Seattle Really Likes Its Soccer: MLS Kicks Off With Sounders Win over Philly Union

↵The lead story on SeattlePI.com Friday morning was split between the "Up" of the Sounders winning the MLS season opener at Qwest field with the "Down" of the Washington Huskies losing in the NCAA Tournament. ↵

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↵This isn't the front page of their sports section. This is the front page of the entire website. The Sounders, who are beginning their second season of existence, took on the Philadelphia Union in that franchise's first ever match. In pouring rain, more than 36,000 fans showed up for the MLS opener to see the home Sounders defeat the fledgling Union, 2-0. Seattle is the model for what MLS wants in every market. The passion and interest are quite remarkable. Per Art Thiel of the PI: ↵

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↵⇥They dressed for the weather, they drank for the night, they yelled for the team, and they won. ↵⇥

↵⇥The second season began as the first, a dominant 2-0 Sounders triumph over the expansion Philadelphia Union, which followed a 3-0 win a year ago over New York that launched the most successful debut season in league history. ↵⇥

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↵⇥"It hasn't lost its luster," said Sounders coach (Sigi) Schmid of the follow-up to the heralded 2009 season. "We got the three points (for the win), and the good news is we can play better." ↵⇥

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↵Obviously, if MLS had its druthers, the league would rather not start the season on a Thursday night up against the NCAA Sweet 16. That said, MLS knows its audience, and while the grab for "average" sports fan has always been a goal of the league – to capture the number of soccer players at the youth level in this country and grow them into lifelong fans of the American brand of professional soccer – MLS understands that getting on TV in prime time still happens when ESPN wants it to happen. And for their season opener, that prime time national TV appearance happened to be up against a huge day in sports. While capturing the average sports fan last night was nearly impossible, soccer fans surely were not disappointed. ↵

↵Philadelphia Union fans, however, were. The team was saddled with yellow cards early in the match, two of which led to Union midfielder Toni Stahl being sent off. Almost immediately after being forced to finish the match with just 10 men, the Union allowed another tally from Seattle, putting the game out of reach at 2-0 before halftime. While it wasn't the result Union fans were looking for to start their franchise, head coach Peter Nowak may have endeared himself to Philly for life. Nowak wasn't too happy with all the flopping going on, and told reporters after the game. From Philly.com's The Goalkeeper: ↵

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↵⇥"From the other standpoint, you've got to say that all this flopping and diving - you see the stats, we had eight fouls and six cards - it's a little bit too much for any of those standards. These guys rolling on the pitch like they got shot. I think we need to recognize that these guys are doing this stuff and they're trying to take advantage of the referees, of the decisions of the referees, and trying to make themselves protected. ↵⇥

↵⇥"I don't know why. I expect Freddie Ljungberg, who scored so many goals and played, I don't know, 80 too 100 games with [Sweden's] national team, and won so many trophies, that he's going to be more honest than he's being, and complaining and whining about every single call, and trying to push the referee to give the yellow cards. For his standards, it's not up to his standards." ↵⇥

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↵⇥"This is a man's sport. I'm sorry, but this is how the men play. Let me see the stats again ... eight fouls, six yellow cards. It's a little bit too much, for the standards, as I said, of the guys who are on the field. Even with Freddie Ljungberg, if he would do this back in England with Arsenal against West Ham, I'm sure that 98 percent of the crowd would boo him. This is below his standards and I believe he's a better player than this." ↵⇥

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↵Whether you agree with Nowak's impression of the match or not, fans have to respect the fact that he's already crying foul and calling out the refs. The only thing that would endear him to Philly more than those comments would have been if he ended the media availability by demanding a hoagie a box of Tastykakes. It's a long season still. ↵

↵MLS returns to TV on Saturday evening with matches on Fox Soccer Channel. ↵

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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