Thursday, May 10, 2012

Seahawks batting .900 on draft picks, Mariners to inquire

With Seattle's signing of Jaye Howard today (via Field Gulls), the Seahawks will have at least nine of their ten draft picks in town for... rookie minicamps? rookie otas? Is there even a "rookie" in the title? They should just call all of these VMAC get-togethers "PRACTICE". Nice and simple.

Point being, there aren't any holdouts this year. Bruce Irvin was the first of Seattle's picks to sign, and the first first-rounder (which I'm sure caused a number of double-takes among ESPN readers). Then, they signed seven others the next day, leaving only the DT Howard and Sea-Hulk halfback Robert Turbin.

Upon googling Sea-Hulk, I was surprised to find that Turbin will not be the only creature to be referred to with that name. The first was a boss from a video game. Final Fantasy of all things! The other was this:
Which you could say was from Seattle's Final Fantasy. Although, it'd probably be more accurate to call it the "Most Recent Fantasy". Because Final implies that it will never happen again, and I'd rather not believe that even if it is true. I'm not sure how well a game called "Most Recent Fantasy" would sell, but there it is.

While I'm concerned that Turbin hasn't signed yet (you're the last guy dude! What's the holdup? Even the Turtle guy has signed already! We drafted some weirdos didn't we...) it probably won't make a bit of difference. From what I understand, these guys can still participate even without having signed a contract, and Turbin seems like a good kid. For all I know, he could sign on the dotted line between now and when the security guard opens the gates to Seahawks headquarters tomorrow morning.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mark and Eric GOOD SHOW GO! Episode 3

This week we talk about the draft, the Mariners, and spend just a few seconds on our green-clad soccer team.

How will the Sounders juggle the rest of their crowded schedule?

The Seattle Sounders are two games into the most crowded section of their 2012 schedule. They've already passed tests in Chicago and against LA, but they have three more matches by next Sunday, and two more before the end of the month. That includes Seattle's closest Western Conference competitors Salt Lake and Vancouver, as well as Dallas, Philadelphia, and Chivas. The next three games in particular will require some creative roster maneuvers to keep everyone healthy, while still trying to claim the nine points that are up for grabs.

I was somewhat surprised at how many minutes Sigi played the regulars against the Galaxy yesterday. The concern is that there will be some tired legs or an excessive number of reserves in at least one of these matches. The most difficult match of the three would seem to be Salt Lake based on their points per game. The Union are only looking at a single point per match, and will be without coach Peter Nowak for his part in a mid-game fight a few weeks ago. FC Dallas hasn't won in three weeks.

Below is a list of the Sounders that have played significant time in the last two matches.

John Kennedy Hurtado, 180 minutes
Jeff Parke, 180 minutes
Leonardo Gonzalez, 180 minutes
Osvaldo Alonso, 180 minutes
Brad Evans, 180 minutes
David Estrada, 180 minutes
Fredy Montero, 180 minutes
Eddie Johnson, 170 minutes
Michael Gspurning, 135 minutes
Mauro Rosales, 125 minutes
Adam Johannson, 90 minutes
Zach Scott, 90 minutes
Marc Burch, 55 minutes

Alonso has played every minute of every match so far. He needs a day off one of these games. This weekend versus Philadelphia might not be a bad time to do it. The following week in Dallas may be smart as well. Either way, I'm sure Schmid will want Alonso at full fitness against Salt Lake a week from Saturday. He may very well play all 90 minutes in every match this month, but it would seem prudent to be careful with Seattle's most important player, especially when he took such a "shot" early in the Galaxy match. He is the Honey Badger, but sometimes, he does care.

Also in need of a day off are both of our central defenders. I was shocked when both Hurtado and Parke were announced as part of the starting 11 against the Galaxy. Clearly I underestimated Ianni's back injury. Looking at the roster from Wednesday, Johannson and Burch were the only defenders available on the bench. Which begs the question; what does Seattle do if Parke or Hurtado get hurt? Right now, Ianni is Seattle's most important reserve player, and he almost has to play some minutes in these coming games. Our defense will not continue to post shutouts if Partado (TM) have to play every minute.

