Viva Seattle! OK – so, I watched the tape delay of D.C United-Real Madrid, and my strongest impression is that Seattle is a soccer town. 66,000-plus turned out at the magnificent Qwest Stadium to watch the match…and they didn’t even have a home team in the game. Sure…they all turned out to see David Beckham, not Jaime Moreno, but it was Moreno who showed, with the touch that set up Alecko Eskandarian’s game-tying blast. Becks seemed mostly lost among the stars. Roberto Carlos and Robinho were magnificent for the Spanish side – and Cannavaro tallied on a huge turn and rocket past United keeper, Troy Perkins. Though he couldn’t stop Cannavaro, Perkins laid out and saved Roberto Carlos’ powerful free kick (is it redundant to write “Roberto Carlos’ powerful free kick”?), and got some help from Ben Olsen, who kept the rebound attempt out of the net. As for Real's other Brazilian stars, Emerson had some deft touches, and Cicinho looked ever dangerous, as United’s goal seemed under constant siege in the second half.
To sum up my impressions of the play on the field: For United – they played admirably to emerge with a tie against such a talented squad. That, alone, is reason to smile. For Real Madrid – though they only managed a tie against a D.C. roster that wouldn’t go very far in La Liga, I have to think with the additions of Ruud van Nistlerooy, Emerson and Cannavaro, this team will give Barcelona a run for their money, challenging for the Spanish title and the Champions League trophy. Their immense talent was obvious, and they will start clicking with a bit more work together.
For me, the strongest impression was made by the crowd…and the stadium. Amazingly, the local USL squad does play in this huge facility, which dwarfs United’s own RFK. The Seattle Sounders general manager, Adrian Hanauer, has spearheaded a campaign to land an MLS franchise for Seattle. Hanauer promoted the game as a showcase to MLS official to see, first-hand, Seattle’s potential as a soccer-town.
If that was the primary purpose, I think the Sounders accomplished much more. Yes, the crowd displayed placards urging MLS to come to Seattle. But, I think Seattle confirmed a place on a much bigger stage.
It seems to me that if the United States ever hosts the World Cup again (and rumor has it that FIFA is considering staging the 2010 tournament here, instead of South Africa), Seattle would have to be included among the host cities. Qwest Stadium looks as if it were built for soccer, instead of the bowls that predominate among football stadiums here. And the sellout crowd commands attention. If the Cup does return to the States, I expect that Detroit, and possibly Orlando, would not repeat as a host city. Seattle should be the leading candidate to join the bid list.