I'm Sara McNally, owner of Constellation & Co. I've been going to Sounders matches since 2010. Last fall, I joined ECS. I'd been wanting community and enjoying my occasional visits to the section. My sister Beth (Bread) and I dove in and became members during the 2015 playoffs. We started pregaming at Merchants. I found Sounders twitter (I'm @ssfcvictorylap). Kyle Shields recognized me and yelled "VICTORY LAP" and suddenly we were family. I co-founded Supporter Stories in the offseason with Adam Wygle. (It meant so much to get to celebrate winning the West next to him!) In the offseason, I attended a Tifo interest event at The 90 and got wide eyed with the possibilities. (I've had the honor and privilege of working on the Tifo design and production team this season.) I want to tell you about my year.
In January, I sat on my couch and watched the live stream of Jordan Morris signing with the Sounders. "Don't get your expectations up," pessimistic voices said. "We don't need another striker," they said. I recognized the logic, but I still got teary-eyed. Our hometown boy - rejecting other options to come home to us. A local kid fulfilling his childhood dreams. It meant something. The narrative is so very Sounders. Even on the bench, we needed a guy like that. To give us soul.
In March, we sang and danced and splashed in puddles at first practice. We laughed and hugged - happy to see each other again. The offseason isn't really that long - but we missed each other all the same. We were back. The togetherness was good. I got see my first Tifo project in action. "From the first day to the last, we are with you."
In March we also lost Obafemi Martins to China. It took the wind out of our sails. We feared the magic was gone.
Our first match of the season was a loss. Then the next. And the next. I thought, "What if we never win again?" Seriously. What if the magic really was gone? Would the fans stay home? Would Sounders twitter become a hellscape? Would the family fall apart?
But we didn't. We kept singing, kept pogoing, kept drinking, kept showing up. Between the first day and the last we weren't promised an easy road. We had to survive the bad days to get to the good stuff.
I didn't watch that midseason match against SKC. I had to work so I planned to watch it later. Later never came. It is the only match I skipped this season. I stopped believing for a moment. I'm not proud of that.
But change came fast. We said goodbye to Sigi and wondered who we'd be without him. The answer came fast. We're BRIAN SCHMETZER'S RAVE GREEN ARMY. Just like we used to be. A new day and a new chance with a familiar face. We'd forgotten or never realized that our soul runs deep - into the past, to 1974. It's alive in many people, but it's especially strong in Schmetz - the man who stuck around - diligently loving this team when he could have been elsewhere. He was patient. And he is our steward - humble, beloved.
Nico Lodeiro soon followed. A guy packed with heart and a work ethic like no one we've ever seen. He watched the matches when we were a dumpster fire and he came to us anyway. He was prepared - ready to fight and win with us. He helped us turn the tide.
In August, I broke my foot working on Tifo (and being clumsy). In the 6 weeks I wore my boot, Schmetzer's Sporthaus hosted an event. Schmetz was still "interim" then. When I met him, I told him: "If I had a vote, I'd vote for you." He signed my boot like a cast - with his signature and "H.C." for head coach. He told me it would be good luck. It was. I got to be there at the Alliance Counsel Business Meeting when he was interim no more. I got to join my brothers and sisters and give him a standing ovation. The leader we want, the leader we need.
On Saturday, I boarded #CristianRolVan with 5 members of my Sounders family and drove to Denver. We traveled through the night - myself at the wheel for the midnight to 4am shift. It was late and we'd already been in the van for 16 hours, but the eternal flame of hype got us through. We have to do hard things to see the rewards come our way. As I drove I stared into the empty dark of Wyoming with only one thing on my mind. TODAY is the day. Match day. The chance to support away for my first time. The chance to conquer the West for OUR first time. This was the moment to BELIEVE. Time to put the negative voices to bed forever. Time to be belligerently hopeful. If we don't believe 100%, how can our boys?
With ECS, in the section, the noisy world gets quiet for me. Anxiety lifts and I have a job to do. I have songs to sing, hands to clap, people to encourage and urge on, boys to scream and rally for. It's home. Even in enemy territory. It's family. It's us. It's a place where I believe that my voice will be heard and my presence makes a difference. It's a place where the things I really want feel possible.
