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Seattle Seeing Red

Sounders anecdotal history of being sent off answers to questions such as fastest exits, 1st coach to go and those never to be seen again.

Real Salt Lake v Seattle Sounders
Your all-time leader in ejections? If you answer Zach Scott, you’re only half-right.
Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

What’s been Rave and white and red all over? Ah, that would describe the inauspicious start to the Sounders’ MLS season so far.

Two games, two red cards; no goals, no points. Even for historically slow-starting Seattle, this is a bit unsavory for the faithful. But when referees are showing cards, might as well go all-in. In other words, let’s dive in to an anecdotal history of notable Sounders walks of shame.

First Impressions

In the beginning, there was Dave D’Errico. Seven games into the original Sounders’ existence and, personally, just his second appearance, top draft pick D’Errico decked Toronto’s Gene Strenicer. It did not go undetected. While D’Errico sat in the locker room, Davey Butler scored late to give 10-man Seattle the road victory.

Newly-imported from England, Tommy Jenkins was billed as an elegant playmaker to support Geoff Hurst. Yet when the pair debuted in 1976 at St. Louis, Jenkins introduced himself to the NASL by getting stuck-in, way in. He saw red then, but never again in his four seasons. Three other openers were marked excessive force, most recently Tony Alfaro’s double yellow versus LAFC.

Early? You want an early shower? Leo Gonzalez had barely broken a sweat in Columbus before his seventh-minute sending off in 2013. You probably don’t remember that; instead that game is best known for Eddie Johnson’s winner, celebrated by his ‘show-me-the-money’ mime.

In 2000, Chad Brown didn’t make it seven minutes. In the 86th minute, with the Sounders already leading Tennessee, 5-1, Brown no sooner stepped between the lines as a substitute when he crossed another. Sandy Hunt went to her pocket three minutes later and Brown was out.

Bringing Out the Worst

It may surprise some that the Seattle-Portland rivalry ran for nearly 10 seasons before it yielded the first red for either side. FC Seattle’s Dennis Gunnell and Ezam Bayan first tussled, then were both ejected for their second caution in a 1986 Western Soccer League draw in Renton.

Vancouver, on the other hand, boiled over beginning in 1977, with four ejections in the NASL era and 18 overall going into 2018. Of course, there have been more opportunities. Viet Nguyen made the most of his; in 2002 the Whitecaps and Sounders met six times with Nguyen sent off in three of them. He, Gonzalez (2010) and James Riley (2009) hold the single season high of three reds.

Outside of Cascadia and L.A. (a combined 14 against various entities), Montreal brought out the worst. Le rouge has been shown to Seattle 12 times. Oddly, Dallas rounds out the top five (8).

Perhaps it’s coincidental, but Sounders strikers and referee Chris Penso are a combustible combination. Penso delivered Obafemi Martins a pair of reds in 2014 and Clint Dempsey in 2017 and this season. Ricardo Salazar has pulled red from his pocket eight times on Seattle.

Oops, Did It Again

Three individuals share the distinction of being red-carded in consecutive appearances. For Kieran Barton that happened in just three days; an Open Cup ejection leading to more of the same in the next A-League match. The first back-to-backs reds were dealt to Dion Earl in 1997, and the most recent to Zach Scott in 2013.

Not only is Scott Seattle’s all-time leader in appearances (353), his seven sendoffs are unsurpassed. Leighton O’Brien shares that mark, and Brown is next with five.

Bench personnel are not immune to banishment. A couple players have been sent away from the sideline. Alan Hinton had never been sent off in 19 seasons of playing and coaching. So, it was no wonder Hinton had no idea how to go about leaving the arena when ejected from a hotly-contested Seattle-L.A. match in 1980.

First, Hinton took a seat in the Kingdome’s front row. Referee Robert Evans then sent a security official to escort Hinton to the tunnel. With 80 minutes still remaining in the game, Hinton hastened his way up to the press box, where he used a telephone to communicate with the bench. He so enjoyed the elevated view that from then on, Hinton watched the first half of games from press row. Unfortunately for Rinus Michels, there’s no smoking in the press box. Otherwise the Dutch legend might’ve joined Hinton; the L.A. coach was ejected a half-hour later.

