Consider it rare these days when you get more value than expected for anything you purchase.
Nobody throws in a free side order of lobster with your Happy Meal; or an Armani suit with every dress shirt.
But that’s been the kind of added benefit offered by the Seattle Sounders FC. When season tickets went on sale for the MLS expansion team, prospective buyers were promised three additional games aside from the regular MLS action.
Have they ever delivered. The Sounders landed “friendly” contests against globally recognized Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona, as well as the MLS Cup – the league title game.
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The kicker on the deal, if you will, could be a head coach whose press appearances might turn into must-see events.
When the Sounders hired Sigi Schmid, we saw he had a championship résumé, winning three NCAA titles at UCLA and two championships in MLS.
But Schmid also is a character who may be reviving bits of Holmgren, Karl and Piniella for Seattle-area fans.
Those who know soccer better than me claim that Sunday’s 1-1 tie with the L.A. Galaxy at Qwest Field was not a display of the game at its best, being somewhat lacking in fluidity and finesse.
But it had plenty of hard hits, vitriol and aggressiveness. And that was just the postgame press conference.
The action on the pitch (field) was repeatedly interrupted by life-threatening injuries which required medical teams to race onto the field, like Boer War stretcher-bearers, prepared to cart off the fallen heroes.
But just as Last Rites were to be administered, the player always miraculously recovered to sprint at full gallop down the field. Praise be.
Others, perhaps suffering from a spate of inner-ear disorders, found themselves unable to remain vertical, falling flat at the merest touch of an opponent.
Schmid provided a few entertaining rules of thumb last week as it regarded the faux injuries aimed at luring fouls. In essence, he suggested that the more a player rolls around, the less likely he’s actually hurt. When they hit the ground and stay flat, then you worry.
After Sunday’s game, Schmid conducted a verbal autopsy of referee Tim Weyland. Had his comments been made in the NFL or NBA, commissioners immediately would have slapped him with the league pillory.
But, looking back, it was such an artful dissection that Schmid may have a plausible argument that he exercised at least a degree of restraint.
As he discussed the incident that led to James Riley receiving a red card (which left the Sounders a man short and requires a suspension for the next game), Schmid speculated that one of the Galaxy players may have triggered the minor melee by being “momentarily confused or dazed,” and that the referee also may have been “confused and dazed.”
“I’m disappointed with the ejection and disappointed in the refereeing,” he said.
Dennis Erickson wasn’t that critical of Earnie Frantz and Phil Luckett after the phantom Vinny Testeverde touchdown.
Schmid cited a history with Weyland going back to his days at UCLA. College coaches, he said, have the option of making a short list of referees they could block from working their games.
“So, he hasn’t refereed many games I’ve coached; I’ll put it that way,” Schmid said.
Toronto FC coach John Carver had to fork over $750 in fines for commenting on Weyland’s efforts a few weeks ago, saying “… his performance was a disgrace.”
So, Schmid may yet hear from the MLS office. If so, he got his money’s worth.
Of greater relevance to the typical fan than Schmid’s outspokenness, he had the Sounders playing an aggressive, attacking style – even when they were shorthanded because of Riley’s disqualification.
“The thing we showed more than anything is we’re a team that wants to win games,” Schmid said. “We felt we owed it to our fans to get forward and get after it. I’m proud of that mentality and attitude.”
Coaches who chronically complain about officiating are not colorful or entertaining, they get tedious in a hurry. But in certain circumstances, standing up for your players is crucial.
And instilling in your team the attitude that you’re always going to be the aggressor establishes an important tone.
It means the Sounders are not going to back down.
And, obviously, neither is their coach.
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440