

by A.J. Coltrane

Here’s a link to a post about Andre Yedlin and what it says about the future of US soccer. [ESPN/Grantland]

What got my attention was this paragraph:

Today, it’s easy to look at Yedlin — 5-foot-8 and thick-chested, and able to outrun the best soccer players in the world — and imagine him on an NFL roster. He could be Darren Sproles, leaving linebackers grasping at air, or he could be Tyrann Mathieu, another Mohawked terror with a knack for separating offensive players from the ball. In college, Yedlin was clocked at about 4.2 seconds in the 40-yard dash. And, says his college coach, Caleb Porter, “It’s about a lot more than top-end speed. It’s his burst, his ability to go from a jog to a sprint before you even realize what has just happened.” His athleticism, Porter says, “is truly world-class.”

(Emphasis mine.)

If he really ran a 4.2 it’d make him about as fast as anyone in the NFL. That’s fringe Olympic sprinter speed. The top combine times since 2009:

Time Name Height Weight Year
4.24 Rondel Melendez 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 1999
4.24 Chris Johnson 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 2008
4.25 Tavon Austin 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) 178 lb (81 kg) 2013
4.26 Jerome Mathis 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 184 lb (83 kg) 2005
4.26 Dri Archer 5 ft 8 in (173 cm) 173 lb (78 kg) 2014
4.27 Stanford Routt 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 193 lb (88 kg) 2005
4.27 Marquise Goodwin 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 181 lb (82 kg) 2013
4.28 Champ Bailey 6 ft 0 in (183 cm) 192 lb (87 kg) 1999
4.28 Jacoby Ford 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 190 lb (86 kg) 2010
4.28 DeMarcus Van Dyke 6 ft 1 in (185 cm) 187 lb (85 kg) 2011
4.29 Fabian Washington 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 188 lb (85 kg) 2005
4.29 Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 184 lb (83 kg) 2008
4.29 Josh Robinson 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 199 lb (90 kg) 2012
4.3 Darrent Williams 5 ft 9 in (175 cm) 176 lb (80 kg) 2005
4.3 Tye Hill 5 ft 10 in (178 cm) 185 lb (84 kg) 2006
4.3 Yamon Figurs 5 ft 11 in (180 cm) 174 lb (79 kg) 2007
4.3 Darrius Heyward-Bey[12] 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) 210 lb (95 kg) 2009

Not many of those guys are very tall, though on average they outweigh Yedlin by around 20 or 30 pounds.

The other line I thought was interesting was this one:

Some have suggested that Yedlin move full time to midfield. But his skill set, built on quickness and speed more than creativity and technique, would have a defined ceiling if he moved farther upfield. “Could he be a winger? Yeah, sure,” Porter says. “But when you look at the top wingers, he’s never going to be more technical and more clever off the dribble and in his combination and movement than those guys are. He just doesn’t have that. But at right back? With his athleticism, bombing forward, going box to box? Right now, this is just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, he obviously already looks like the right back of the future for our national team. Beyond that, he can be a Champions League right back. He can be that good.” The difference, says Porter: At age 21, it may already be too late to master the finer points of midfield technique. But defending? “Yeah,” Porter says, “that can definitely be taught.”

Is that the next wave of US Soccer? Kids who either started too old or are just generally underskilled but who have terrific athleticism. In that context they’re still useable as marauding defenders, striking up the sidelines and running past the opposing defenders.

Works for me.

——–

The Yedlin to Tottenham deal is finally official. (As of 6 hours ago.) The details, and a picture of Yedlin holding a Tottenham jersey are at SI.com. That makes sense, he was held out of Sunday’s game and it was obvious why.

Clint Dempsey!

by A.J. Coltrane

Clint Dempsey! And I couldn’t be happier about it! The Sounders inked the #1 or #1a USMT player for the rest of this season and three years beyond it.

Grant Wahl, on how the deal got done:

…He was up for coming back to MLS, but the only teams he was interested in playing for were Seattle, Los Angeles and Toronto. What’s more, Dempsey’s side was asking for a huge financial commitment: $40 million at first. According to a source with intimate knowledge of the deal, Seattle countered with a first offer of $30 million — $20 million of its own money and $10 million from the league — including the transfer fee to Tottenham.

Los Angeles and Toronto were also interested in ponying up for Dempsey, multiple sources said, but Toronto (which is working on its own Designated Player deals) accepted that it was better for the league if Dempsey were playing in a U.S. city. Moreover, Los Angeles is expected to announce soon that it has filled its maximum three DP slots with the extension of Omar González’s contract.

