Having been in footballing purgatory following the end of the World Cup, I had desperately been looking forward to seeing Spurs’ first pre-season match against the Seattle Sounders. Essentially meaningless in nature, I found myself have difficulty sleeping, a common tradition before I see Spurs play live.
Friday July 18th had been an eventful day, having met Ledley King and watching Spurs train. Being a Canadian, I had only seen Ledley King play once live, so meeting him personally was something so surreal to me. I found my passionate personality nearly getting the better of me as I approached holding back tears and saying to myself “keep it together”. Following my near embarrassment in front of one of the club legends I made my way inside Centurylink Field to watch Spurs train. Tense does not begin to describe the atmosphere on the pitch. To me it was visibly evident that many of these players knew they were playing for their Spurs career. Most notable was Lewis Holtby, who was his usual ball of energy, doing even the most basic drills with a vigour that was easily distinguishable throughout the entire squad. Clearly he feels that this is another, and maybe even his final chance to impress the new boss and earn a consistent role in the Spurs first team. Tom Carroll also seemed to be buzzing and lived up to his reputation for passing as he consistently displayed his vision against his team-mates.
While all this was going on, Mauricio Pochettino stood at the halfway line barely moving, gazing stoically at the squad, wheels turning. He did not move from that spot for nearly 15 to 20 minutes, only leaning over to whisper something to one of his assitants before he finally grabbed a ball and ran the team through some new drills. Saturday was already looking to be a solid occasion with so much nervousness and points to prove throughout the team.
Having barely slept, I woke up Saturday and made my way to Fado’s Irish pub. Some of the fans at the training session had said they had heard several Spurs fans would be meeting there so I decided to have a look. I walked in and found about 200 Spurs fans singing and drinking, I was truly impressed and genuinely surprised. Despite this I was shocked yet again when I got to Centurylink field and the Spurs section was only a few seats away from being sold out, 1100 Spurs fans had shown up and from all over North America, while the Seattle fans impressed with nearly 52,000. The first half saw Spurs line up in a 4-2-3-1 with Naughton, Dawson, Fryers and Rose at the back, Carroll and Capoue as central mids, Lennon, Townsend, Holtby left to right, and Kane as the lone striker.
Right from the first whistle Spurs looked the better side, controlling the flow of the game and retaining the majority of the possession. Their reward came swiftly as Lewis Holtby struck with an absolute beauty only 11 minutes into the game. Harry Kane showed some his skill with a quick chip pass over the Seattle defence to Holtby who neatly headed the ball over Frei and into the back of the net. The German looked truly fired up for the upcoming season and really made an
effort to support defensively against the Sounders. His play clearly indicated that following a somewhat disapointing second half of the season loan at Fulham last year, his spirit and dedication have not diminished. I for one would like to see him given a real chance under Pochettino.
Spurs’ early strike seemed to wake up the Sounders as the remainder of the first half was theirs for the taking. Both Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins were at the centre of the Seattle’s attacks, as both were covering ground all throughout the Spurs half of the pitch and causing some serious problems for Dawson and Fryers in the heart of Spurs’ defence. Dawson in particular was poor, giving up the ball on 4 occasions and his best moments being deep clearances.
Thanks to Brad Friedel the Sounders were kept off the scoring sheet until the 34′ minute, which saw Dawson commit a foul in the box on a Seattle corner, earning them a spotkick. Pineda stepped up for Seattle and finished it off cooly with a Paneka finish. Having equalized the Sounders remained on the front foot for the rest of the first half and Spurs were lucky to go into half on equal terms. The two bright points for Spurs were without a doubt Holtby and Friedel, both making several tackles and saves respectively to keep Spurs competitive in the first half. Pochettino gave all three of Lennon, Townsend and Holtby a great deal of freedom to roam around the pitch, but Holtby seemed the only one accustomed to the role. Obviously the team have not trained long together under Pochettino so this is to be expected.
The Second half saw Spurs make 6 substitutions and continuing to line up in a 4-2-3-1. Fredericks, Kaboul, Veljkovic, Fryers at the back, Carroll and Capoue remaining in central midfield, Ceballos, Lamela, Holtby left to right and Soldado up top as the lone striker.
Seattle continued with all the momentum and it took them only 5 minutes to take the lead. Alonso picked up the ball 30 yards out and having been given an inexcusable amount of space by Spurs let loose and absolute cracker, going bar down and into the back of the net. This was greeted by a great roar from the home fans while the Spurs supporters went quite quiet and a nervousness began to infiltrate the ranks. All doubts were erased only 4 minutes later as Soldado made a great move through the Seattle defence where he was fouled and justly awarded the spot-kick. The Spaniard stepped up and finished bottom right, sending the keeper in the opposite direction.
Soldado’s equalizer saw the game continue to open up and Friedel remained one of Spurs’ best players making several second half saves to keep them in the game. Several times Seattle attempted to send through balls over the top of Spurs’ defence but the 43 year old did a great job getting off his line and clearing any dangerous attempts into the area. Still showing no signs of age, and having been awarded a new contract at Spurs, Friedel looks poised to make several appearances in what should be his swan song year.
Ryan Mason and Iago Falque made appearances following substitutions in the 63′ and 68′ minute for Capoue and Holtby respectively. Following a Fredericks delivery Falque had a chance to make a quick impact but couldn’t control the ball. Erik Lamela had a few close opportunities and showed glimpses of skill as he looks to put a disappointing first season for Spurs behind him but ultimately had no clear scoring chances.
Seattle went ahead again in the 79′ minute through a goal that really demonstrated the lack of experienced first team players in the Spurs squad present at Centurylink field. Tristan Bowen who had been on for barely more than a 1 minute following a substitution scored a tap in from 6 yards out from a low cross behind Spurs’ inexperienced back four. Fredericks having been beaten on the right, left the also youthful Veljkovic exposed, and Bowen capitalized.
Despite the lack of first team players present in the squad, a general feeling of disbelief and disappointment began to descend on the Spurs faithful, but as if the heavens seemed to hear our prayers Spurs were awarded a penalty for a blatant handball by Seattle’s Yedlin only 2 minutes later. I cringed when I saw Iago Falque walking to the spot rather than Roberto Soldado. Having had such a horrible season last year, I just wanted to see Spurs start their preseason tour on a somewhat positive note and doubted whether Falque was the man to take it. Falque went bottom right and despite a hand from Seattle’s keeper the shot snuck in bringing Spurs level at 3-3 with 8 minutes remaining.
The rest of the match was relatively quiet save for a Seattle corner, but it never threatened Friedel and Spurs walked away with a draw. Overall Spurs performed well, especially considering the amount of youth and inexperience in the squad. That coupled with the fact that Seattle is currently in mid season shape and fitness while also sitting top of the Western Conference in the MLS showed that there are reasons to be optimistic at White Hart Lane. Holtby looks ambitious and motivated as ever under new managemnet while Carroll and Kane could be poised for a serious run in the first team. Capoue and Lamela
seem to be healthy and are set to put their disappointing first seasons behind them.
I realise that many players who would usually be in our starting 11 were not in Seattle today, and that players will be sold and bought before the season starts. I’m not saying I think we will finish top 4, but I do think with such a big squad and so much youth at this disposal, Pochettino has a chance to lay a solid foundation to built on for the next couple of years…then again this is Spurs and with Robespierre errrr ahem I mean Daniel Levy as chairman he could be gone by Christmas.
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