ATLANTA 1 - 1 SEATTLE (Atlanta wins shootout.) Lenin (A) '58 Jason Dunn (S) '77 Attendance: 4,312
Well it looks like we have two more games ahead of us, and to quote Mark Coker "Atlanta is in for Super Ultras fury!" The Super Ultras is going to make these next two games hell for the Atlanta.
I've posted two match reports. Both, it turns out, from Atlanta fans. All I can say is that the shootout ending really sours my memory of the entire match. Let me repeat the obvious: Shootouts are crap. No way to decide a game and certainly not a championship. I just hope that if Atlanta wins this thing, that there will be such an outcry from the fans that the A-League will dump this abomination. Crap, Crap, Crap. I also hold out hope that since the MLS is going to "allow" ties next year that the A-League will follow suit.
I guess all I can add to these reports is that indeed Atlanta played well. They didn't pack the box and wait for the shootout, as I had feared. They fought well and "earned" the shootout.
A few cosmetic comments: The Sounders came out in all black kits with a giant Nike swoosh across the chest, a small swoosh on the right breast, and a microsoft logo on the left sleeve. No where did it say the name of the team and the players names have been removed from the back of the jerseys. I like it! Tré European. I thought the lads looked sharp. I wonder what this means in terms of sponsorship? Clearly Nike has stepped up their contribution.
First report comes from our beloved Chris Allen (firstname.lastname@example.org):
ATLANTA: Yung Yi; Doyle, Wurdack (Gambatese 77'), Sheen, Martin;
Huwiler, Murray, Araujo, Suri (Moore 80'); Soebye, "Lenin"
SEATTLE: Hahnemann; Megson, Crook, James Dunn (Jason Dunn 70'), Rizi; Medved, Haynes (Fry 63'), Kinnear, Hoggan; Hattrup, Farrell
Yellow Cards (Atlanta): Sheen 34', Murray 69', Araujo 73'
That's right, gang. The Ruckus win in the CrapShootout! AGAIN!
I trust, at this point, no one is really surprised any more, right?
Before going to the match report, I wanted to say that I met broadcaster (and radio soccer guru) Phil Schoen, and the A-League's Chris Branscome. Once more, it is nice to meet people from our cyber-world in person. I also had an interesting chat with A-League Commissioner, Richard Groff (whom I had met in person previously at an earlier Ruckus game). More on this later.
The first half started cautiously with both teams feeling each other out and apparently not wanting to make the first mistake. Despite the early 'sparring', Seattle seemed to have the better of the first 15 minutes of play, with good chances by Farrell (2nd), Hattrup (5th), and Farrell again (6th). The only Ruckus early chances never materialized, with Suri, Lenin and Soebye all unable to get off shots after good buildups. After the 15 minute mark, the Ruckus -- surprisingly -- started to use the midfield and not loft long balls all the time (as I had feared before the game). It looked as if they thought they could play with Seattle and not have to fall into the negative soccer of the Montreal series. Atlanta seemed to have more of the good chances for the last 30 minutes of the first half with the two best of them coming late and in both of them, Lenin was involved. He had a hard free kick over the bar in the 37th, but the best chance, by far, in the half was in the 42nd. It was a nice combination from Suri on the right, back to the top of the box for Wurdack, to Lenin whose header hit the post to the left of Hahemann, and Soebye's header off the rebound was grabbed by the Seattle keeper. During the first half, Araujo shadowed Kinnear and really marked him out of the game.
The second half saw the Ruckus continuing to commit to the offense, with some good early pressure during the half's first 10 minutes, with effective use of the midfield. I was pleased to see Atlanta play somewhat creatively, after all the knocks the club has taken from playing so defensively from the end of the regular season through the playoff semi-finals. Atlanta was rewarded with the first goal when Lenin headed in Suri's corner from the right side in the 58th. This really got the good crowd (largest of the year) into it, but it also spurred on the Sounders. Seattle coach Alan Hinton made two offensive subs, the first being striker Chance Fry for winger Bryan Haynes in the 63rd, and Jason (a forward) for his brother James Dunn (a defender) in the 70th. The change was produced the Seattle goal in the 77th, when Jason Dunn one-timed a shot past Yung Yi from the top of the box. Atlanta could have just packed in in for the final 10-15 minutes, but chose to try for the win in normal time, with the best chances coming on a Sheen blast just missing the left post in the 84th, and strong Ruckus pressure from the 90th-92nd minute, when the Ruckus won 3 corner kicks and had some great chances for Araujo, Lenin, Murray, and Soebye but none connected.
It was on to the CrapShootouts, once again.
You know, I have a real problem here. I am a Ruckus fan, but hate the shootouts. Actually, though, if they keep this up, I can basically have my cake (the Ruckus' winning), and eat it too (keep criticizing the Shootouts) since this tiebreaker clearly allows weaker teams to hang on for the draw, and then undertake this "exercise". While Vancouver, Colorado, Montreal, and now Seattle fans can be accused of "sour grapes", at least I can say that I don't like the CrapShootouts on their own "merit". :-)
In my discussion with Groff before the game, we talked about -- you guessed it -- the shootouts. Groff likes them and hates draws (no surprise here), but did admit that the league is reconsidering the playoff format for next year. Clearly, the shootouts allow a weaker team to "take the air out of the ball" and play for this artificial tiebreaker. And because in the playoffs, goals are less important than wins, we now have had 6 playoff games producing only 8 goals (1.25 per game). Groff did say that one option for playoffs next year is to use the league's regular season point system (3/2/1/0) in the playoffs and have a two leg playoff with the team with the higher point total after two games the winner. If teams had the same number of points after the first two legs, only then would a third game be played.