Yesterday more than 200 of us gathered in the parking lot of Dick's Sporting Goods Park. We ate pizza (not me though, I was on lack of sleep and anxiety survival mode), hugged our friends, and waited to march. We took pictures and celebrated the insanity that was being here at all.
Yesterday we took a pizza slice shaped section of the Rapids stadium and made it our own. We were loud. We were nervous. We were winded. (Damn altitude.) The first 45 minutes were rough. But we didn't give the voices space to speak doubt. We believed. We didn't come this far to lose.
The day was a blur. These are the moments that stand out to me:
I remember Emily starting a chant of "one of us" for me and how loved it made me feel.
I remember nearly falling off the side of the stadium in surprise when Jordan Morris scored a goal and we went mental. Jordan Morris! Our hometown boy, signed at the perfect moment, coming through to bring us to victory!
I remember hugging my friends, travel buddies and perfect strangers.* (*There are no strangers wearing blue and green, only family.)
I remember seeing Zach Scott sub on. He didn't play in his "last match." Mr. Sounder knew that we weren't finished yet
I remember seeing Sara and Beth capo for their lives - bold, strong, incredible women leading us well. They make me so proud to be a Sounder.
I remember Heather coming up to hug me and Wygle in the 80-something minute. "I know you guys are so tired. But you're here! We're gonna do it!" Those words of love speak to my soul in a real way. The last year has been so hard in my personal life - but that's the answer. It's okay to be tired, but keep going. We have to keep believing that good things will happen.
I remember holding up my sister Bread's Jorstian Mordan two-pole like a beacon. For those beloved boys, but more for her - so she could see that we carried her with us. We carried you all with us.
I remember the tears. So many tears in so many eyes. Happiness and relief and amazement and joy. WE DID IT. WE WON THE WEST. WE ARE GOING TO THE CUP.
I remember seeing Roman Torres' dazzling smile first - a man who fought back from a debilitating injury this year. A man who taught our team to dance and celebrate. He deserves this so much.
I remember dancing on top of #CristianRolVan in a delirium of lack of sleep and hype and love and enthusiasm.
I remember dancing in the parking lot and swigging champagne from a passed bottle.
I remember singing Hamilton songs in Denver bars.
I remember gathering around phones in our hotel room, watching Periscope and Facebook Live video streams of our boys arriving home. Our family in Denver sent them off, and our family in Seattle welcomed them home. I was SO happy that the people at home got to celebrate and partake in this miraculous day.
I remember waking up this morning and crying again when I remembered all of this. I walked through the Denver airport just now, alone but feeling invincible. I wear our crest over my heart like a banner and a shield. You're all with me whenever I wear it. In Sounders family, you are never alone. I'm checking VICTORY instead of bags on this flight.
I'm scribbling all of this by hand in an airport and furiously typing away at my phone on a plane because I don't want to forget anything. I want to hold it all in my heart, forever. Eternal blue, forever green. Sounders til I die.
I miss my van buddies so much. But I can't wait to get my feet on damp Seattle soil again. I'm ready to hug my husband and my kid. I'm ready to paint and prepare for what's next.
WE ARE NOT FINISHED YET.
Wednesday decides our opponent and location. But we decide our destiny. The last day is coming - and despite it all, we can end it with the cup.
In a year we'd written off, positive it had nothing good to offer us - we are here. Don't stop believing. We need your heart, we need your voice.
I can not believe it's only been a year since I became a supporter. This has been my story. Now I want to read yours. I urge you to write about your year. Make your own fan post. Tell us your Schmetzer story, about your away trips, your favorite players, the times you really believed. Tell us your favorite memories, favorite matches, emotional moments, and the people who became your Sounders family this year. If you don't have Sounders family yet, this this a good time. Join a supporter group. Get the phone numbers of your seat neighbors and send hype texts. Wade into Twitter. Get involved. You won't regret it. We're saving a place for you.
We need all the hype we can possibly generate in the next 2 weeks. This is not a time for apathy, this is a time for action. Share your stories, open your arms to new family, keep the fire blazing. Find your passports just in case. We have just one more match. This is history in the making. We're going to the MLS Cup.