Our seventh and last doubleheader of the season! Wow, that’s a lot of games! For this Saturday, the docket was Minnesota vs the Mariners and Chicago vs the Sounders.
Doubleheader #7 gave us something that had only happened once before this year: a disappointing Mariners game and a satisfying Sounders game. In fact, this doubleheader was sort of each team’s 2010 season (so far) in microcosm: the M’s with a hopeful beginning and a frustrating ending, contrasted with the Rave Green having a rocky start but a quality finish.
After seeing the Mariners in 2 new parks on our road trip, it was nice to be back home. We were excited to see Doug Fister, who had pitched well in Baltimore when we were there, and he did have a quality start, going 7 innings and only giving up 1 run, although the Twins had 6 hits against him. Alas, Fister’s performance was wasted by a disgusting display of ineptitude by the Mariners’ offense. 2 hits, one each for Branyan and Lopez, were all the M’s could muster, and Nick Blackburn got the win for Minnesota. Seattle made him look like a Cy Young winner in the process. This will likely be our last visit to SAFECO in 2010, and it seems pretty par for the course for us this season.
To take our minds of the bad baseball played by the Mariners, we went to our favorite Szechuan food place in the International District and had some pork chow mein along with dry cooked chicken and string beans. Yum! It was tasty, filling, and an excellent way to use the hours between the baseball and soccer games.
This game for the Sounders against the Chicago Fire wasn’t quite must-win, but the Sounders’ playoff chances would be much higher with another 3 points. Since Seattle is competing with Chicago for a playoff spot, this was actually a 6 point swing game – 3 points for the Sounders would mean 3 less for Chicago. Along with playoffs, there was also the drama of a returning player; Freddie Ljungberg, who was traded to the Fire in July was returning to Qwest Field for the first time. I had always liked Freddie, despite his tendency to whine too much to the officials, and was sad to see him go. Like many Sounders fans at Qwest, I gave him some applause when his name was called during the lineup announcements. After that, it was all business.
Right after the National Anthem, the ECS had planned a big tifo display that needed the upper sections too. We sit one section over, but since got into the stadium so early, we heard all about what they were going to do, and decided to help fill in a space if necessary. It turned out that several seats a few rows down from us were empty, so we went down to them during the Anthem and helped hold the blue plastic up. Here’s a picture of what the display looked like:
The banner at the bottom said “Fight for this City, its People, and their Spirit!” You can see where we were in the upper section on the far right just above the vendor in the red shirt. It was really neat to be part of such a big display! (Photo courtesy of ECS)
The Sounders went behind early in the 28th minute on a Chicago penalty that resulted from Jeff Parke handling the ball in the box. Really, all that happened was that Parke misjudged a clearance and the ball came off his arm, but when it’s that sort of situation, the referee (who had some really terrible calls later in the game) hasn’t got much of a choice. However, not much later, Tyson Wahl – in at left back for Leo Gonzalez, who had been given a red card in the previous match – made a brilliant cross to Fredy Montero, who controlled the ball, moved around two defenders, and scored right past the Chicago keeper. It was a great goal for Fredy, and a great assist for Wahl – we were very, very happy. While the Sounders didn’t score again in the first half, we went into halftime feeling good about our chances.
In the second half, the Sounders came out with a lot of energy, and created many more chances than Chicago. Osvaldo Alonso had (another) fantastic game, and he kept Ljungberg pretty much out of the action. In one instance, Alonso tackled Ljungberg and won the ball, the referee waved for play on, and Ljungberg put his hands in the air the same way we’ve seen him do so many times. It was an excellent play and the crowd, of course, loved it. As I said earlier, the ref wasn’t so hot with most of his calls – there was one especially bad non-call in which Alvaro “Flacco” Fernandez got brought down in the box as he was taking the ball between two defenders and no foul was given. It was a very similar play to one earlier in the season which gave FC Dallas a penalty in extra time and allowed them to draw with the Sounders in Dallas. So we were pretty upset about that one.
But in added time, Montero made us forget all that. The Sounders got a quick throw-in in the Brougham End, and Nathan Sturgis – whose play in midfield has been mostly solid but not inspiring – put a beautiful ball into the box where Fredy (who else?) was, as Arlo White said, “loitering with intent at the back post.” Fredy headed the ball right into the back of the net and we were ecstatic! It was a great finish and a fabulous game by the Sounders. After this match, Sounders fans are feeling much better about our side’s playoff chances!
Finals: Twins 1, Mariners 0; Sounders 2, Fire 1 – Montero (36, Wahl) (90+, Sturgis)