Inspired by Matt Doyle’s post on MLSsoccer.com that looks at the most important goals in MLS history — on which the Sounders got two mentions — I wanted to drill a bit more into our history.
Limiting ourselves to the MLS era — because that’s what we know best — the Sounder at Heart team came up with a list of 10 goals that all had a reasonably good shout. But we wanted to leave it up to you to see which ones you think were the most important.
First, a few parameters: We didn’t consider Román Torres’ penalty in the 2016 MLS Cup final because it’s not technically a goal. We also limited ourselves to just one goal from any specific game and didn’t want to include more than two goals from any one season.
Here they are in chronological order:
Fredy’s strike in the MLS Opener
This was the goal that got the most prominent mention in Doyle’s column and for good reason. It is also the only goal on this list that is honored every Sounders game when ECS sings “Roll on Columbia” in the 12th minute. I think you can reasonably argue that much of the Sounders’ trajectory would have been the same without this goal, but it is definitely symbolic of where they’ve gone since. That it came from a young South American import at a time when such players were not commonplace in the league only serves to increase the symbolism.
If there’s one goal that tends to live in Sounders lore, it’s the one Roger Levesque scored just 48 seconds into the U.S. Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers during that inaugural season. The goal itself is pretty good, Levesque heads in a wonderful left-footed cross from Sanna Nyassi. But let’s be honest, the celebration is why it’s on here as Nate Jaqua “chops down” Levesque. The goal also started the Sounders on their journey to their first of three straight Open Cup titles and four straight title games.
Alvaro’s goal in El Salvador
In the annals of Sounders history, there are few goals more obscure than this one. On Aug. 3, 2010, the Sounders went to El Salvador for the second leg of their Concacaf Champions League qualifier against Isidro Metapan. The stadium was almost empty, the game was only broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel and many Sounders fans probably even didn’t realize it was being played. The Sounders had won the first leg on a somewhat fluky Fredy Montero goal, but found themselves tied on aggregate heading into the 74th minute and needing a goal to avoid overtime on the road on a mud-filled field. Enter newly acquired Alvaro Fernandez, who promptly headed in a James Riley cross to seal the victory and send the Sounders to their first-ever CCL group stage.
Mario Martinez delivers in playoffs
With two MLS Cups and three trips to the finals in the last four years, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the first few years of the Sounders’ MLS existence was at least partly defined by their playoff failures. Coming into the 2012 Western Conference semifinals against Real Salt Lake, the Sounders had never advanced from a playoff round. After tying the first leg 0-0, they headed into the final 10 minutes of the second leg in desperate need of a goal. They found one from an unlikely source: Mario Martinez. It was a gorgeous goal — a volley from a wonderful Montero pass that somehow beat Nick Rimando to the far post — that came in his first-ever Sounders start. It was also the first — and last — goal he’d score for the Sounders. It also marked the first of what is now a run of winning at least one playoff series in seven of the past eight years.
As dominant as Liga MX continues to be over MLS in CCL play, it was as recently as 2013 that the domination was virtually total. Since the competition had been in its current format — starting in 2008 — no MLS team had eliminated a Liga MX counterpart. The Sounders finally put a change to that when they upended UANL Tigres in 2013. Eddie Johnson had the game-winner — a well-taken chance coming in off the left wing — but it was this Djimi Traore banger that changed the tides. Let’s be honest, Traore’s 35-yard banger is also the more memorable goal as it’s 1.6 million views are a testament to.
Dempsey’s reignites a rivalry
The Sounders-Timbers rivalry was already one of the league’s best, but it absolutely shot to the top of the charts after this 4-4 affair in 2014 that featured Clint Dempsey’s first Sounders hat trick. What makes the hat trick so important wasn’t so much the result in this game or even how it impacted the 2014 Supporters’ Shield run, but how it ignited Dempsey’s season and his place in the rivalry’s lore.
Pappa delivers the silverware
If this were a list of the most “memorable” goals in Sounders history, the goal Marco Pappa scored where he took the ball off Jaime Penedo and then chipped AJ Delagarza in the 2014 regular-season finale probably gets the nod. But easily the more “important” of the two goals Pappa scored in that game was the first, as it effectively secured the Sounders’ first piece of MLS silverware. Due to the goals-scored tiebreaker, the Sounders would have won the trophy even with a tie, but none of the nearly 60,000 in attendance were breathing anything like easy until Obafemi Martins took a quick free kick to find Pappa in behind the Galaxy defense.
Valdez gets redemption
Given that the Sounders nadir — perhaps in their entire MLS history — came against Sporting KC, it was only fitting that their march to the 2016 MLS Cup started with a win against the same opponents. It was even more fitting that the player to score the winning goal was in the midst of an absolutely atrocious season. Nelson Valdez came into the game without a goal in about 1,000 regular-season minutes — despite playing all of them in attacking positions — and had underperformed his xG at about twice the rate of any other player with at least 700 minutes. Never mind that it was arguably offside, all that matters is that it set the Sounders on a championship path.
In truth, any of the three goals the Sounders scored against LAFC in the 2019 Western Conference finals could have been on this list. But if I’m forced to choose the single most important one, I’m choosing Raúl Ruidíaz’s second that made it 3-1. I think I speak for most Sounders fans when I say that was the goal where I really started to believe a win over what many believe is the best MLS team ever was possible. It was just so well-taken and struck with such authority that the the result now seemed inevitable.
We went back and forth over this one quite a bit. Kelvin Leerdam’s goal is what injected life into the Sounders on their way to a second MLS Cup, and it’s not hard to imagine the game going very differently if he hadn’t scored it, but Victor Rodriguez’s goal was the one you all voted as the best moment of MLS Cup. Who am I to argue? Rodriguez’s goal also turned out to be the game-winner and it was just such a perfectly taken sequence that it’s the one I think that most fits as well.
- In the end, we decided not to include this because we only wanted to include goals the Sounders scored, but I feel like it’s an important one to include because of the ramifications. It’s entirely possible that Sigi Schmid would have been fired regardless of this goal or maybe even if the Sounders hadn’t looked so pitiful in this game, but the third goal they allowed to Sporting KC in this July match made it impossible to ignore. In all my years covering the Sounders, I’ve never seen a player give up on a play quite like Tyrone Mears did on this one, and rightly or wrongly it seemed to illustrate how badly Schmid had lost the locker room at that point.
- The Sounders missed out on becoming the first MLS team to win in Mexico by a few days, but that shouldn’t take away from the massive achievement of winning at Monterrey. That they did it with a very reserve-heavy lineup was even more impressive. Fernandez scored the goal off a nice feed from Pat Noonan, and the Sounders basically spent the final 50-odd minutes holding on for dear life.
What’s the most important goal in Sounders history?
This poll is closed
Fredy Montero in MLS opener
Alvaro in El Salvador
Mario Martinez in playoffs
Clint Dempsey hat trick
Pappa delivers silverware
Valdez gets redemption