Thursday, June 21, 2012

MLS: a taste of the Euros

Last night I saw the Seattle Sounders play Sporting Kansas City in a thoroughly enjoyable MLS encounter. It started uneasily,  however, as on a very pleasant Seattle evening we traipsed down to SoDo.
The trip involved me fielding several obvious-but-unhelpful statements from my companions, mutterings like “It's not like the Premier League” or “I'd rather watch the European Championships”.

 When the whistle sounded to end the tie, we'd taken in slice of everything we'd seen over the past two days of the Euros.

 Firstly, defender Paul Ianni scored a goal that reminded me of Zlatan Ibrahimovic's masterful strike for Sweden against France – one legged and using all his martial arts ability to stabilise his upper body while channelling all his power into his striking leg.

 In front of 47,000 singing fans – nearly the same attendance as saw England defeat Ukraine – Sporting Kansas City managed to grab an early goal, before Ianni's set-piece strike levelled the match in the fifteenth minute.

 In the second half, the match first appeared as if Seattle would dominate possession and the match as Sporting KC were pegged back by an impressive Sounders midfield. The ex-Wizards looked most likely to pinch a winning goal by quick ball movement on the counter-attack, which again reminiscent of so many teams throughout Euro 2012.

As if consciously mimicking yesterday's match between the Ukraine and England, a crucial goal (in this case the potential game-winner from Fredy Montero) became more transparent - most of the ball crossed the line, but not all - and we had ourselves a ghost goal.

 There was also plenty o' niggle, as KC persistently fouled a more fleet-footed Sounders attack; the fulminating when Seattle sub Alvaro Fernandez was sent off with a straight red in the ninety-first minute.
I didn't have to temper my companions' expectations when the game finished, just sit back and enjoy my beer as they enthused about our shared spectacle.

 It was a match that had everything that football can provide. The Euros have been fantastic, and it's been great to see the sport receive all the attention such a tournament deserves, but to think of MLS as a poor relation is unfair and patronising. MLS is what it is – a retirement investment, a development league, an enviable top tier. It is many things to many people, and is now creating its own impressive identity because of that multicultural background.

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