“I think it was important that [Dempsey] ended up … how do I say this politely? … not in Los Angeles,” said Roth. “Because from a perception standpoint it would make MLS look essentially like a one-team league when it came to important international players. The Red Bulls are probably in there as well. But if not us, who? We double the attendance of everybody else [in MLS]. We’re in the top 25 in the world in attendance. I had promised the team if there was an available star player we would get him, and I thought he was a perfect match for Seattle.”

From July 18 to July 20, Seattle’s owners put together their best possible offer, and with Durbin handling the negotiations a deal took shape that involved a total commitment of $33 million. The transfer fee for Tottenham would end up being $9 million, and Dempsey’s three-and-a-half year playing contract with Seattle would end up paying him a total of $24 million — or $6.86 million per year, breaking David Beckham’s MLS record salary of $6.5 million. (Keep in mind that Beckham also earned a percentage of ticket and jersey sales.)

Pretty awesome. Dempsey is my favorite U.S. player. He’s 30, so the Sounders get his late prime plus additional tread left on the tires. As of today, he’s the probably the best player in the league.

The Sounders offense is going to be scaaaarrrry! Dempsey and Eddie Johnson supported by Obafemi Martins, Lamar Neagle, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales, Steve Zakuani, Osvaldo Alonzo… that’s a ton of talent.

I’ll say it again! Awesome!

The Sounder’s Eddie Johnson Scores Two For The US

by A.J. Coltrane

There was a lot of surprised reaction last week when Jozy Alitodore was left off of the US squad for the two upcoming World Cup qualifiers. To quote Wahl:

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann left forward Jozy Altidore off his squad for the U.S.’s two important upcoming World Cup qualifiers, a decision that may well be the most surprising of Klinsmann’s 14-month tenure.

It’s true that Altidore has not had a standout year for the U.S., providing no goals and one assist in two starts and four substitute appearances. With Hérculez Gómez and Clint Dempsey expected to start up top in Friday’s qualifier at Antigua and Barbuda, it would not have been surprising to see Altidore come off the bench as a second-half sub. But for Altidore to be omitted entirely from the 24-man squad is a shock. (Pure forwards Gómez, Eddie Johnson and Alan Gordon are on the roster instead.)

After all, Altidore, 22, is tied for the Dutch league lead in goals with eight for AZ Alkmaar, including a terrific slaloming strike Sept. 30. The World Cup 2010 veteran has also played in a team-leading 17 straight World Cup qualifiers for the U.S. and brings big-game experience to the table. Under Klinsmann, the U.S. has scored more than one goal just three times in the coach’s 18 games, which makes you wonder why he would leave the U.S.’ most prolific European-based goal-scorer at the moment off the squad.

It worked out. Eddie Johnson scored two goals to lead the US against Antigua and Barbuda:

In his first game back with the U.S. national team, Johnson scored twice Friday night, including the winning goal in second-half injury time, lifting the United States to the verge of advancing in World Cup qualifying with a nervous 2-1 victory over Antigua and Barbuda.

If the Americans draw with Guatemala on Tuesday night in Kansas City, Kan., they will move into the final round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The U.S. has 10 points and so does Guatemala after a 2-1 win over Jamaica.

Johnson connected on headers in the 20th minute and then in the dying moments in his first game for the U.S. team in two years. He was added to the squad by coach Jurgen Klinsmann, ostensibly replacing the disappointing Jozy Altidore, and the move paid off.

“It’s good to be back in the mix,” Johnson said. “Going into this game the coach has a ton of confidence in me to put me wide out on the wing.”

“We have a world class coach who played at the highest level. He knows the game.”

And the correct quotes after the game.

Johnson was something of a speculative pickup by the Sounders prior to the season. He’s now 5th in the league in scoring, ahead of even Fredy Montero (7th). Their production has contributed to the Sounders +17 goal differential, good for 2nd in MLS. The team is advancing to the playoffs.

Everything else aside, he’s a huge upgrade from Nate Jacqua and he’s been really fun to watch.

 

——-

That last link is an excellent read. Here’s something I didn’t know:  Of Johnson’s 14 goals, 9 have come off of headers.

