2013 was a year of growth and change at Sounder at Heart

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

We added about 11 regular contributors, increased our posts by about 30 percent, roughly doubled our traffic and comments ballooned by about 70 percent.

This was a big year for us. A really big year. As Dave detailed, we had some very big stories in Soundersland, from Obafemi Martins to Clint Dempsey to The Collapse. It was a year of epic ups and horrible downs, quite unlike anything we've been through in the Sounders' relatively short MLS history but probably unmatched in its extremes by any of the past 40 years.

But right now we're looking at ourselves, OK? This is mostly about us, the people that make Sounder at Heart a vital part of this Seattle soccer scene. And more than ever, that includes you, our loyal readers and commenters. So let's talk a bit about you for a second.

This year, we crossed the 4,000-member mark. We also had nearly 140,000 comments. We don't have metrics that chart the increase in commenters, but you guys made 69 percent comments than you did a year ago. Suffice it to say, those are by far the largest totals among SB Nation's MLS blogs.

What's really amazing, is that we still don't have to do a ton of moderation. Yes, we've banned a few people and tried to make our policies a bit more clearer, but by and large I tend to think that our comments sections remain civil and are often quite informative. We pride ourselves on our ability to have pleasurable disagreements, while attempting to create an environment where discussion is welcome. Judging on how many of you keep coming back, we'll assume you mostly agree. Among the changes we made was instituting a one-day waiting period for all new members. We'd like to think that has helped curtail the kind of trolling that is the result of in-the-moment rage.

In response to all of this, we've also created our own zeitgeist column. Longtime reader, but relatively new commenter McNarnia agreed to take on the Herculean task of doing a "Best of Comments" post every week and so far, I think it's been quite the success.

And, to be honest, most of what we did this year was in a response to feedback you gave us. You asked for more tactical and analytical pieces, so we went out and recruited folks like nimajneb, dc13 and Ryan Cowper that will have even more to offer you in the coming year. We'll also continue to lean on the likes of sidereal, Abbott Smith and malcontentjake.

Visually, we also made some serious improvements as we learned to harness the power of SB Nation United. Responding to your feedback, we scaled back on the way we used streams and we tried to make the layout more responsive to what was actually going on that day. We also recruited Likkitp to do more gifs and photoshop work and enlisted photographers JaneG. Photography and mikerussellfoto, who each provided regular slideshows for the Sounders and Reign.

Among the other improvements to the site were Zach Woosley stepping out from behind the Nos Audietis curtain to provide some original content. Maybe we can convince Aaron Campeau to do more of the same. Eric Flatness and Randy Meeker took our MajorLink Soccer posts to new heights, making them a daily fixture. Peter Woodburn, who we recruited to handle more of a mid-day breaking news, will also start helping out in that department. Paul Cox was brought in with the goal of giving the site better coverage of the Alliance Council and other fancentric issues. In Jackington, we finally have someone who feels comfortable covering the lighter side of the sport.

Although they aren't contributing regularly anymore, I would also like to thank Liviu Bird, Scott47a and Andrew Winner for their contributions.

The Sounder at Heart staff, which was really a one-man operation when Dave started it in 2009, saw 25 different authors post at least two stories this year. Of those, at least 20 are still actively contributing. The vast majority of them were recruited straight from our comments sections, and we're sure we'll continue to bring more aboard in the coming months and years.

Sounder at Heart also made a much more significant step toward covering the wider Seattle soccer community. We had staffers at almost every Seattle Reign and Sounders Reserves home matches, something we hope to do an even better job of next year. We also attempted to give more coverage to the U23s and Academy, more areas we hope to improve upon.

We expect 2014 to be even better and we hope to make you an even bigger part of that. At some point, Dave will be providing some of the details in that arena. But for now, let's take a step back and enjoy 2013. The Sounders may not have given us the ultimate prize, but they sure gave us plenty to talk about.

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