The British are coming.
Over the next several days, clubs from widely separated levels of English soccer will play friendly matches on the pitches of Puget Sound.
English Premier League champion Manchester United arrived in Seattle on Thursday to begin preparations for its Wednesday meeting with Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field.
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Also in for a tour of the area is Port Vale FC of England’s League Two, which will visit Tacoma Tide FC at 4 p.m. Sunday at Curtis High School.
“It’s just something different,” Tide owner Mike Jennings said. “… It lets (our players) see what that level of play is, and is it comparable. Just as a Man U. will want to come over and play the Sounders in preseason, this is (Port Vale’s) preseason, and they think they’re competitive games. I think their expectation is they’ll win all of them, of course. (It also) gives the fans in the local area a taste of what other divisions of soccer are about.”
The Valiants’ tour of the Northwest sprang from a relationship between its ownership and the owners of the PDL Victoria Highlanders. Port Vale will play the North Sound SeaWolves tonight in Everett before traveling to Pierce County, where manger Micky Adams will take part in a coaching clinic Saturday in Puyallup before facing the Tide the next day in University Place.
Port Vale plays in what is in effect the fourth level of English soccer, behind the Premiership, Championship and Level One. The club was established in 1876. The name comes from a valley of ports on the Trent and Mersey Canal, associated with the area’s pottery industry.
“They’re in the middle of a hotbed of soccer, which is an area called the Potteries – that being where they made all the cups and saucers and dishes,” said Alan Hinton, the former Sounders and Tacoma Stars coach who played English football at Wolverhampton, Nottingham Forest and Derby County. “Its big rival is Stoke City – a few miles from them. They are division two, but it’s a well-run, full-time professional club with full-time professional players. … They’ll come here to be serious. They won’t come here to mess about. It’s preseason. They’ll all be playing for their spots on the starting lineup when the season starts in a few weeks.”
Port Vale’s match with the Tide will conclude a doubleheader that begins at 1 p.m. with the Seattle Sounders Women meeting Colorado. Unfortunately, that game will kick off about midway through the second half of the USA-Japan final of the Women’s World Cup.
“It’s far too late to make a change on that now,” Jennings said. “Hopefully (fans) will still come out and show support. They can get to our game late: Support the national side, for sure; but come out and support the girls just a little later in the day. … It’s a good level of soccer, both for the girls and the guys. It’s Tacoma’s team, and it’s the region’s best women’s side here, so (we hope fans) just come out and support it.”
Support won’t be an issue three days later as the Sounders-Manchester United match is nearing sellout status.
A crowd of 51,523 was on hand Wednesday as Man U. opened its U.S. tour with a 4-1 win at New England.
After flying west on Thursday, the Red Devils held a press conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Seattle and then began training for the match.
“(Winning is) always important to us because of the expectation and the responsibility of the fans that are going to be here to watch us,” manager Sir Alex Ferguson said. “You have to satisfy. The important thing of a match is that the fans understand that you’re trying your very, very best. And we will try our very, very best next week.”
Here's the schedule for the coming days:
10 a.m. Saturday: Coaching clinic, Washington Premier FC Field Complex, Puyallup.1 p.m. Saturday: Sounders FC vs. Colorado, CenturyLink Field.1 p.m. Sunday: Sounders Women vs. Colorado Force, Curtis High School.4 p.m. Sunday: Tacoma Tide vs. Port Vale FC, Curtis High School.7 p.m. Wednesday: Sounders FC vs. Manchester United, CenturyLink Field.Information: tacomafc.com and soundersfc.com.