The situation at forward is more fluid. There is depth, and players that haven't barely spent time on the field. This is a good time to give Cordell Cato and Sammy Ochoa longer looks. Halftime subs in lead situations would give those players some needed experience as the Open Cup approaches while also keeping Johnson and Montero fresh for upcoming games against stingy defenses.

This strategy should also be used in the midfield, as Fernandez returns, Rosales attempts to build on his fitness, and Evans just attempts to stay on the field. Sivebaek should make a start, and an early sub in or two for Caskey would be prudent.

Theoretical lineups:

vs Philadelphia
GK: Bryan Meredith
RB: Adam Johannson
RCB: John Kennedy Hurtado
LCB: Patrick Ianni
LB: Marc Burch
RM: Christian Sivebaek
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso (sub Carrasco)
CM: Brad Evans
LM: Alvaro Fernandez (sub Estrada)
WFW: Fredy Montero
FW: Sammy Ochoa, Roger Levesque (sub Johnson)

vs Dallas

GK: Michael Gspurning
RB: Zach Scott
RCB: Patrick Ianni
LCB: Jeff Parke
LB: Leo Gonzalez
RM: Mauro Rosales (sub Sivebaek)
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso
CM: Alex Caskey
LM: Estrada (sub Fernandez)
WFW: Cato (sub Montero)
FW: Eddie Johnson

vs Salt Lake

GK: Michael Gspurning
RB: Adam Johannson
RCB: John Kennedy Hurtado
LCB: Jeff Parke
LB: Leo Gonzalez
RM: Mauro Rosales (Sub Burch)
CDM: Osvaldo Alonso
CM: Brad Evans
LM: Alvaro Fernandez
WFW: Fredy Montero
FW: Eddie Johnson (sub Sammy Ochoa)

This roster finds rest for every player while still fielding a threatening lineup. This is the last time they'll have five games in such a short amount of time, at least when it comes to MLS play by itself. If Open Cup and Champions League force further congestion, this sort of lineup shuffling should keep the roster healthy.

Two (or more)Thoughts from a repeat viewing: Sounders v Galaxy

  • Rosales is putting great through balls in to stretch the defense, and his deadly accuracy and timing is meshing really well with Eddie Johnson, who has a great sense for the onside run and the speed to back it up. Of all the players on the Sounders when the Johnson trade was announced, Mauro had to be the most excited. They go together like Felix and Larry. 
  • Ross Fletcher made a... can I say splendid without sounding ironic? whatever... SPLENDID call on Montero's shot. He turned a basic, run of the mill run in space and spun it into goal-scoring gold with a completely natural transition. I'm looking into broadcasting for my major, but I'm not sure I could pull off a call like that if I planned the events myself. I watched the goal 10 times, and then I listened to the goal ten more times. More of that please Mr Fletcher. "Montero, with plenty of options, one of which is the ABSOLUTE FANTASTIC STRIKE FROM DISTANCE!" Honestly, I'm not sure whether the goal or the call was better. 
  • The Seattle Times put up a poll wondering whether Montero or Johnson would finish the year with more goals. It's an interesting question, one that could be a toss up, assuming both stay healthy and productive. My gut says Johnson, whose size and speed mesh well with Rosales' assists and who will benefit from Montero's style of play. Montero obviously wants to score, and loves scoring, but I think he has realized this year just how good he is in the role he has been playing, which isn't necessarily as the biggest goal producer. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sounders 2:0 Galaxy