We may have a compromise position that both the so-called "European purists" and "American pragmatists" can live with. :-)
Oh yes, fellow netters, keep writing your thoughts and opinions. What we say is being read by LOTS of people!!! :-)
Whether or not they actually follow our suggestions remains to be seen, however. :-)
I did have one hypothesis confirmed, namely that the league makes decisions based on what they (and some of the owners) think the fans want to see. Groff said that _he_ hates draws, but offered no evidence to support whether the fans like them or not. We, of course, don't KNOW what the fans actually want since we haven't had draws in US pro soccer since the late 60s or early 70s.
At least the upcoming "na-soccer" fan poll should finally provide some hard numbers to see what fans actually DO want, rather then relying on 25 years of quite likely faulty assumptions.
This report comes from (Peleflinn@aol.com):
The largest crowd of the Ruckus year watched the Ruckus down the Sounders in a SHOOTOUT. 4312 came to Adams stadium to see the Ruckus play for the APSL crown. Phil Woosnam of the NASL and the Atlanta Chiefs(?), now head of the Athens Olympic venue, presented the game ball. The game was delayed by a first for me-a TV time out.
The swooshes and the red dogs soon settled into a tight marking hard forught game. Seattle having the better of play in the first half and Atlanta picking it up in the second half.
In the first few minutes, Seattle had several chances as Medved broke through on a thru pass with Yi to make a foot save. Then Hattrup made some sweet moves as he first made a pass in from the right wing to Hoggan who missed the shot. Then Hattrup beat Huwiler to a cross from Haynes on the left wing and shot over the bar. Farrell missed wife left on a defensive lapse in midfield.
The game settled into an end to end battle with the Ruckus having fewer chances and not capitalizing on sounders mistakes. Atlanta looked strong on counterattacks but Seattle had the better of play. Seattle tried playing long crosses in from the wings but Doyle was dominant in the air and would have none of it. And Yi came out several times to snatch crosses out of the air. Sheen was shown the yellow for yanking a swoosh down by his shirt collar but Seattle could do nothing with the kick.
The red dogs got a free kick at the top of the box on a questionable call. Steenkamp controlled a cross to a one on one wth Hanneman but blasted over the cross bar. Haynes looked dangerous v. Wurdack. Just before halftime, Suri chased down a long pass and backheeled to Wurdack leaving a three on two for the red dogs. Wurdack crosses and Steenkamp controls and shoots of the bottom of the cross bar. As the ball bounces tantalizingly in front of the net, Hanneman barely beats Soebye for the save.
The Ruckus began the second half switching the ball from side to side and having the better of play. At 57 minutes Steenkamp was away on a break away and was held from behind. The resulting indirect kick netted the red dogs a corner kick. Steenkamp scored cleanly on a head from the corner.
As the swooshes set to play after the goal I prepared myself for the customary red dog lapse after getting up on an opponent. I was soon not surprised whent the swooshes were awarded a free kick just outside the box.
The kick was not a threat but Haynes chased down the rebound and unleashed a wicked shot into the box. The rebound was again found at the foot of a swoosh and another shot was made just wide of Yi. At 70 minutes, Murray was unjustly shown a yellow on a hospital ball on which the call should have gone the other way IMHO. The kick resulted in a mad scramble in front of the Ruckus goal. The red dogs counter and Suri Soebye and Steenkamp team up for a scoring threat. A swoosh picks up one of few Doyle errant heads and shoots high over the bar. Then, at 77 minutes another goal mouth scramble results in an awkward Doyle head which is volleyed in by a swoosh to even the score.
At 83 minutes Sheen just misses wide on a play set up by Arujo from the left side. At the end of regulation, Atlanta has three straight corners as they pour on the pressure. However they are unable to score and the game goes to a shootout.
Before I get to the shootout, several observations. First, Atlanta, I thought, was more patient in building up the attack tonite than in the past. There was still the occasional long pass out of defense but not as often. Second, Soebye was again mugged by defenders. The Ruckus often pass out to Soebye who is asked to control the ball and pass back to the advancing midfielders. However, in this game as in many others, the defenders were mercilessly mugging him and GETTING AWAY WITH IT. The referee did not make one call of all the times Soebye was yanked down or had swooshes climbing on his back. Yet, other slight touches resulted in foul calls. I think the referees have got to protect the forward in this situation. To his credit though, Soebye fought hard and hurried and harrassed the Seattle defense.
The Ruckus showed some quality play tonite from players like Murray Steenkamp and Suri.
Many of this list will say that the Ruckus don't deserve to win this type of game. I disagree. The Ruckus fought hard and although they didn't generate as many chances as the swooshes, they deserved to win.
That said, when it came time for the shootout you could sense that Seattle was out of it. They were as Yi made three saves and Soebye, Arujo and Doyle scored for the Ruckus (shootout specialist Steenkamp 8 of 8 in attempts did not have to shoot).
The Ruckus have pushed the shootout to its limits. I think they cannot hope to win in seattle, on fake grass. However, I am proud to have seen them advance this far.