In all, four Seattle coaches, including Brian Schmetzer in 2003, have been evicted from the playing premises. In fact, Neil Megson walked the line three times. His only red as a player came on his 36th birthday.

The Red Card Wedding of the 2015 Open Cup became an instant classic, featuring three Sounders going off into the night. However, well before hashtags became a thing, Seattle saw matters dissolve in threes. In each case, like that strange affair at Starfire, the unraveling was saved for the final minutes in road losses to the Cosmos (1980), Milwaukee (2001) and the final match of the USL Era, a second leg playoff at Montreal.

Just Plain Strange

It’s hard to beat Marcus Hahnemann for his two strange, even silly, ejections. The first, back in 1995, was issued for a foul in a 1-on-1 with a Montreal attacker – during a tiebreaker shootout. Seattle wound up winning when defender James Dunn spelled Hahnemann in goal for the deciding round, forcing an errant shot. And, of course, many will recall a 2013 game at Kansas City, with Hahnemann seated on the bench when he was cited for verbal abuse of the officials. No red card was shown by referee Geoff Gamble, but Hahnemann had, in fact, been discarded. But geez, it’s not like he threw the ball at someone.

For those who think friendlies are frivolous, it’s startling how many have featured a sending off. When Guadalajara’s Universidad visited FC Seattle in 1985, none other than Brian Schmetzer made an early exit. Later that summer, former U.S. National Team captain Jeff Durgan was harshly dismissed with seconds remaining in an FC Seattle exhibition with the USMNT after exchanging shoves with then-current captain Ricky Davis.

A month later, Seattle was playing Canada when Durgan tangled with John Catliff, who fell to the ground. As he began leaving the scene, Durgan stepped on Catliff’s skull. Two days later, Durgan was released by the club. The Tacoma native and onetime Cosmos standout, then just 24, never returned to the game.

Branding Gone Wrong

Red cards have been the final act, in Seattle anyway, for a couple others. Earl was cut following his second successive red in 1997, but the most tragic turn of a star was in 1981. In 1980 Jack Brand had performed sensationally in goal for a record-breaking Sounders side. Brand posted a league-record 15 shutouts and the Canadian was voted North American Player of the Year. It was a tough act to follow.

Brand and the Sounders were hovering around .500 in July of ’81 before shocking the Cosmos away to take the Trans-Atlantic Cup, a round-robin which also included Southampton and Celtic. It seemed Seattle was gearing-up for a second-half run. But one week later, Brand went from being a hero to scapegoat. Thirteen minutes into a home game, a Dallas forward was fouled a couple yards outside the box but nevertheless awarded a penalty. An emotional Brand sprinted toward the referee and was met with a yellow. He then put his gloves on the official, effectively steering him toward conferring with his linesmen. Out came the red.

After starting 63 of 65 matches, Brand’s days as a Sounder were done. He lost his starting role for the remainder of the year, never played another minute and was then released.

End of Times

Four finals have been marred by reds. The first three (1988, 1996, 2005) were league championships that Seattle went on to win. The one exception was the 2012 U.S. Open Cup final in which Patrick Ianni was sent packing at KC.

There’s truly no age discrimination when it comes to expulsion. Miguel Montaño is the youngest card-carrying Sounders first team member to get the boot, at 19 years and 16 days. For S2, Azriel Gonzalez will be tough to beat; he was still a month shy of his 16th birthday red-carded in his 2017 debut.

At the other end of the spectrum are seemingly sage veterans who simply can’t help themselves. Dempsey’s departure in Dallas may seem harsh in retrospect, but some may be astounded a 35-year-old would prove prone to Jacori Hayes’s hand-holding.

Yet Sounders much more senior than Dempsey have been excused early. There was Kasey Keller, who led-off the MLS era with a red at age 39. Hahnemann’s bench-clearing act was at 40. But the honor of ol’ red-card codger goes to Bernie James. To his credit, James played to age 41. It was his professional foul on a Whitecaps breakaway that earned his ejection in the 2000 opener. Fittingly, Gerry Proctor, a Vancouver policeman, issued his ticket to ride.

Like any good red, the best grow better with time. If you’ve got a favorite or most memorable red, let’s have it.

Frank MacDonald is a Seattle soccer journalist and historian. This story first appeared on his website and has been republished here with his permission.

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