The long break between playoff games gave me a lot of time to reflect on this season and on the legacy of the Seattle Sounders — not only in MLS, but in my life. I’ve watched the highlights of all the past games I’ve attended, remembering that feeling of being a part of one of the best fan bases of any sport in North America. I watched “The Save” and the shootout from MLS Cup, remembering that feeling of being a fan in a pub in Tacoma as it erupted after Torres’ penalty.
As I watched the highlights of Dempsey scoring in Providence Park this July, breaking Timbers Army hearts at the death, I tried to remember: When did I fall in love with the Sounders? What was that first moment that captured my heart and never let go?
March 8, 2014: Opening Day 2014 pitted the Sounders against defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City. Scoreless going into 90+4’, Chad Barrett buried a loose ball from a yard out and I was in love. Hearing the TV announcer say, “five of the seven wins for Seattle over Kansas City in their history in second half stoppage time” made me know that it wasn’t a crush, it was love. That’s my team. A team that fights. A team that believes. A team with heart.
Last-second victories are my favorite part of any sport, and in their long and distinguished history, the Sounders have given all of us plenty of those memories.
September 12, 2014: Andy Rose scores in the 90+4’ to defeat Real Salt Lake 3-2.
May 31, 2015: Chad Barrett scores in the 90+1’ in a 2-1 victory over NYRB.
October 4, 2015: Chad Barrett scores in the 90+3’ to earn a draw against the Galaxy.
April 10, 2016: Chad Marshall scores in the 90+4’ to earn a draw against the Dynamo.
August 24, 2016: Nicolas Lodeiro scores in the 90+4’ to earn a draw against the Dynamo.
It was fitting to me, then, that I was able to witness in person Nelson Valdez’s 88’ header in the Knockout Round of the 2016 playoffs against that same Sporting Kansas City team that was there when I fell in love with the Sounders. Even with the 2016 MLS Cup resting safely in The Ninety, I can honestly say that the 2017 Sounders are my favorite incarnation of this team yet.
I’ve already mentioned Dempsey’s dagger in the heart of Timbers home fans earlier this summer. That felt so good. But there are two other matches this season that, in my eyes, epitomize this team more than any other as they fight to repeat as MLS Cup champions.
The first came on April 29 at home against the New England Revolution. Down 3-0 with just over a half-hour to play, the Sounders answered with three goals in the final 15 minutes, clawing their way back to a 3-3 draw.
The second came on July 19 when the Sounders faced DC United. I remember watching this live and feeling the momentum ratchet up in favor of the Sounders with each passing minute after Will Bruin scored in the 51’ to make it 3-1 DC. I must have watched the highlights at least 20 times already, like when MLSsoccer.com posted a list of records broken this season, referring to “an incredible surge” that “saw [the Sounders] score four goals in 27 minutes to become the first team in MLS history to ever come back and win from a three-goal deficit.”
That was the moment, more than any other, that made me believe that the Sounders were never going to give up in their quest to win this year’s Cup. At the beginning of the 2017 season, I wrote a guest piece for Minnesota United’s SB Nation page, E Pluribus Loonum. This was three matches into their debut season, which had already seen them give up 13 goals, including a 6-1 slap in the face at home against fellow expansion side Atlanta United. I drew on my personal experience as both a former soccer player and as a current Sounders fan, to let them know that for Minnesota, this year wasn’t as much about winning matches as it was about creating a long-term winning culture within the club. This is what I told them:
“In order to create a culture of winning in the land of the Loons, there is one thing that absolutely has to happen: Minnesota must gain and maintain the mindset of a winner. The mind of a winner creates the heart of a champion. And the heart of a champion is what it takes to lift trophies.”
Our Sounders have that heart. I know the players have it. I know the coaches have it. They have proved that to us for years, and they have proved it over and over again this season. That is why I love them. In his message to Sounders fans at the start of the playoffs, Brian Schmetzer, a man who is no doubt in love with this club, told us:
“We will never quit. To be a Sounder means to be a fighter, a bulldog. We don’t give up and we don’t back down. We fight for each other, and we’re built to defend, together. This Cup is ours, Seattle, and we intend to keep it that way.”
In the comments, I invite you all to share your love story. When did you first fall in love with the Sounders?