First of all, let me just say, HOLY CRAP WHAT A GOAL.
There aren't a lot of better ways to get off the snide than that. It's a goal that's going to be seen around the world through the weekend, perhaps even up for a spot in ESPN's "Play of the Year" awards (much like Hassli's shot last year, not that I give two blanks about what ESPN likes).
  • We only won 2-0, but I am struggling to remember a match in which the Sounders felt so flipping dominant. Seattle supposedly lost the possession battle 48%-52%, but I heard that it was more like 60%-40% at half. 
  • I'm unable and unwilling to name a man of the match in this one. Everyone had their best games of the season, from a back line that seemed impenetrable to a free-flowing midfield and a consistently dangerous forward attack. Everyone had a signature moment. Everyone touched the match in a big way. And it was brilliantly entertaining. If this were the Seahawks, they'd have to cut the ball up into 11 equally sized pieces. Not sure who on the team is the best mathematician, but I suspect it's Levesque. Something about that beard suggests there's a professor underneath. But it's times like this that you miss the Harvard grad Mike Fucito. 
  • LA's lineup today was the flipside of Arena's strategy to spend the entire team's salary cap on frontline starters, leaving little for the Galaxy's second line. The only major injury they sustained last year in their MLS cup run was to Donovan Ricketts, and it was the one position they had depth at. This year, they've already sustained a major injury in Omar Gonzalez, and tonight the drop between Buddle, Keane, Beckham, Magee, and Saunders to their backups was great. Healthy, they were the best team in the league. Not healthy, they're trying to start rookies at key positions and fall apart in the process. 
  • On the other hand, Seattle has used a more rounded strategy to roster creation, making sure they have great depth (which has been a hallmark of the rave green in their short MLS existence). It has paid off so far, with only Alonso playing every MLS minute so far and even Michael "Cerberus" Gspurning having to leave today with what sounds like a tight hip. Bryan Meredith stepped in for Gspurning unexpectedly at halftime, and while the back line kept him clean, the second year player looked confident and comfortable, playing balls with authority. With the way Seattle's back line has played so far in 2012, I'd feel relatively comfortable with our backup keeper in goal, and that's not something I'm sure I could have said in past years. 
  • Landon Donovan was by far the highest-paid player on the field tonight, but you wouldn't know it by watching him. He created perhaps a single legitimate chance in goal, didn't make good possession decisions, and was stymied by the Honey Badger all day. Donovan wasn't Donovan this week. I think even Donovan would tell you that Donovan didn't have his A-game. He'd probably say it just like that too, in first person and everything. "Donovan doesn't think Donovan had a good game today. Donovan will plan on being better with his touches in the next game, try to involve Donovan's teammates more." He probably doesn't talk in first person, but I'm just asking questions here. 
  • Alonso took a shot to a sensitive area in the first half. As a friend so aptly said later, clearly "The Honey Badger DOES care". Wonder what a conversation between Alonso and Adrian Beltre would sound like these days. "So, contused testicle huh? I know a thing or two about that". 
  • Here's me, or anyone else, after taking the shot that the Honey Badger took:

  • The postgame team on the radio threw out a stat near the end of their show tonight. It was a stat that I found interesting. The Sounders have lost once in the last 19 matches Brad Evans has started. It's an obscure stat, and one that is hard to draw much meaning from (considering the Sounders don't lose many games in the first place) but it's definitely interesting. I've been unnecessarily harsh on Evans in the past, especially before I really started "seeing" the game. If you're reading, Brad, consider this something of an apology. Keep up the good work.
  • I also owe an apology to Leonardo Gonzalez. Coming into the year, I was panicking at the thought of Gonzo as our starting Left back, and I felt legitimized in that thought after the Santos disaster. Since then, he has started the majority of Sounders matches and been a key piece of the best defense in MLS. You still make me darn nervous sometimes, but I'm going to attempt to be man enough to admit I was wrong. 
  • I just found out Penny Arcade Expo 3-day passes sold out in a matter of hours.

This has little to do with soccer, but it's upsetting nonetheless. After all, if I hadn't played Fifa 12 at last year's show, I probably never would have bought the game.