I’m new to soccer. I mean, relatively new. My best friend in high school played, and I always knew soccer players, but I didn’t pay much attention to the game. I was even living in Chicago during the World Cup and didn’t notice (kicking myself about that, trust me.) I went to my first professional game shortly after moving to Seattle. It was a friendly. A pre-MLS Beckham drew us to Qwest with our 10 month old in tow. We sat just west of ECS and had no idea who they were and referred to them as "the crazy section." It was a moment that changed things for me though. The energy, the support, it was palpable and despite trying to keep a toddler from eating popcorn off the ground, I was moved by it.
The next World Cup I was paying more attention. I learned the name Landon Donovan. I figured out what off-side meant. Well, sort of. I made the mistake of scheduling some work when the US was playing what turned out to be an important match. I went to a local Alehouse to watch the first half during my lunch and then had to go back to work at half time. I could hear the cheering and vuvuzela’s from my office 20 minutes later and I was again kicking myself for not putting soccer first that day. This prompted some single ticket attendance at a few Sounders games the following seasons, which by this time were filling more of the stadium. The ECS had grown bigger, and louder.
Fast forward and I’m 2 years of season tickets in. The first year was a bit of a blur, I didn’t know S@H existed; I didn’t even look at soundersfc.com or mlssoccer.com. Not knowing injury status, I was generally confused by lineup choices. The only players I would recognize on the street were Freddy, Mauro and Johannson. By the end of that season, however, I could follow the game and could readily get irritated by the row in front of me not watching the game. I had a scarf now, it was getting real.
This year was different. I started reading blogs pre-season. I watched every CCF game. Even one at a bar on Vashon where I thought I was going to be the only one and 4 other fans showed up. I watched the super draft. I got excited about Zavaleta. I watched Traore and Yedlinny score in that match which has given them both a place in my heart forever. I got really crazy and went to a few reserve games. I changed Clink seats and left the kid (who’s now 8) at home and got to know some really smart seat neighbors who are now good friends. I learned things. I got obsessed. I got really obsessed. I spent more time hitting "Z" on my laptop than is probably healthy. I still have a lot to learn, but I've had a lot of fun doing it.
Would I have become a fan of soccer if I lived in any other city with an MLS club? (Portland, maybe… dodged a bullet there.) I really don't think so. It wasn't soccer that fueled my obsession. It was the Sounders. It was the club, the players, the fans. It was the game day experience of taking light rail up to Pioneer Square, listening to Sound Wave, finding out the lineup in advance, and marching to the gates. It was standing in a stadium with 39,999 of my closest friends and singing: I know I am, I’m sure I am, I'm Sounders ‘til I die.