FOXBORO, MA - JULY 13: Nemanja Vidic #114 of the Manchester United and a young fan carry the Premier Trophy onto the field before a friendly match with the New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium on July 13, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Manchester United have spent nearly a week in Seattle during their United States pre-season tour and the visit to the Pacific Northwest will culminate on Wednesday at CenturyLInk Field when they take on the Seattle Sounders FC of Major League Soccer (MLS) in a friendly. The MLS side are arguably the in-form club at the moment in their league as they have gone unbeaten in the past 11 matches in all competitions. The club also boasts the most vociferous and rabid supporters in the United States and attendance for their home matches averages 37,189 per match. CenturyLink Field is also the home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks and for this particular friendly, the entire stadium has been opened up. Thus, a a sellout of 67,000 plus is possible - 65,000+ tickets have already been sold as of a few days ago. For most of United's foreign tours, the crowds have generally been pro-United but for this particular friendly, the Sounders supporters will surely outnumber United's. However, Seattle is a football-loving region and this friendly will seen as a celebration of the sport.
Newcomers David De Gea and Phil Jones, along with Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley, and Danny Welbeck have all joined the tour in Seattle after receiving additional time-off after their U-21 national team duties this summer. Antonio Valencia and Darren Fletcher remain in Manchester while recuperating from injury and illness, respectively. Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez is taking some additional time off due to his participation with the Mexican national team in the Gold Cup - the young striker will join the club in New York later in the tour.
Dave Clark, from the fantastic Seattle Sounders' blog, Sounder at Heart, has been kind enough to do a Q&A for us ahead of tomorrow's friendly. Without further ado, here it is after the jump:
TBB:Two seasons ago, during the Seattle Sounders FC inaugural season in Major League Soccer (MLS), the club was able to bring over Chelsea FC and FC Barcelona for friendlies. However, the club is currently involved in three competitions (MLS, CONCACAF Champions League, and U.S. Open Cup) - how is this friendly with United being viewed by Sounders' supporters? In the Seattle region specifically, has the novelty of these friendlies, even one with a club that just participated in the UEFA Champions League final, worn off? Is this viewpoint different between hardcore supporters and the casual fan?
Dave: Most supporters probably aren't terribly excited for the game in light of the fixture congestion. They may enjoy the opportunity to see one of the five best teams in the world live, in stadium with the temporary grass, but they know it is meaningless. The number one wish is that no one get injured, particularly in a season with three trophies ripe and readily available.
The general public and the casuals may be a bit more excited. I know that United players are getting recognized around town, and that tickets for this game are quite popular. Wednesday night will be a fun party and celebration of high level soccer, but the atmosphere will be quite muted compared to normal. It's a shame that those around the world who love United won't see Seattle's standard experience, but this audience knows which games matter. This isn't one of them.
TBB: The Sounders are in terrific form right now having gone unbeaten in their past 11 matches in all competitions. During this time, the attack has surged and they seemingly may be the top side in the MLS based on current form. Which players should United supporters be on the lookout for in terms of quality? Players like Kasey Keller and Mauro Rosales have played in top-flight leagues in Europe but which younger players may potentially capture the attention of European clubs in the near future? Perhaps that is an annoying question but I ask because players like Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani spent some time last winter training with Everton FC.
Dave: MLS fans know that there best players will move on to better leagues. It is the way of things. Even the most ardent of us just hope for the day that MLS is the final step before a huge league and not Scandinavia, the Lowlands or lower divisions. If you asked me this question at the beginning of the year I would have said that Seattle has four players who are clearly of better quality who belong on a bigger stage - Steve Zakuani, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso.
Zakuani came up through the Arsenal
youth system but a tragic accident saw him pushed aside to college here. Over his first two years in the USA as a pro he quickly became the best left winger in the league and it was clear he would last too long. Then, agains the Colorado Rapids, his leg was snapped and now his future is unclear. Hurtado just suffered a minor tweak to his right knee and may not play either.
The other two are just downright amazing. Montero has that ability to take threatening shots from nearly anywhere, regardless of the amount of pressure or traffic. His ability to strike the ball on a set-peice is a game changer in any league. He's a second striker with good on-ball technique and when he improves his off-ball runs will be a strong candidate to move up leagues. Alonso is a defensive midfielder who will win the ball from anyone. His ability to control the middle is not through just strength (he's kind of small), but through slipping his feet in taking the ball he feels is rightfully his at all times. His passing continues to improve and his long range shots are starting to stay down and threaten.
TBB:Are there any particular United players that interest you? Any that you're particularly excited to see on Wednesday?
Dave:I don't watch much European football. I have a local side that plays well within their league and represents my community well. Games that have stuck in my memory are the Tottenham Hotspurs Carling Cup win as I watched it with a Londoner who had moved out here. Due to that I will pay a little more attention to Dimitar Berbatov than Wayne Rooney. I've also always been intrigued by Asian players who head to the top leagues in Europe, so Park Ji-Sung will be fun to get a look at. And of course the ageless one, just because of that and no other reason. That Ryan Giggs is a quality outfield player at his age is just down right impressive.