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U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final: Seattle Sounders v. Chicago Fire

Last night I tuned-in online, via ussoccer.com, for the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, apparently the oldest soccer tournament in the U.S. and the third longest-running soccer tournament in...the world? Really? Okay...

Hosted and covered by ussoccer.com, the "coverage" of the game was quaintly bad: there seemed to be only two cameras (only two...are we spoiled or what?); a gantry camera positioned at an uncomfortably low angle to the field, and an on-field camera for replays. The one announcer in the booth, Ross Fletcher, had to basically entertain himself, as he had no one to bounce off of; and the little, home-made graphics looked like they were done by the local junior high A/V club. Still...it all added to the game's charm...

...a charm which quickly faded as the Seattle Sounders steam-rolled the basically ineffective Chicago Fire. As I understand it, Chicago are floundering in their conference; they're in eighth place out of 10, with a 5-4-13 record (thirteen tie-games?? Sheesh...), and a -5 goal differential. Far from the worst in the whole MLS but clearly the Fire aren't setting the league ablaze any time soon...

Last night it was as clear to me as it's ever been why and how a certain team can dominate another so completely. Even without Clint Dempsey (which was the interesting thing, Seattle's got incredible depth on their squad) they wore away Chicago relentlessly, starting with goals at 6' and 33' in the first half. After the break, in the 58' minute they put the last nail in the coffin; the three goals in five minutes that came at 79', 83' and 84' were just adding insult to injury. Incidentally, the last two, by Kenny Cooper, were probably the fastest two goals I've ever seen by the same guy.

Anyway...my observations: Chicago showed some decent ability to get the ball up the field and create chances; I'm thinking specifically of the connection between Grant Ward (M) and Quincy Amarikwa (F) which at one point seemed like it might produce a goal or two and keep Chicago in the game. Midfielder and one-namer Alex also demonstrated his ability to at least occasionally control the tempo of the game and open up space for forward runs, but...

...the simple fact is that Seattle allowed Chicago no space in the midfield. The difference between Chicago on the attack and Seattle on the attack was pretty stark. When Chicago go the ball, Seattle would start defending in Chicago's half. Conversely, Chicago -- perhaps a bit timid of Seattle's more potent offense -- hung back and gave Seattle all sorts of room to sort things out in the midfield; therefore, when Chicago did manage to get the ball, they were too far back to make a quick enough challenge and catch Seattle back on their heels. Turns out, they were right to be wary of Seattle's attack, but it seems now like a self-fulfilling prophesy; stay back because you fear their offense, and they use the extra room to get momentum going and stuff the ball into your onion bag six friggin times.

DeAndre Yedlin (IDK whether that's really him
or his FIFA 2014 likeness. They make those video games
so damned realistic these days....)
The play of DeAnre Yedlin also deserves note here; in the second half Yedlin, a defender, was making more and better runs down the right side of Chicago's territory than his own wingers. Yedlin, who is headed off to Tottenham and the hallowed Barclay's Premier League next year, was simply incredible to watch. He's got a major set of wheels, for one. For two, as I said, he was down in Chicago's end most of the second half sending balls into the area, even got an assist. He's only 21, also. It'll be interesting to see what happens to him after he goes over to England, but barring injury, he's got nowhere to go but up for the next 10 years or so; that's at least two more World Cup's too, and the international seasoning will improve his play as well.


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