Feisty George Galloway framed it adequately when he declared the decision to invade Iraq as a blunder, not a mistake.
Likewise, Sigi Schmid, manager of the Seattle Sounders Football Club in Major League Soccer gifted the league his own blunder when his side met Manchester United Football Club Wednesday evening, July 20th, as part of the 2011 World Football Challenge.
To err is human. Mistakes happen. But a blunder is a special case, in my book, that fulfills two conditions.
a) The mistake was easily preventable.
b) The impact of the error is significant.
First half line-ups:
Manchester United: G – Lindegaard, D – Rafael Da Silva, Vidic, Ferdinand, Evra, M – Nani, Anderson, Giggs, Young, F – Owen, Macheda
Seattle Sounders [2011 season min played]: G – Keller [1,800 min], D – Riley [1,589 min], Parke [1,389 min] , Ianni [794 min], Gonzalez [898 min], M – Rosales [1,043 min], Alonso [1,800 min], Friberg [1,201 min], Fernandez [1,011 min], F – Levesque [587 min], Montero [1,257 min]
2nd half line-ups:
Manchester United: G – Amos, D – Rafael Da Silva, Evans (in 56), Ferdinand, Fabio Da Silva (in 56), M – Obertan (in 56), Anderson, Park, Carrick (in 66), F – Diouf, Rooney
Seattle Sounders [2011 season min played]: G – Boss [90 min], D – Tetteh (in 64) [90 min], Graham (in 64) [90 min], Scott [398 min], M – Estrada (in 73) [61 min], Carrasco [455 min], Evans/Seamon (Evans injured out 64) [Avg 554 min], Noonan/ Ngassa (Ngassa in 76) [Avg 38 min], Neagle [405 min], F – Jaqua/ Montano (Montano in 76) [Avg 394 min] , Fucito [551 min]
Sounders 1rst half team competitive minutes played in 2011: 64% of total.
Sounders 2nd half team competitive minutes played in 2011: 15% of total.
First half goals: United 1, Sounders 0.
Second half goals: United 6, Sounders 0.
Therefore, Sigi decided to field a team that he has used in only 15% of all competitive minutes this year for most of the second half in front of a record crowd in the Pacific Northwest for soccer of over 67K. The competitive minutes played this year of his second half goalie and defenders are especially low.
Now, Sigi is not the first manager to bench starters in the second half. Steve Nicol also made several changes to his New England Revolution line-up to rest starters in a game against Manchester United exactly a week before this game, even if not as drastic in terms of competitive minutes played.
In Steve’s case, he had a competitive league game the following Saturday night and the team was trying to arrest a 9 game losing streak.
Sigi faced a different set of circumstances. Seattle was scheduled to play the Philadelphia Union on Saturday, July 23 at the beginning of the year.
However, on May 19th, Major League Soccer rescheduled the game for October 8th to accommodate the Union’s game against Real Madrid for the World Football Challenge.
Seattle’s next game, therefore, is against San Francisco FC of Panama away for the CONCACAF CL on July 26, 6 days after the game with United; a normal break between games if he played his starters throughout.
Sigi admitted as much in his post-match conference quotes. He was delayed in his appearance before the conference, and according to the Seattle Soccer blog “Prost Amerika Soccer”, he appeared chastened and “drained” when he did appear amid rumors of an unhappy owner, Joe Roth, having a word with him in the locker room.
“I need to apologize to our fans because I thought we embarrassed ourselves in the second half, not to take anything away from Man United because they’re a great team. They scored some great goals and their movement was superb. We wanted to reward all the guys on the team, wanted to play everybody. I think in retrospect that was a mistake. I should have played guys and brought some guys off the bench and not tried to get everybody in the game. We’ve had a hard season. We’ve worked very hard and played very well and I wanted to reward all the guys with the opportunity to get on the field against Man United. Unfortunately they didn’t reward themselves.”
So the first condition of this blunder was fulfilled by the accommodating schedule.
The second reason Sigi’s moves were a blunder is due to the unique position the sport of soccer holds in the US relative to the rest of the world.
Everyone who cares about the sport here from the fans, management, soccer media and players, have an additional responsibility to be ambassadors and promoters of the sport beyond their normal roles for major sports.
Those who deride this friendly too easily neglect to recognize the importance of events that bring a large number of “eyeballs” to watch the sport.
The triage of this event was offset by more competitive games in other Word Football Challenge games, but I think lessons were learned from Sigi’s blunder which is probably the best one can say about blunders.
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