Posted: 3/20/2009


           Seattle, Washington is one of my favourite cities in the world, with it's waterfront, ferries to the islands, Pikes Place Market, Space Needle, the beautiful campus of University of Washington and it's Lake Union fronted stadium, and the nearby mountains and rivers.

          Thursday evening was the opening of the 2009 MLS season with Seattle Sounders hosting the New York Red Bulls.    The first Seattle Sounders life was in the old N.A.S.L. days or (Non American Soccer League) as it's detractors called it, when the home team played in the Seattle Dome, which was pulled down. The QWEST FIELD is also home of the NFL Seattle Seahawks, and was full a few years ago when Manchester United played Celtic there. Now it is DOWNSIZED, and the hosts announced a sell-out crowd of 32,250 on opening night. About 5 years ago I was there for an A League match between Seattle and the Portland Timbers, a rivalry that might continue at MLS level since Portland are one of 3 contenders to join the league in 2011, a year after Vancouver will come on in.

       It was GREEN SCARF DAY as 20,000 season ticket holders were given  RAVE GREEN SCARFS which had a bar code tag so they doubled as entry tickets. Novel idea!!  There was also a live ESPN 2 TV audience and the nearby Space Needle flew a Sounders Rave Green flag and was bathed in a rave green glow. Mayor Greg Nickels led the SOUND WAVE marching band from Pioneer Square, leading the faithful to the North Entrance to Qwest Field like a modern day pied piper.

     What a start the Sounders had, beating New York 3-0 with a brace from Colombian striker Fredy Montero, signed from Deportivo Cali, who outshone his opposing Colombian, Juan Pablo Angel. Fredy scored the first goal in franchise history in the 12th minute. His pass to Brad Evans made in 2-0 after 25 minutes and he himself sealed the victory in the 75th minute through the legs of goalie Cepero. Local born Kasey Keller, back from many years in Europe, had a shut out for Seattle, and pleased coach Siggi Schmidt.

    Another novel innovation for boosting attendance was on view at historic Meadow Lane, home of Football League club Notts County, across the River Trent from the City Ground, home of Nottingham ForestNottingham's rugby union club share the facility and play in the National League(the second tier) of England's rugby union league.  A local company called AIRHEADS, supplies full size, life like blow up 'dummies' for movies, television shows and commercials. They blew-up 1,000 such 'spectators' and put them in the Family Stand to add to the 1,305 paying customers. It didn't help the home XV, who narrowly lost the match to the Exeter Chiefs.

     What an interesting draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals of The Champions League, bringing Chelsea and Liverpool together for the fifth time in as many seasons. Barcelona v Bayern Munchen, Arsenal v Villareal and FC Porto vs holders Manchester United were the other matches. FC Porto knocked out United in 2004 and went on the win the trophy.

     Last night I watched the second leg of AaB Aalborg v Manchester City from Northern Jutland on TV. I witnessed the 2-0 first leg win at City of Manchester Stadium last Thursday and with five minutes to go there were no goals in Denmark. The Danes scored twice in that time and after no goals in extra time, it took two saves by recent signing form Newcastle United, Irish keeper Shay Given to put the Sky Blues into the quarter final draw of the UEFA CUP. They will have Martin Jol's Hamburg to contend with home and away.