In their ninth MLS season, the Seattle Sounders have no shortage of examples of playing against their own. They’ve faced former Designated Players, former captains, local products and fan favorites. They’ve even faced former teammates who joined big rivals.
Yet facing a player like Fredy Montero — as they’ll do on Friday — feels somehow different. Not only is Montero still the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (during the MLS era), but he’s a former Designated Player who put down roots in the area, still has family here and became a fan favorite. Oh, and he now plays for one of the Sounders’ biggest rivals.
That got us thinking about the five most memorable showdowns against former Sounders. This is our list:
5. Sebastien Le Toux on June 27, 2010
This was the first time the Sounders ever faced one of their former players. Le Toux had starred for the USL Sounders in 2007-08, scoring 24 goals, before becoming the first player to sign to the MLS team. But he was mostly used off the bench in 2009 and was weirdly left exposed in the Expansion Draft. The Philadelphia Union pounced and he enjoyed a breakout season, with 14 goals and 11 assists (still his best MLS campaign to date). When the Sounders came to town in early summer of 2010, Le Toux was in the middle of a 3-1 thrashing, adding a goal and an assist.
4. Mauro Rosales on Nov. 6, 2016
There probably isn’t a former Sounders who’s faced us more times than Rosales (seven times, including playoffs), as he’s played exclusively for Western Conference teams since being allowed to leave following the 2013 season. But the most memorable of those meetings was the last one, as he was tasked with filling in for Maura Diaz and trying to get FC Dallas out of a 3-0 hole in the Western Conference finals. Rosales contributed an assist and helped Dallas win the game 2-1, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Sounders from getting to their first MLS Cup.
3. Steve Zakuani on July 13, 2014
You wouldn't expect a Portland Timbers player to be cheered when he was introduced at CenturyLink Field, but that's what happened when Zakuani's name was read the first time he faced the Sounders. Maybe it helped that he wasn't having a great season and the Sounders were on their way to the Supporters' Shield; whatever it was, Zakuani was welcomed by some genuine applause. The Sounders eventually won the game 2-0, which didn’t hurt either.
2. Freddie Ljungberg on Aug. 28, 2010
The circumstances surrounding Ljungberg’s departure were kinda weird, at least to a relatively naive fan base. In any case, after being the team’s big star in 2009, he was traded about midway through the 2010 campaign and was in town in late August as an opponent. The Fire were playing well and the Sounders were in the midst of a late-season surge. The Fire jumped out to an early lead, but a pair of goals by Montero sent the Sounders to a 2-1 victory.
1. Eriq Zavaleta on Dec. 10, 2016
Although Zavaleta only made five largely unmemorable appearances for the Sounders before being traded to Toronto FC, this meeting gets the No. 1 spot simply because of the circumstances. After a slow start, Zavaleta eventually worked himself into the starting center back role for TFC and played a significant role in helping them advance to last year’s MLS Cup final. Zavaleta was steady and helped keep the Sounders without a single shot on target during the 120-minute affair, but couldn’t keep his former team from winning the title in penalties.