They did it! The Sounders won the Supporter's Shield! Now that we've had a few days for this revelation to settle into our minds, it's still pretty damn cool. I was lucky enough to go to the game on Saturday pitting the first place Seattle Sounders against the not-first-place LA Galaxy.
In terms of experiences, that game slots into the top three best home games ever, right up there with Kasey Keller's final home game against San Jose Earthquakes, famous for his quad-save sequence and two late Seattle goals to steal the win, and the 2011 US Open Cup Final against Chicago Fire, where fans everywhere collectively lost their shit when Osvaldo Alonso scored in the 96th minute.
Where you place Saturday's final regular season game in the pantheon of "best ever" Sounders games is up to you, but the yell I released when Marco Pappa scored his first goal was cathartic. It released all the angst I've felt following this team, not just from this year, but from years past (I'm looking at you, 2013). It was the "we finally did it" yell, a deep throated roar reserved for those moments when we lose ourselves in our passions. I hugged a stranger.
Before the home-and-home series with LA to close out the season, I was saying privately that if Seattle couldn't beat the Galaxy, they didn't deserve to win the Supporter's Shield. This was a defense mechanism, preemptively hedging my bets, rationalizing why Seattle wouldn't win, that way my world wouldn't be devastated would such a reality come to pass. But Seattle beat LA. Sigi Schmid outcoached Bruce Arena. Should both Seattle and LA advance to the Western Conference Finals, it'd be another home-and-home series, in LA first, second in Seattle. Just like the dance we just danced. Just like the one Seattle just won 4-2 aggregate against the team that had the second best Goal Differential in MLS history. To note, the Galaxy could've had the best ever Goal Differential if it wasn't for Seattle and these past two games. In fact, after Seattle's loss to potential playoff opponent Vancouver Whitecaps, the Galaxy were even on points with a game in hand, and how did they finish their season? They picked up 1 point in 3 games.
So what goals did you have for the Sounders coming into this 2014 season? Conveniently, this magnificent site of ours has a Full Archives. The readers were polled in a preseason 2014 Season Preview. You should check that out, it's pretty cool. But for those of you who are reluctant to click links, I'll just say that some of the writers are good at predictions, as are some of the readers.
For those who don't want to do math, that's 73% of people who predicted the Sounders would win at least one trophy, but the Sounders have won two and they're sitting pretty for a third. Two trophies. CCL Qualification with a Pot A berth. Record number of Wins. Record number of Points. Record number of Goals. Record number of cathartic yells.
Here's a fun little comment in that thread I thought proved more prophetic than originally intended:
Though the reluctance people had in voting with confidence for Seattle was mostly due to Portland. People thought Portland would be the stiffest competition in the West. They improved in the offseason, they were actually unlucky in 2013 despite their first in the West finish, Porter is a whatever positive term I can't come up with, etc. But not everybody was convinced:
In my opinion, the thing that separated 2014's Sounders from the rest of the league wasn't just their talent, which was immense, but their willingness to lose games. One look at the table shows that Seattle lost 10 games this season. That's as many as Chicago Fire lost, who earned 36 points in 2014. But what Seattle did differently is they put games on the line. Late in games, knowing they could settle for a point, Seattle pushed again and again for the win, which also leaves a team susceptible for late goals against. But let's think on this mathematically: you have two games, both are tied 0-0 with 10 minutes left. In one reality you bunker in and settle for the draw, which you succeed both times. 2 points. In the other reality you push for a goal late, one time you score, the other game you give up a goal on the counter. One win, one loss. 3 points. Do this 17 times in a season you could be 0-0-34 for 34 points, or you could be 17-17-0 for 51 points. Or to put it in terms of how teams did this season, you could be Sporting Kansas City, or you could be the now-extinct Chivas USA.
As Jeremiah pointed out, as a result of their late push tendencies, the Sounders picked up 17 points this season after the 80th minute. Their only late-game blemish this season came in the Alan Kelly-aided loss against Columbus Crew, which was pretty bullshitty. But do you know what's fun to do now? You take all those losses that hurt this season, the 5-0 embarrassment against New England Revolution, the 4-1 letdown against New York Red Bulls, the reintroduction for Pappa into MLS 2-1 loss against Toronto FC, 3-0 against LA, the recent Vancouver bunker of death 1-0, none of those matter. Not a single one makes any difference. They're all vindicated by that one gorgeous Shield that Seattle won. That was fun. Let's get one more.
Big game against LA. Again.
Gonna be a big clash today between heavyweights.
I'm so ready for this.
Wait, they're not playing Keane?
That certainly makes me happy.
Now I wonder how Landon's approaching this final game of his.
Not quite a back and forth affair. It's odd.
This game is getting testy.
I get the impression these two teams don't like each other.
Just, whatever you do Seattle, don't lose!
I really don't like Sarvas or Gargan.
We're gonna win the Shield!
Oh. My. God. Pappa.
Did I really see what I think I saw?
We won the Shield. I can't believe it. We won the Shield!
Ohhhh yeah, baby.
Time to celebrate.
Damn it feels good to be a Sounder.
Hey, Arena, good call on keeping Keane out of the lineup.
Did ya want that Shield, Galaxy? Did ya?
I bet it feels extra nice that Portland didn't make the playoffs.