Twining’s Take on the week in sports: Feel good moments for Sounders, Lions and the NHL
My Seattle Sounders just won their third-consecutive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. It is a feat that hadn’t been accomplished in 46 years – since the Greek Americans won three-straight between 1967 and 1969. Now, the Sounders can add their name as just the third United States Soccer Federation-affiliated team to win three-straight in a tournament that began in 1913 – the oldest ongoing American soccer competition.
What is awesome about the Sounders third-straight championship is that it comes in just the club’s third year in existence. As the Sounders skills have improved and they’ve become one of the best teams in the MLS, they have a chance to do something I’m sure has never before been accomplished in American soccer.
They’ve won the U.S. Open Cup, they have the second-best record in the MLS, behind the Los Angeles Galaxy, and they’ve advanced to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, a tournament that includes some of the best soccer clubs in North, Central and South America. By the time the year is over, the Sounders could win three championships in one year – the U.S. Open Cup, the MLS Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League.
The reason I know this feat has never before been accomplished is because the MLS hasn’t been around that long, for starters, but also because clubs don’t usually participate in both the U.S. Open Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League.
The Sounders play one of the most-difficult schedules of all MLS teams and this year they have an opportunity to pull off the unthinkable. As a Seattle-fan who grew up supporting the old NASL Sounders team, I hope they win them all. Heck If they win all three, they’d surely be “America’s Team.” Right?
Lions and Packers and…nobody else
Through four weeks, there are two teams in the NFL that have still not lost a game. One of the teams is not a surprise – the Green Bay Packers. They are defending Super Bowl Champions and they boast the best quarterback in the NFL – Aaron Rogers.
The other undefeated team is the surprise story in the NFL. The Detroit Lions, who finished 0-16 in 2008, 2-14 in 2009 and 6-10 last year, is currently 4-0. Don’t try and tell the Lions or any of their fans that this team isn’t for real.
They haven’t had a winning season since 2000 and prior to winning five-straight road games, dating back to the end of last season, they had lost 25-in-a-row. In fact, after winning their last four games a year ago, they are on an eight-game winning streak following a span during which they lost 48 of 57 games.
It is an unprecedented turnaround due, in large part, to successful drafts when they held picks in the top five or top ten.. They’ve drafted their franchise quarterback, Matthew Stafford, two franchise defensive lineman, Ndamakung Suh and Nick Fairley, and a franchise wide receiver, Calvin Johnson. They’ve used their other draft picks, combined with free agent acquisitions, to put together a team finally capable of making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.
Althought the Lions’ ability to winning their division will be a difficult task considering the Packers also compete in the NFC North, their chances of making the playoffs increase with each victory. Not only can they make the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons, but they are also on pace for double-digit wins, a feat not accomplished by the Lions since 1995.
For years they were the example of NFL futility. Now the appear to be the poster-child for drafting and building a winner.
NBA’s Failure is NHL’s Gain
A couple years ago, labor disputes forced the cancellation of an entire NHL season. After the NHL adjusted some rules and game-play issues (I won’t admit to knowing what was changed) the league returned to action a year later. Maybe it was the excitement of the 2010 Winter Olympics or simply the fact that no professional hockey was played for an entire season, but I feel like hockey is far more popular now than it was five years ago.
The NBA lockout might not necessarily be a feel-good moment for the NBA, its players, coaches, owners or fans, but the NHL has to feel pretty good about the shaky future of the NBA and the growing popularity of the NHL.
I just signed up for my first-ever fantasy hockey league. When I told this to my younger brother he laughed and told me I was a loser. Au contraire little bro, the reason I decided to play fantasy hockey for the first time is because, obviously, fantasy basketball isn’t going to be very exciting if they only play half a season and, by playing fantasy hockey, I can learn more about how the game is played and the good, under-the-radar players.
I’m using fantasy hockey to help myself learn more about the sport and have a greater appreciation for the athletes who play. With the NBA’s future in doubt, I suggest the rest of you start tuning in to the NHL as well.
Photos courtesy Wenatchee World, Dave Hogg and bdperkin via Flickr.