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A year in the booth

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In 2018 I turned into a broadcaster again, thanks to Sounders FC 2.

Max Aquino

Over the past season I was part of the broadcast team for Seattle Sounders FC 2. Fifteen-and-a-half matches saw me in the role as an analyst (I missed one to spend with my brother-in-law and the #SaH10 event made it difficult as we tested the ability for me to do things on a wireless). When Creative Director Casey Catherwood approached me about the role I explained I had produced play-by-play (Sonics, Storm, Cougars), but never been part of it. I was, and remain, scared.

Catherwood pushed me to expand my abilities, to test myself, and most of all to be me. I think I did all of that. I’m certain I enjoyed the experience and learned more about soccer in this year as an analyst than any other time of my life. Working with Andrew Harvey, James Riley, Adamy Wygle and a host of support staff was a blast.

Always be a good sport; be a good sport always — Bob Robertson
Dave Clark

My matchday preparations start a few days before the game. I read as much as I can about the other team. I would often call a couple former Sounders. I would attend practices as frequently as practical with my full-time job. I would watch highlights and/or full tape of the opposition. If the team is covered by a different SB Nation blog I would contact that blog.

Each match has a couple pages of notes and stats I would collect. Building these was as much about making certain I knew what to say as they were about assuring that I established a process towards learning about the USL’s Western Conference. That pitch black notebook will be used again next year, inshallah.

Process became quite important to me. I wasn’t going to lose my way for a lack of trying. There were times I made errors (hello Adrian Vera), but not for a lack of preparation.

Process also became a way to remind myself to be me. I didn’t want to be a typical broadcaster. That wasn’t what Catherwood wanted, and it wouldn’t suit me. I needed my other loves to bleed into the game. They often didn’t, I think confidence kept me from using D&D, beer, sci-fi and other references. I did pull off an “enemy’s goal is down” during one pregame.

Dave Clark

One thing that became habit was to ditch the suit. Often I would have Sounder at Heart t-shirts on underneath a more casual outfit. I would wear a Sounder at Heart scarf. I took a few charms to remind me of me — 2 d20s, a compass rose, a sturdy pen, my d20 hat and a Hope Shield from Wyrmwood.

The laptop, the blue HP Stream 13 that was once a generous gift from readers, was always present. It was open to a few pages for every game — the SaH Depth Chart, the soccerway.com page for each team and the USL matchday page.

And then with all these preparations, processes, tokens, etc around me and a headset on with Wygle counting down to live mics the chaos of live broadcasting began. All the notes and ideas disappeared. The match took over. Because S2 and the opponent was why people were watching.

The game changes everything. Several dozen players for S2 Tacoma determined more about what I would say than any book, movie or personal story I wanted to tell. It was their team, and the team for the people of the South Sound.

But there was a bit of my identity there. My knowledge of Academy histories bled into most matches. Years worth of conversations with Sawatzky, Nicols, Henderson, Lagerwey, Webber, Hanauer and more would be condensed into a dozen words.

There are a few memories that will stick with me for life. The come-from-behind 4-4 draw will be one of those. That match, and even the final match of the season, showed me that no matter how out-gunned the young S2 squad was they weren’t going to give up.

The shift to the 3-4-2-1 was a ton of fun. It pushed the fullbacks into wingback roles. Denso Ulysse, Ibrahim Usman and Nick Hinds are all better wingbacks than fullbacks.

Calling Azriel Gonzalez first goal sticks as well. My voice is on that highlight. He was 16 when he scored and I made a reference to me working at Dairy Queen at his age.

Mostly what I’ll remember, because I’m a writer with typical writer problems, is that group of fans that showered me with respect and praise. Any confidence I lacked in myself, they had in me. My customers in my beer job even started watching and talking to me about my success.

Doubt is a funny thing. It can eat at you. I haven’t figured out how to remove that doubt. It may be why I have a distinct routine to matchday preparation.

But there are people who wouldn’t let me doubt myself. I’m not going to list them, outside of Catherwood, Wygle, and Harvey. Whether on social media or on the concourse during matchday I wasn’t allowed to doubt myself. You opened your hearts and hopes to me, and maybe there was a bit of pride that one of us (a fan) grew into this role.

I’m sad the season is over. There’s exciting times in S2 Tacoma land. There’s a new brand coming, something that I’m certain will resonate better with the local community. There’s a stadium plan that could be announced any day.

Most importantly there’s a group of kids that are going to be back with the pride of crest and the personal ambition for a better season in 2019. Many of them will have dozens of USL appearances under their belt already. They learned some rough lessons in 2018.

I have no idea who is coming back. I probably wouldn’t be able to tell you.

I know that S2 is no longer a roster churn machine. I’m hoping it won’t be a broadcasting churn anymore either.

It was my honor to be a voice of and for the fans of the South Sound’s professional outdoor soccer team, no matter what it will be called in coming years. If I have my way I’ll be a part of the past and the future.