Notes from the press box

So during the Earthquakes-Sounders match I had the chance to sit in the press box. Thanks to my writings for American Soccer News, I get a press pass, even though the presence of a college student draws some funny looks and remarks of "are you sure you're in the right place?" The press experience was new for me, as it probably would be for most of you. So here's a few interesting things I noted.

- I had to wait 10 minutes for them to make enough phone calls to get me my proper credentials. At the end of this process, I was told that a Sounders PR person (who will go unnamed) wanted to meet me. Well, really, he/she just wanted to express their annoyance with me. And after that, I accidentally sat in the seat of some KOMO reporter but figured it out just in time. All in all, it was an inauspicious start to my press career.

- The press box is surprisingly big - it wasn't close to full, and there were 75 to 90 people in it.

- The back of the press pass specifically says "No autographs allowed during media access periods." Damn.

- There's a press box announcer for official scoring, and he mispronounced Jaqua as 'jack-wa.' Seriously? It's been four games, and you still can't figure out how to say the name of our starting forward? Put some effort into your job, man. Also, he then left his mic on, because after an apparent Sounders handball he said "uh-oh" which was heard loud and clear by everyone in the box. Brought a good laugh out of everyone.

- I got to sit behind two San Jose writers, which was very entertaining. They muttered and cursed under their breaths whenever anything bad happened, which for their team was quite frequently. When Cam Weaver subbed on for them, one of them audibly said "Come on big man, f****** make something happen." In the 85th minute one of them got up, and when his partner asked where he was going, he replied, "to get some snacks." I never saw him again.

- The press box has food, but more importantly, free Jones Soda! Win.


A few bad apples

In general, Sounders fans have been absolutely amazing during the run-up to the beginning of the 2009 season, and the first few weeks into it. 3 sellouts, standing the whole game, raising scarves, chanting, cheering, generally being great soccer supporters. But during this period everything was going right for the franchise. The question hung overhead - how would fans respond to the first bit of adversity?

Well, it came Saturday night in a tough 1-0 loss to Kansas City. And the response was disappointing. During the game objects were thrown at the referees, though I didn't see anything worse than what looked like a paper airplane. And after the game, as the players walked off the pitch in the southeast corner of the stadium, two separate fans reportedly threw beer down on the players. One of the fans was ejected by police. At the other end of the pitch the referees were walking off, and I saw at least one fan spit down on them.

This is crap. Sounders fans can't be doing this. So maybe the referees didn't have a particularly good game. Guess what? It happens. This is MLS, which is not the top league in the world, and as such we won't be treated to the top referees in the world either. We have to get used to it, and we have to be smarter. And there's no excuse for throwing beer, or any projectiles really, at the players on the pitch. Ever.

Granted, this was a few isolated incidents, and the majority of the fans were reasonable, sending nothing more than a massive chorus of boos at the referees. But it's the bad apples that get the negative publicity. And as a young club, negative publicity is something we should avoid like the plague. So let's continue to be passionate - but reasonable - fans. There's a lot of season left, and it will contain a lot of adversity. Sounders fans should deal with it better.


Early season playoff dreams

There are a lot of people out there who might put aside the early success of the Seattle Sounders as a fluke, as a good thing that certainly can't last. They might point to the fact that teams that have started well fade very often, and the reverse is true as well. Houston last year being exhibit A - a terrible start which left them at the bottom of the league didn't stop them from being the best team in the West by years end. So, these people say, the success of the Sounders is great and all. But they're still an expansion team and they probably won't make the playoffs.

Don't listen to them. Already, Seattle is in prime position for the postseason.

Facts are facts, and 9 points are 9 points - the number Seattle has through 3 games. What'll it take to make the playoffs? All along I've been using 40 points as my benchmark. In a 30 game season, an average record of 10-10-10 will get you to 40 points. 8 teams make the playoffs out of 15 teams in the league, meaning the 8th team will necessarily be the average team in the league. Call it 40 points.

So with that as the target, and 9 of those 40 points out of the way, Seattle now has 27 games to get 31 points. And 13 of those games are at home, in the friendly confines of Qwest Field, which is quickly proving to be the most difficult venue in MLS after just two games. (Well, unless you have a soft spot for fans that throw beer and leave early.) Would 7 wins out of those 13 games be to ambitious a target? I don't think so. 7 wins gives you 21 points, making a total of 30. And yes, other games could yield more points in the form of draws. Which would be great.

With 30 points (at least) at home not seeming like too difficult a target, that leaves the other 14 games to pick up 10 more road points. This would be harder than you think: a few teams didn't manage this last season. But that still seems like a reasonable target, making two goals for the remainder of the season.

- Win 7 games at home
- Get 10 points on the road

Accomplish both of these, and I guarantee the Sounders will be playing in the playoffs in 2009.