A 22-year-old man born in Africa will sit in a London pub today cheering for England’s national soccer team at the same time that a 57-year-old man born in Germany will sit half a world away rooting for the United States.
There’s a reason it’s called the World Cup, and members of Seattle Sounders FC are just as excited – and just as divided – as anyone.
“(I’m pulling for the) United States,” coach Sigi Schmid said about the USA-England World Cup game at 11:30 a.m. today. “And then, obviously, being of German heritage I’ve got to pull for Germany. There are certain games you watch as a fan, and there are certain games I watch as a soccer coach. When the U.S. plays, I’m more a fan; and when Germany plays, I’m also more of a fan. When the other teams play, I’m more of a coach.”
Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani wants to watch the match as a fan, too. And he wanted to watch surrounded by other fans of England, where he was raised after his family moved from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“I’ll be watching that game in the pub (and rooting for) England,” Zakuani said a couple of days before his intercontinental flight. “That’s going to be a good game. I’m going to be gone for a week. I’ve watched every World Cup I’ve seen so far in my life in England. The atmosphere there is amazing. Especially this game – England vs. USA – I can’t watch it here just in case England loses. So I’ve got to watch it at home with people I’m familiar with and where I can cheer freely.”
The Sounders are hopeful a two-week break of watching the beautiful game at its highest level might be just what they need to clear their heads after a 3-2 home loss to D.C. United on Thursday dropped their record to 4-6-3 heading into a two-week pause in the MLS season.
“We all have kicks and bruises and stuff to heal, so in that way it’s nice,” said midfielder Freddy Ljungberg, who spent most of his professional career in the English Premier League. “And I know in Europe, and every league except for England, they have a little break. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. … Hopefully, we’ll come back stronger.”
The Sounders had one final training session Friday before starting a week free of either games or practices. They will return to training June 20 and resume the MLS regular season June 27 at Philadelphia.
The club is hopeful that by then defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso (quadriceps) will be ready to return, and that forward Nate Jaqua (abdomen) will be ready to make his season debut. Then, by the time the Sounders get their next look at D.C. United on July 15, they anticipate introducing striker Blaise Nkufo, once he has rested up from his World Cup duties with the Swiss national team.
“We come back and have 17 games left, there’s 51 points,” Schmid said. “They always say you need one-and-a-half points per game to make the playoffs. The points are out there. It’s just a matter of us going out there and getting them.”
After sleeping on it, goalkeeper Kasey Keller repeated Friday that he will give up the sport when he believes he can no longer play to his standards. However, Keller said that despite giving up a couple of cheap goals this season, he feels up to the task. “It’s not like guys are beating me, (and me) thinking ‘I don’t know how I didn’t get there,’ ” he said. “It’s little things. The ball takes a little deflection or a different spin and you think it’s there and it’s not. Frustrating, but physically everything feels great. … Sometimes you’ve just got to chalk it up to if you take enough balls you’re going to make a mistake.” … The Sounders’ first goal in the 3-2 loss to D.C. United, which was initially credited to James Riley, will officially go into the books as an own goal by United’s Barry Rice. And Chris Pontius’ third goal was taken away and credited to teammate Adam Cristman, with Pontius getting an assist.