The Election Is Near!

by A.J. Coltrane

No, not that one. To quote SI’s Grant Wahl:

What are your thoughts on how the Sounders are handling the vote to retain or fire GM Adrian Hanauer?
— Matt Koppelman

I love it. The lowdown: On Oct. 7, Seattle season ticket holders will begin voting yay or nay in a vote of confidence on Hanauer. If he gets less than 50 percent support, Hanauer is out as GM. If he gets more than 50 percent, he stays. It’s the first vote of its kind in U.S. sports, and the idea came from the team’s part owner, the comedian Drew Carey.

“I was doing a show for the Travel Channel on the Barcelona-Real Madrid rivalry,” Carey told me last year. “In the Barcelona museum I talked to a guard, and he said there was an election coming up. Every four years they have an election for the president of the club. I said, ‘Are you kidding me? I’d like to see George Steinbrenner do that. I would love to bring that to the U.S.'”

When Carey first met Joe Roth, now Seattle’s principal owner, “All we did was talk soccer the whole lunch,” said Carey, who ended up signing on with him to invest in a new MLS team in Seattle. “I spent the whole time telling him about fans voting their president out. … The fans will do the dirty work for you. I always gave the Detroit Lions as an example: Matt Millen. He was there so long and made so many bad picks, but the Lions’ owners didn’t care. In my system with the Sounders, the fans could have fired Matt Millen.

“Joe bought into it, and we worked out the system. The vote is every four years. If the fans want to, they can get 20 percent of the members to sign a petition, and then they can have the vote any year they want.”

Granted, the stakes of the upcoming vote aren’t as high as they could be for Hanauer, who would remain as a part-owner of the Sounders even if he’s tossed out as the general manager. Then again, I expect Hanauer will receive a vote of confidence: Seattle has been a tremendous success story in terms of fan interest and on-field success, especially in winning three U.S. Open Cups from 2009-11. The next big hurdle is for the Sounders to win their first MLS playoff series.

As for the four-year term – it’s on the short end of reasonable for soccer, since highly drafted players should be close to performing with the “big club” soon after their acquisition. If franchises were to try something like this in baseball it would require a six or seven year term — it takes the cumulative effects of multiple drafts and trades over a period of years to determine if the GM is competent or not. (However, if M’s fans could have fired Bavasi after four years it would have avoided some of the worst of the damage to the player base. And it would have been blindingly obvious it was time for him to go.)

The real danger here, of course, is that most sports “fans” are by definition… maybe not clueless, but definitely “underinformed” and generally not the most rational bunch of folks, at least with respect to their favorite teams. I think this is especially true with sports where there are few quantifiable and publicly available statistics. Such as soccer.

This will be the first vote on the Sounders GM position, and letting the inmates run the asylum rarely works out well. With as successful as the Sounders have been, I hope that nothing interesting happens and that Hanauer easily wins re-election. We’ll see.

60,000 Free Haircuts

by A.J. Coltrane

Quoting the Sounders program:  “For the third-straight year Sounders FC broke the MLS attendance record in 2011, averaging 38,496 per MLS home match. Seattle has sold out 60-straight MLS regular season and playoff matches.”

It goes on to point out that the Sounders 2012 attendance (39,527) would rank them 7th in the English Premier League, right behind Chelsea.

The Sounders sold 60,905 tickets to the latest LA Galaxy game. The Sounders scored four goals that day, which meant free haircuts for everybody.

Beats the heck out of the old Sonics “Chalupa” promotion — If the Sonics scored 119 points then the fans would win a buy-one-get-0ne-free Chalupa. People would still chant “Chalupa, Chalupa, Chalupa”, when the game was a blowout but the Sonics were close to 119 points. Then the stadium would erupt when the Sonics got there.

People are easy to please. Though I’m happier with the free haircut.

Watching Paint Dry

By Bladd Drwg

I have no real love for MLS soccer – the play reminds me of schoolyard basketball, the skill level is marginal compared to watching any European team play and the officiating is downright atrocious. I did recently go see the US Open Cup final between Seattle and Kansas City and was treated to everything I hate about watching an MLS game.

Both teams looked flat and the Sounders looked like they were playing not to lose the game. KC was not much better and the bulk of regulation time was spent with both teams middling around in the middle of the field making bad passes and not really pushing any attacks. It was frankly as exciting as watching paint dry. Both teams had a few scoring chances, but in those cases they were generally created by defensive mistakes rather than offensive skill.

