On the way out of the main stand of Starfire tonight I caught a glimpse of Sounders Women GM Amy Carnell, and she looked delighted. It's easy to understand why. Though we never got official attendance numbers, the stadium was clearly at capacity, with the stands on both sides of the field full and more people spilling onto the surrounding grassy hills or watching from behind fences. It was all the more impressive when you consider that this was an early preseason game on a Monday night against a college team. For a team that last year drew 6-700 per game. And the crowd was in full voice, with the ECS Lady's Aux taking the reins as supporters group (with drum and flags) and a crowd clearly familiar with the Sounders gameday experience.
Between the lines, things turned out just as well. The Sounders showed all the signs of a team still learning to play together, with plenty of missed connections and wayward crosses, but even so the team clearly outclassed the opposition and was in control of the match from the opening whistle.
It's one of the quirks of soccer that when the team was completely dominating through the first 70-plus minutes, they only managed two goals, but after Alex Morgan came off and the number of chances died down, they scored three more in the final 15 minutes.
The team easily could have had 3 or 4 more goals in that first three quarters with Morgan on the field. It would be hard to overstate how much she dominates the play when she's around the ball. Her ball control and footwork make marking her one-on-one basically impossible. She can find space for a shot whenever she wants it. And she was one of if not the fastest player on the field. And one of the tallest. And one of the strongest. So she combined with Sydney Leroux in the first half to create chance after chance. But only two went in — a shot by Morgan that was deflected in by Lyndsey Patterson and a beautiful pass from Leroux to set up Morgan for a perfectly placed roller into the far post.
The second half saw the introduction of Isabel Farrell, a surprise addition to the Sounders Women, but one with a serious resume. She's a high school senior who's already played for multiple youth national teams and will be joining the UW this fall. And Seattle continued to dominate possession and chances, but without the end result.
Morgan subbed out at around the 60th minute and Seattle started getting fewer chances in the box, but about 10 minutes later Husky alum and Mexican national player Veronica Perez launched a 20 yard shot into the SPU goal and it was 3-0. That opened the floodgates and Seattle scored the 4th a few minutes later where Kara Kuttler knocked in a rebound off of a Leroux shot. And the 5th came 10 minutes later from Victoria Frederick, a few minutes after Hope Solo was subbed off to roaring applause.
Solo was much appreciated, but she had little to do. I was reminded of national team games against some of the smaller CONCACAF nations, where Solo's main job is to organize the team and stay focused through 10 or 15 minute periods of not touching the ball. Fellow national team player Stephanie Cox helped to keep her bored with solid defensive play at left back.
And I would be remiss in not pointing out some impressive play from the SPU Falcons. Megan Lindsey is a tall, skilled forward and she won a few duels with Seattle defenders. What chances SPU did have usually came through her. And even more impressive was Sophomore keeper Natalie Harold, who came on in the second half. At only 5'3" she's small for the position, but after watching her play you can see why no one would dissuade her from keeping goal. She had tremendous reflexes and athleticism and if it weren't for a series of saves the Falcons could have easily given up 3 or 4 more goals in the half.
In the end a big win over a Division 2 college side wouldn't mean much by itself. But this one meant something, both for the display the crowd put on to demonstrate that this region is able and deserving of the chance to support a pro women's soccer team, and for the display on the pitch of some of the greatest female players in the world, who now play in the Rave Green.