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From the Endlines: Saying goodbye to heroes and legends

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Father Time eventually wins

Sometimes, you need to take a moment away from the game to capture a legend
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

There’s a saying in sports which, unfortunately, rings true: Father Time is undefeated. I have the privilege of being on the sidelines for most of the games, giving me an opportunity that most others do not: to get up close and personal.

Photographing legends who play on other teams is a perk, no doubt, but I still have a job to do. Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Kaká, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Landon Donovan — the list goes on. I always make sure to get one or two photos, but I’m usually so dialed into the game that there’s no time to think about sentimental stuff. Recently, Tim Howard came to town with the Rapids and, knowing that this was likely the last chance for me to photograph him, I took the time normally reserved for quick edits to get a few photos of him in our house.

I have a soft spot for Howard: last September, after a 4-0 trouncing (in our favor), he hopped out of an Uber downtown and ran into Ebbets Field Flannels, which is next to an ECS bar, obviously in a rush. As he re-appeared, a bunch of supporters called out to him (in a friendly way), to which he stopped, turned, smiled and waved before hopping back into the car. A small gesture, but still an important one which speaks to the type of individual he is.

Sports careers are short. Lost in the weekly grind with comparatively minor stories and recaps is the reminder that there are limited opportunities to photograph the best, at their best. I never had the chance to shoot Ichiro on the field, but I’m blessed to have experienced others. In a storybook ending, the last photo of a hero would be as they’re about to walk down the tunnel, looking back and saluting the crowd. In reality, things aren’t settled until well into the off-season, so it’s impossible to know when a photo of someone may be the last.

It’s odd how often I don’t recognize it’s the end of the line when I snap certain photos. Here are some of my last with a few select players, along with some other fun ones that happened along the way.

Clint Dempsey

I wish I knew he was going opt to go out Griffey style; I think we all do. While it was pretty obvious that last season would be his last, there was intrigue how well he could work with Ruidiaz and perhaps see a bit of a resurgence.

This photo was from his second to last game at home, a late volley against the Chicago Fire. It’s a very good photo, but would have been legendary had it gone in. He did score his last career goal in that game, though.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Never afraid to talk a little trash to the opponents (in his own way), his celebration against Chivas was quintessential Clint.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Despite him being a man of few words, he was very polite in the few times I interacted with him. I once asked him what this celebration meant after scoring against Portland.

“I could smell the goal.”

Max Aquino Photography

Ozzie Alonso

Ozzie’s not retired by any stretch of the imagination, but he’s no longer wearing the Rave Green week in and week out. Like many others, once it was confirmed that Goose was coming back, I assumed he’d move on but had hoped he’d stay. However, he’s doing well in Minnesota, which is good for both him and MLS players in general (helping pioneer free agency). If anyone’s going to Honey Badger Father Time, it’s him.

My last few photos of him in Rave green were... well, they were boring. Standard stock photos of him dribbling or passing. Instead of posting any of those, it’s more fun to review the shots which demonstrate his passion and intensity, which is why he is El Corazón. He may not be an international superstar, but there’s a reason his photo is easily the most commonly requested.

September 1, 2018 vs Kansas City - Probably my last non-generic photo of our resident Honey Badger.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart
Effort and passion make for great photographs
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart
...as do iconic moments, as Alonso completes the thrilling comeback against New England in 2017.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Wonder Brad

Speaking of passion, Brad Evans is never short of it. He was the consummate workhorse, shifting positions commonly to best help the team until his body started letting him down. Intensity makes for great photographs — my last photo of him on the field for the Sounders was appropriate to sum up his passion and frustration being let out at once.

Evans scoring the second goal on Seattle’s 4-3 comeback over DC United
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Sigi Schmid

There are two stories of my interactions with Sigi that I would like to share.

In 2016, before signing on with Sounder at Heart, I traveled to Mexico to cover the CCL quarterfinal against Club America — my first away trip. Being one of two USA media members to make the trip, my editor told me to request a brief interview with Sigi after the Mexican media had a turn, despite me only being a photographer, which was surprisingly granted by the Sounders front office.

However, the Mexican media was insane — he got pressed against the backdrop as the reporters jostled for position and threw rapid questions at him, often not waiting for him to finish his thought before yelling out the next question. As he finally broke free of the throng, the Sounders representative remembered about me and drug him over, still obviously rattled. Had I been more experienced (only having done one interview in my life) I would have recognized that it should wait, but he signaled me to walk with him (reporters were following). We made it halfway through one question before they caught up with us and he broke off to escape the mayhem.

About a month later, back in Seattle, I ran into him and his wife, Valerie at another event. What surprised me was that he remembered me before I even had a chance to introduce myself. He was extremely apologetic, which was a bit odd because I was trying to apologize to him for not reading the situation correctly. After a good laugh, we talked for a bit and he regaled us with some stories about some of his younger coaching days (including being so upset about a performance that he tipped over a bench in the locker room before the team left the field, causing the team to think someone had broken in and vandalized it during the game). He asked about my photography, which I showed him some of the photos I had taken of him over the years and Valerie offered to buy from me (I’m not allowed to sell, per MLS policy, but I made sure the photos got sent to them through the Sounders media team).

I really wish I knew these would be the last two photos I’d be able to take of Sigi. Everyone knows how badly he wanted to bring the MLS Cup to Seattle and how hurt he was to be removed from his post, regardless of how it all eventually worked out. He was always a class act, passionate about the club, and passionate about our city.

Sigi Schmid with coach Schmetzer in the background during LA’s final visit to Seattle last year.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart
His love for the club and city can never be doubted.
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

Felix Hernandez

You didn’t think this would only be about soccer, did you?

There’s no doubt that King Felix is wearing down. In the final year of his contract with the Mariners, there are a lot of questions to his future. Will he stay in the rotation? Will he find and embrace a new role? Will he sign somewhere else next season? Will he retire?

Baseball is a sport I don’t get to cover often but has been part of my life since I was little. My aunt even bought me a Mariners shirt in the early 90’s that said, “They may suck but they’re still my favorite team” that I wore proudly until it got too small. Photographing Hernandez has always been on my wish list, so I jumped on the chance last season when the opportunity presented itself (h/t Jose Moreno).

He may never be vintage Felix again, but we should all take the time to enjoy what could be his last in a Mariners uniform.

If this turns out to be my last photo of The King, it’s a good one to end on
Max Aquino Photography

One more

Even when remaining objective and neutral(ish), I still have my favorites and I would be remiss if I neglected to mention Taylor Hallquist.

When working with high school or college athletes, there is generally a four year shelf-life. With Taylor, I had the privilege of consistently covering her games for seven. She was part of the original Columbia River High School state championship team I covered in 2012 (coincidentally, my first ever official assignment) and also started for four years at Western Washington University, being part of the magical National Championship run of 2016. While she was good enough to go D1, I’m glad she stayed local and helped create the legacy that the Viking’s women’s team has become.

Graduation is not the end of a story, merely the end of a chapter. Taylor’s moving on to bigger and better things in life, but it’s going to be very weird not seeing No. 19 locking down the entire right side of the field or hanging out and talking with her and her parents after games and on road trips.

I’ll let the captions speak for me.

From the first year...
...to the last...
...it has been a privilege and a pleasure.