Imagine a world in which the Seattle Sounders were to build their own Mount Rushmore. Four faces that defined what it meant to be a Sounder and, ideally, represented the best of what we aspired to be.
This was a question the Sounder at Heart staff asked itself last week. Here are the guidelines we gave ourselves:
- First, one spot, but only one spot, would be reserved for non-players. There were no shortage of candidates we felt were worthy, but we wanted this tribute to be mostly about things that happened on the pitch.
- Then, we decided that each candidate should be primarily considered for what they contributed to the MLS version of the team. No offense to past iterations of the Sounders — and past contributions were worth weighing — but we wanted this to be representative of the current iteration.
- Finally, we wanted this to have a sense of permanence. While things may happen in the future that could influence how we feel, we wanted this monument to make sense 10, 15, even 50 years from now.
With that, here’s who the Sounder at Heart staff selected:
Sitting in for George Washington, who was originally chosen because of his role in creating our fledgling nation, Schmetzer is a perfect analogue. Not only does he perfectly bridge the gaps between the NASL, A-League, USL and MLS eras, but he is also very much of the present. Schmetzer’s .603 winning percentage is the best of any MLS head coach in history with at least three seasons of experience. Schmetzer’s two MLS Cups is also tied for the second most in league history, his 12 postseason wins ranks as the fifth most in league history, and his .765 postseason winning percentage is the best all-time. On top of all of that, he is almost impossibly easy to root for. More than just a local-boy-made-good story, he remains personable and accessible despite being deeply accomplished.
Others who were seriously considered: Adrian Hanauer, Sigi Schmid and Chris Henderson all got at least one vote from our 16-person panel. Hanauer deserves some particularly serious consideration as it was his purchase of the Sounders in 2002 that effectively started the club on its current trajectory. When he took over the team, it was saddled with millions of dollars in debt and he went about not only getting the books in order but also the on-field product. A year after finishing fifth in the seven-team Western Conference, Hanauer Sounders won the Pacific Division and more than doubled average attendance along the way. The Sounders have never missed the playoffs during Hanauer’s 18 seasons in charge of the club.
Sitting in for Thomas Jefferson, who was originally chosen in part because of his ties to the founding of the nation and also for overseeing its first major expansion, Alonso also works as a very effective analogue. Alonso starred for the Sounders in each of the club’s first 10 seasons in MLS and was here for six of the team’s seven major trophies. His tenacious defense, ball-winning ability and calm passing helped link the various phases of the game. He is undeniably one of the top defensive midfielders in league history and has a solid case to be on the league’s All-Time Best XI.
Sitting in for Teddy Roosevelt, who was originally chosen to represent the development of the country, Lodeiro is the player who best represents the Sounders’ move into the MLS elite. While the Sounders have been good from the very moment they entered the league, it wasn’t until they won their first MLS Cup in 2016 that the rest of the league could no longer deny their status as an elite team. Lodeiro, of course, led them to the final again the following year and helped win the team a second star last year. Throughout his roughly four years in Rave Green, Lodeiro has been the team’s most important offensive player. With .48 assists per game, he is currently tied for fourth all-time in MLS. His tireless work ethic makes him an easy player to love and he has the talent to go along with it.
Sitting in for Abraham Lincoln, who was originally chosen to represent the preservation of the United States, Frei was another bridge between eras (also his beard was convenient for these purposes). Frei came to the Sounders as a talented, but relatively unaccomplished goalkeeper following a very disappointing end to 2013. Frei helped lead the Sounders to a Supporters’ Shield-U.S. Open Cup double in his first season, but really emerged as more of a team leader in 2015 and beyond. By 2016, he was clearly among the top goalkeepers in the league and was the biggest reason the Sounders won MLS Cup that year, taking home MVP honors. Since then, he’s established himself as both a fan favorite and an elite player at his position, regularly ranking among the best statistically. His record in the playoffs is particularly impressive, as he’s fourth all-time in postseason wins (14) and shutouts (9), while maintaining a winning percentage (.696) that’s second best all-time among goalkeepers with at least 10 appearances. That he now has a second MLS Cup trophy only cements his standing.
Other players considered: Chad Marshall came the closest to making our list, but was edged out by Frei. Brad Evans and Clint Dempsey also each received multiple votes. If we had more explicitly decided to consider the other Sounders eras, I suspect Zach Scott would have received more than one vote.
Marshall’s case for inclusion was particularly strong. Aside from becoming the only Sounders player to win Defensive Player of the Year (2014), he’s also the only Seattle player to be named to Best XI twice (2014, 2018). Throughout his six-plus seasons in Seattle, Marshall was an elite-level defender and he’ll go down in history as arguably the best centerback to ever play in MLS.
Now comes the fun part. Did we get it right? Should we have changed our criteria? Let us know and feel free to fill out your own ballot. We’ll share those results later in the week.
UPDATE: You all agreed with us.