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There is hope — hay fe.

It’s a phrase that Román Torres taught us during his transfer saga. It is a phrase we embraced. It is a phrase that 2016 forced us to accept as reality. There is always hope. We were champions when we shouldn’t be.

There is hope — hay fe.

It is a phrase that 2020 made us forget.

On the pitch. In the stands — were we even in the stands? Off the field.

2020 will be burned into our memories. For so many it was hopeless. Many lost jobs. Others lost friends. And saddest yet, some faced the greatest losses of all.

Seattle Sounders soccer was a shadow of the community it is at its greatest. This team — no, this club — did what it could. They connected us as best they could to our better selves. From leadership, to personnel, to coaches, to players, their pillar of community was stronger than ever.

Yet, in 2020 there was little hope. The pandemic and its economic impacts raged through the sites that host our community. The struggle for racial justice and equity leapt forward and into our consciousness in ways that it had not since the 1960s.

Along that tapestry these players played soccer.

It was the best soccer they have ever played. They were the strongest Sounders that ever Soundered. Then they failed. On the grandest stage available to the club; it was among their worst performances.

There is hope — hay fe.

The seasonality to sports is a wonderful thing. Every sport has a season when hope springs eternal. Every sport has that time when camp breaks and the ambitions are grand. This is that time.

Yet, it is still different. Our neighbors still struggle — employment, opportunity, health, justice, equity. Those things are not solved.

When Seattle Sounders FC take the pitch for real on Friday night they will do so in front of some fans, but not the tens of thousands for which they are known. When they take the pitch at Lumen on Friday night they will do so without Jordan Morris.

When they take that pitch, on national TV, even without their homegrown talisman, even without about 30,000 of us, even without so many of our favorite watering holes, and even without too many of our friends and family, they will do so with hope.

Sure, there is the hope of another championship. This team is good, if not yet great. There is hope for the return of the injured players. There is the hope of some youngster breaking out, breaking forth. There’s hope for all of the soccer success that we have grown to know and love.

But there’s hope for more.

When the Rave Green take the pitch again a huge part of their following will be vaccinated. Some of the players and staff are likely vaccinated, too. Pioneer Square and Occidental Park businesses can reasonably be thinking about their futures and not just survival.

Those struggling for justice and equity, our Black and brown neighbors, our LGBTQ+ family, will see an organization that tells them “we are all Sounders.”

Hope springs eternal. And this year, we need that hope more than ever before. That hope is poured into this giant goblet of Sounder-dom and we share it with those who need it most. That’s what community is.

Over the past 13 months we have had to rally in ways that the our city has not been forced to since the 19-teens.

Now, we rally again — as Mariners, as Sounders, as Reign, as Storm, as Seahawks, as all of the teams of Puget Sound. We rally again, because we need hope. We need to look forward to a time ahead that is better than the times behind.

It may be first kick. MLS is Back is what the marketers say now. But more importantly than MLS being back, more important than one match of 34, is that next step forward, that next moment, that next movement. Together.

Because this community of people with Sounders at their Heart is there for each other. They are there in comments, in tweets, in online conventions, in sorrow, in job loss, in the most painful moments of their lives.

Seattle Sounders soccer is returning Friday night. That’s pretty great. The chance to return to the Next Normal is even greater. This community of People of the Sound is open to all that accept the other and this family of choice is supportive of its members, whatever their need.

That’s what 2021’s Sounder at Heart season is. This season is support, community, togetherness, and most importantly hope for those dreams not yet accomplished.

There is hope — hay fe.