The Sounders managed to get flagged for 4 yellow cards in regulation – and in each of those cases, the card should have been awarded. The Sounders should have only had 3 cards – Alonso was going to be warned early on for an aggressive play but he kept walking away from the ref, and eventually pushed the official away drawing the yellow. There was only one play that I thought KC made that might have warranted a yellow, but the ref did not call it. There were a number of questionable calls on both sides of the ball but I don’t believe the handball that lead to a KC goal was a bad call (unfortunately GolTV refused to show replays on just about every play).

After going 90 all tied, we were treated to another 30 minutes of incipit soccer as KC practically dominated the overtime but could not mount much of an attack. For all you Sounders fans – yes, Ianni deserved his yellow in the 119th minute – he pulled down a guy that had no defenders between him and the goal; that is an automatic yellow.

After watching 120 minutes of uninspired play, we got to witness the soccer equivalent of kissing your sister – penalty kicks. For the sake of the setup – a goalie is supposed to start on the goal line and is not supposed to move until the player taking the kick strikes the ball; a rule that is rarely enforced except on the last kick. If the goalie moves before the ball is struck or does not start out touching the goal line and touches the ball preventing a goal, it is a rekick. If he does not touch the ball, there is no rekick, even if the player kicking the ball does not score. That is exactly what happened at the end of the game, leading to a 3-2 advantage for KC and the win. (Yes – the replay does show that the Sounders goalie did not start out on the line).

If you read Jerry Brewer’s account in the Seattle Times, you will get a very different perception of the game. Some of the “highlights”:

…after a grueling 120 minutes of tense competition, after drama, frustration and five decisive penalty kicks from each team, history succumbed to anger, confusion and allegations of biased officiating.

It was a spirited contest, as competitive as you want a title game to be. But when it was over, the Sounders were left miffed and unsatisfied.

If Brewer thought the game was competitive and spirited, I suggest he watch a Champions League final or a Euro tournament.

A slightly less biased article (and a much more realistic view of the game) was written by Jeff Carlisle on espn.com. It’s title? “Hard to watch, easy to love.” I think that just about summed up the game.

Assorted Sports Thoughts

by A.J. Coltrane

Mike Leach to the Cougars: 

To quote Leach – “You can win here and win big, I believe.”

Washington State football just got a lot more entertaining — I may actually make a point to watch a game or two next year. WSU will throw the ball all over the place, and historically that’s what they’ve done when they’ve been good. At the very least they’ll be fun to watch.

The Sounders get a new keeper:

The Sounders signed 6’5″ Austrian keeper Michael Gspurning. From the Seattle Times: “Gspurning’s size lends to a more aggressive approach in coming out to defend crosses, and he is also more comfortable having balls played back to him and using his feet

The News Tribune has more information about Gspurning, including this YouTube clip of five of his saves:

I’m predisposed to like tall keepers — Kasey Keller would have had a hard time getting to Save #3 on the video, though Keller likely would have been playing another step or two to his left to cover that angle and would have stopped it anyway.

Gspuring is a 30 year-old veteran keeper. I have high hopes the Sounders won’t miss a beat.

Finally, the NBA is dead to me, but:

The Miami Heat signed Shane Battier. I think this is about as important as any signing in the league this year — Battier is absolutely the perfect fit to go with Wade and Lebron. Battier doesn’t need the ball in his hands to be productive, he’s a very good perimeter defender, he’s a good rebounder, a good passer, and he’s a good 3-point shooter. He may wind up being more valuable to the Heat than Chris Bosh. Really, the Heat are the “Big 2 +1” anyway, not a “Big 3”. As Battier approaches the late phase of his career he could basically be Robert Horry all over again. Mike Bibby just signed somewhere else, and if the Heat can get anything besides a corpse to play the point then they have to be heavy favorites to win it all this year. They don’t even need a traditional point guard, it could be a Steve Kerr equivalent and they’d be fine. (Any of the triangle offense non-traditional point guards would work — Kerr, Paxson, Harper, or Fisher. They just need long-range shooting and (ideally) someone to get in the way of quick little guards.)

Bleh.

The Patrick Ianni

by A.J. Coltrane

THE Patrick Ianni

The Sounders scored four goals last Thursday. This was a good thing for me, as 3 or more goals means everybody gets a free haircut, and I was due.

When my haircut was about done a woman came into the shop with two kids, about ages 8 and 9.

The 9 year-old asked her if could have his hair cut “Like Patrick Ianni on the posters!”

It’s another example of the revolution not being televised.