As students prepare for school soccer, they have something this year that they never had before — the Seattle Sounders FC, our recently crowned U.S. Open Cup champs.
Athletes and coaches have this special opportunity to learn from a team right here in Seattle, to take what the Sounders have done right or wrong and bring it to their own field.
Gearing up this year for Cedar Park Christian Eagles soccer, I have heard many references to this new expansion team. Some references from the girls about the cute players, some from the boys about the yellow and red cards, and even some from my coaches; but the best experience for me is walking past a complete stranger dressed in Sounders gear or having an intense conversation about the team. Whether noticed or not, the Seattle Sounders have made a true impact in the Pacific Northwest.
Just over the past month, major changes met the Seattle Sounders, and through these changes not only can my team benefit, but they can learn and adapt, as well. If you are an avid Sounders fan, then you most likely know what I’m talking about. In just three words I can name the changes — blood, sweat and tears.
Coming off a four-game win streak, the Seattle Sounders advanced to Starfire Stadium in Tukwila to battle the MLS Western Conference leader, the Houston Dynamo on July 21.
As 4,895 fans overflowed into the complex to watch their team prevail, the Sounders knew they would have to be focused. Little did they know, they would need more than focus to win the game.
Just 12 minutes in, forward Nate Jaqua jumped for a high header. As he scurried to his feet to retrieve the ball, a thin line of blood flowed from his head and the fans began to sound their disapproval.
I wondered what would take the low-key, chill-axed Jaqua to respond to a bad call, and sure enough I found out as he motioned to his head with a few side comments before the ref issued him off the field for a bandage wrap.
Proud of Jaqua, I screamed through the fans, “Go Nate.” Much to my surprise and happiness, he looked up and smiled.
Jaqua was not the only Sounder player sent to the sideline for blood control, as Sebastien Le Toux received a black eye, a cut above the other eye and a torn jersey.
Continuing through blood and bruises proves that they are not only devoted to the fans, but to their team, as well. Though Jaqua most likely needed stitches, he stayed on the field and put his whole heart in the game, and that perseverance resulted in the game’s equalizer.
As I remember this game, and look forward to my own matches, I hope that the Eagles show this much perseverance and passion. I pray they have the courage and energy to endure the pain when it comes and use it to play with even more intensity.
The Dynamo hit the back of the net only 32 minutes in, and as they took the lead it looked like they would take the win, as well, until Jaqua slammed the ball through the last defender for a 1-1 equalizer in the 89th minute.
Now the deciding two 15-minute halves approached, and I wished to know the words coach Sigi Schmid revealed to his players before they took the field for their full 120, because those words sparked the intensity and passion to take home a victory.
The Sounders stood untouchable against the Dynamo. After a beautiful cross from Steve Zakuani, a rebound from Le Toux and finally a game-winning goal from midfielder Stephen King, the fans erupted into a joyous glee as they knew their team had overcome injuries, exhaustion and penalties.
As I look back at that game, I could not be more proud of our Seattle team, and as a captain for my own team I plan on showing that video to each player so they know we, too, can play the full 120, with blood, sweat and exhaustion.
During practices this summer, all my Cedar Park team talked about is how we get to play on that Starfire field come this September. It sends a shiver through my body just thinking that we will have the privilege to step foot on the same field where the Sounders played the most amazing 120 minutes of soccer of their career.
I wish I could write that the passion from that game continued to every preceding match, but unfortunately it did not, as they took two home draws and two away losses. Chicago Fire proved that through Cuauhtemoc Blanco dives and John Thorrington flops, neither team could score and both left with an unsatisfying 0-0 draw.
The passion, devotion and perseverance the Seattle Sounders had fought so well to achieve was slowly losing flight as they took a 4-0 loss against the bottom team in the Western Conference, the San Jose Earthquakes. Miscommunication between Kasey Keller and Osvaldo Alonso resulted in a goal against the Sounders only moments after the whistle. Just when they thought their red-card streak had ended, defender James Riley was issued an immediate red card for a slight tackle and quickly motioned off the field in the 33rd minute.
Playing down a man is never an advantage, but eager Seattle fans watching on TV at home knew they could pull it off with even nine players on the pitch. Again in the 54th minute a second goal came, then once more in the 78th, and to add salt to the wound, a fourth goal in the 84th.
After halftime it almost became unbearable to watch, and it did for my sister as she stormed out of the room after the third goal. Our defense broke down, our offense refused to attempt runs and our midfielders ran around aimlessly.
Bewildered by the lack of endurance, commitment, and passion, I attempted to detect where the first mistake had occurred, and what I found shocked me. From kick off, every player refused to give 100 percent. Not one player played with the same intensity and passion that I saw at Starfire.
Not fortunate to make it to state last year, the Eagle soccer team has constructed a team goal to make it happen in 2009. With that dream, as captains we pulled together to make sure every player knows what is expected of them.
Personally, my three fundamentals as a captain are: first to play to the best of your ability. When a teammate is lacking energy or motivation, they are not only hurting themselves but their teammates, as well. That player will automatically sit on the bench — in my opinion, it doesn’t get any clearer than that, and no player should be an exception from this rule.
Secondly, every single player on every single team is equally important, and no one player makes a team great. For example, some might believe Fredy Montero is the star of the show, but if he were to match up alone against 11 Houston Dynamo players, he wouldn’t stand a chance. Every athlete needs to know they bring something unique and special to the field that benefits the team.
Saving maybe the best for the last, my third and final fundamental is positive encouragement. Every player should strive to uplift the team, not tear it down. Even a small, “nice kick” or “good placement” can change the atmosphere of the team, as well as the player’s outlook on the field.
TEARS OF JOY
After giving up two games back to back, the Sounders had a lot to prove to their fans. Traveling to Los Angeles to take on the Galaxy, the Sounders had everything to prove.
With a red card handed to David Beckham just 17 minutes in, the Sounders used the advantage to result in a 2-0 win. Currently in fourth place in the Western Conference, the Sounders must continue to score goals and win games to earn a standing in this year’s playoffs.
In those 94 minutes of play, I caught a glimpse of the same team that played on that Starfire field more than a month ago, and I knew the “boys were back in town.”
Tears of joy may not have reached the players, but they certainly flooded through my living room as I heard the game-ending whistle.
As an avid follower of the Sounders, I was inspired by the commitment and passion in the beginning, shocked and dismayed when they hit a bump in the field and truly exhilarated when they were able to pick up the pieces and take off again.
The journey this team has experienced is one I look to and use for my own team. One of the best things a soccer player can do is learn from others greater than themselves. That’s exactly what I plan to do myself, and encourage every member of my Eagle soccer team to do, as well.
Whatever team you’re rooting for, whether it be a select team, a school team, an indoor team or the Seattle Sounders, be the fire that ignites your team to want to win and persevere through the blood, sweat and tears — because in the end, it’s always worth it.
Elizabeth Cummings is a Cedar Park Christian senior soccer player.