Sounders with Roger Davies and Alan Hinton - photo courtesy of Frank MacDonald
Prior to the Seattle Sounders v Chelsea FC friendly NASL Sounder Roger Davies will be awarded the Golden Scarf. The scarf is now awarded on a much more limited basis than previous years, but there is little doubt that Davies deserves the recognition of his importance to Seattle's soccer history. This guest post is to provide those that missed his greatness with a reminder of just how much he meant to the Sounders.
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By Frank MacDonald
It was the most magical of seasons, and the face of the sensational 1980 Sounders was unquestionably Roger Davies.
If you were among the throngs converging on the Kingdome for matches that summer, that huge Davies smile-flashed again and again-remains unforgettable. Find a Seattle soccer fan, even a casual one, circa 1980, and they will have a certain moment or a player trait seared into their psyche.
Those Sounders, in 21st Century terms, were comparable to the 2001 Mariners. A record-setting side with no real superstars. Just a special team, full of strong, hard-working players whose game, all at once, came to a collective boil.
Of 32 games they won an NASL-record 25 times. The attack was relentless (2.3 goals per game) and solid along the back (15 clean sheets). All that was missing was the cherry on top: the trip to, and triumph in, the championship game.
This week Davies and his wife Liz have returned to Seattle from their home in Derbyshire, England. Prior to the Chelsea friendly -- on the same plot of earth where some 30 years ago he helped raise the Dome roof -- Roger will raise the Golden Scarf.
To be recognized for his feats a generation later is not lost on Davies. He has thoroughly enjoyed his return to Seattle, visiting and re-connecting with friends, former teammates and a city that has grown-up while he was gone.
No member of the Sounders FC family is more pleased for Davies to have his day than Alan Hinton. Soon after being hired by Seattle, Hinton began molding a side to suit his fearless attacking style.
His first move was a trade with Tulsa. He acquired Davies and defender David Nish, two of his former Derby County teammates who had won the English top tier (now Premier League) title in 1972. Two more ex-Rams-Bruce Rioch and Jeff Bourne-would arrive later in 1980.
The squad jelled quickly, starting off 13-1, and soon was playing like a symphony. It was a very, very skillful side. Alan Hudson and Steve Buttle could carve up defenses via the pass, long or short, while Tommy Hutchison ran foes ragged on the wing. Up front Mark Peterson and Davies would often deal the final blow.
At first glance Davies looked the typical target man, yet he was much more. He was a five-tool guy. A broad-shouldered 6-foot-2, No. 8 could hold the ball while numbers arrived. Displaying a deft touch, he could do more than simply lay the ball off. He might tease his defender by juggling on his thigh before flicking it on, or turn and
use his tight control to break free on his own.
Best of all, he could strike on goal with his head or either foot. His performance versus Rochester was the perfect illustration: four goals and an assist, his first score coming off his head, the next from his right boot and the final two from his left. His exclamation point came on viciously curled drive from the top of the box.
Along the victory lap that night, a fan tossed Davies his brown corduroy cap to mark the occasion of his hat trick. It's a headpiece which still holds a place amongst his personal trophies, such as a league winner's medal and awards for NASL and Belgium player of the year.
Davies did it all, and he did so while playing on tender feet. His boots were slit on the side to relieve pressure on the swollen pods. He often got an injection before matches and finished virtually numb. And the turf back in those days was unforgiving.
As the crowd roared Davies celebrated with a gallop away from goal and a mile-wide smile. He was full of joy and the perfect centerpiece for the Sounders, finishing with 25 goals, plus 11 assists, in 29 matches. It's a total that in the decades since, no Seattle player has threatened.
Injuries would limit his production the next two seasons. Still Davies made his mark. In the Trans-Atlantic Cup final, he dropped into midfield to neutralize Cosmos playmaker Vladislav Bogicevic. In the second leg of the 1982 semifinals, he brought the lads back from the brink in Fort Lauderdale, scoring twice off the bench - including an 89th-minute equalizer - and setting-up the overtime winner.
Players and coaches often speak of doing the necessary preparation and work within a match to reap success, or as they say, find joy. Davies and his mates may have never claimed the ultimate prize, the championship, they so much wanted to share with Sounders fans. Yet with his gigantic grin, with the vivacious play of him
and his mates, Davies certainly delivered tons of joy.
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Frank McDonald's involvement with Seattle area professional and collegiate sports goes back over 30 years as journalist and media relations professional. He was a season ticket holder for the 1980 Sounders and later joined the NASL team PR staff before moving to Seattle Pacific University. He returned to soccer with the start of Sounders FC in 2007 and served as communications director the first three seasons.