She Paints Me Green: Seattle Sounders, Playoffs And Cynical Fandom

SEATTLE - OCTOBER 02: Blaise Nkufo #9 (2R) of the Seattle Sounders FC celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Toronto FC on October 2 2010 at Qwest Field in Seattle Washington. The Sounders defeated Toronto 3-2. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

The Seattle Sounders face the L.A. Galaxy Sunday in the first leg of the MLS playoffs. While odds may appear to favor the Sounders, most Seattle sports fans fear elevated hopes.

Seattle-ites don't get a lot of opportunities to get excited about their sports teams, but this weekend, Seattle will be painted Rave Green. Put away the Halloween decorations and bring out the Sounders flags. The theme for this week is "Beat LA". If you aren't like me and have a shirt specifically emblazoned with "Beat LA," wear your scarf and/or your jersey to get the message out.

In 2009, the Sounders were unceremoniously dumped out of the playoffs by the Houston Dynamo. To call the loss heart-wrenching would still be understating the pain of the second leg, away at Robertson Stadium. The first leg, at home at Qwest Field, required sweatshirts and knit caps, gloves and of course the requisite scarf, yet the place was packed with expectant Sounders fans. We all expected a win, and Patrick Ianni almost gave us one when his first-half header glanced off the crossbar. Alas, no goals were to be found and it was on to Houston.

With the game scheduled at 11 a.m. Pacific time, Seattle fans gathered together, anxious to celebrate the team's advancement into the conference finals. After all, the club had yet to lose to Houston. And through the next ninety minutes, the chances kept coming, but still the team couldn't lose-or win. Nerves were frayed. Bloody Marys were poured. And then, just six minutes in to added extra time, Brian Ching scored for the Dynamo. Seattle, deflated, couldn't find an equalizer, and Houston advanced. Sounders supporters spent the rest of the day in agony, many attempting to lessen the pain through trips to the local bar, where they sat, commiserating together over what could have been.

Dear readers, I have a great fear of jinxing my sports teams. I'm reluctant to tell you that this year could be different. That this could be the year for Seattle to, if not win the MLS Cup, at least advance to the division playoffs. However, if an unbiased individual were to evaluate this year's matchup, the Sounders might be given the edge. If that person looks at the last half of the season, they're sure to notice that the Sounders lost just twice in fifteen matches. Probing deeper, that person might tell you that Sigi Schmid's preferred starting XI-Kasey Keller; James Riley, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez; Sanna Nyassi, Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani; Blaise Nkufo, Fredy Montero -are perfect. Not just unbeatable in league competition, but have actually not dropped a point in any of the seven matches that they've started together. With each of these players healthy, this neutral observer might think that there's no way the Galaxy have a chance of beating the Sounders.

But a cynical person crosses her fingers and toes, doesn't wash her lucky jersey and makes sure to wear her scarf all week. Seattle sports may not exactly inspire hope in a person, no matter how much the odds may be stacked in the Sounders favor, but that's no excuse to not pick up as many lucky pennies as possible.

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