Editor’s note: This is a guest column as Sounder at Heart looks to amplify a variety of community voices in the run-up to MLS Cup. Joe Veyera is a local journalist and editor at Seattle-based breaking news technology company Factal.
If you’ve spent any length of time as a Seattle sports fan, you know this isn’t normal.
Conference titles, championship games, these are achievements celebrated elsewhere.
And when fate does smile down upon us, success is fleeting.
The 1995-96 Sonics ran into the buzzsaw of the Jordan-era Bulls. The 2001 Mariners hold the record for most regular-season wins, but fell short of the World Series. We’re now nearly seven years removed from Super Bowl XLVIII, and Russell Wilson still has just one ring.
We’ve seen local icons — think Edgar Martinez and Steve Largent — play entire outstanding careers in front us, only to never reach their sport’s biggest stage, while others like Gary Payton and Shaun Alexander fell short once they got there in a Seattle uniform.
Title talk, much less dynasty talk, has often been little more than wishful thinking.
So as they prepare for their fourth MLS Cup appearance in the past five seasons, there’s no question the Sounders are in rare company among their Emerald City peers.
But as head coach Brian Schmetzer alluded to earlier this week, they’ll have to hoist another trophy or two to keep pace with the standard bearers of Northwest sports success.
With four WNBA titles to their name — two in the last three seasons — the Storm stand alone at the top. Perhaps even more impressive, they’ve won their last 11 WNBA Finals games, dating back to their first championship in 2004.
But even with that astounding streak of victories, the championships have come over a period of more than 15 years. That’s a testament to an organization that has put a consistent winner on the court year in and year out, but it still doesn’t quite capture what the Sounders have done in the playoffs since 2016.
In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a match to their five-year stretch of deep postseason runs, no matter where you look on the local sporting landscape.
The Seawolves warrant mention for their back-to-back titles as a member of the upstart Major League Rugby, as do OL Reign for their pair of NWSL Shields (and Finals losses) in 2014 and 2015, but as for long-term success, neither quite hit the mark.
The mid-decade Seahawks and their back-to-back Super Bowl appearances are in the discussion, but that period from 2012 to 2016 came alongside three divisional round exits. The Sonics of the late 1970s merit consideration for their consecutive NBA Finals berths, but a conference finals loss in 1980 capped an all-too-brief three-year run, while the high-flying teams of the 1990s fared little better at season’s end. The Mariners managed to pack all four of their playoff appearances to date into a seven-year span, with nary a title to show for it.
The stuff of legend, our trophy cases traditionally are not.
By punching their ticket to the league title game with Monday’s frenetic comeback, the Sounders have already done something those three teams haven’t in their 40-plus: Make a fourth championship appearance.
Admittedly, this is a franchise that has already made reaching the playoffs routine, an expectation more than an achievement. A year that ends with the conclusion of the regular season would be a crushing disappointment, if not an affront to a fanbase that demands the best.
But to time and again play for the league’s top prize — Supporters’ Shield not withstanding — is a feat not to be taken for granted.
We know all too well how fickle the moments at the peak can be.