Everyone remembers their first. You remember your first kiss. The first time you locked eyes with your partner. Your first job. Your first goal. The spark. The magic. The everything stopping — the everything being that moment. We never get to do the first more than once, and it is what lives in our minds forever.
Tonight is the chance at the first. So much of these last few weeks has been made about our Seattle Sounders making history as the first-ever MLS club to win the Concacaf Champions League. The caveats abound when you say something like that, because of course there are other MLS clubs that claim Concacaf hardware. Sure, those trophies had fewer teams than most modern day preseason tournaments and took place over a week in a “neutral” location. The two previous Champions “Cup” winners from MLS, DC United and LA Galaxy, won when those week-long tournaments happened to be hosted at their home stadiums. They happened when Bill Clinton was President. They’re kidding themselves if they think they’ve been on the same stage to which the Sounders now ascend.
This one comes with expectation. There has been four MLS teams who have come close before in CCL, but all of them have left in tears. No cigars for our compatriots. Only pain. All of them had the chance to be first, but never did they have the same level of expectation.
Perhaps it’s fitting we’re here. It’s you and me and the Sounders. 90 minutes (and maybe a few more) away from the glory no one else has tasted. The first. The only. It makes sense it’s us. No one does it like you and me. We’re the life of the party and the main character.
But, the expectation is heavy and all that matters is the delivery, right? The scorn and glee from the haters if the Sounders lose tonight will be expected as well. They’ll be legion. We know what that feels like. It feels like 2017. It feels like 2020. But this would be the deepest depths we’ve plunged to together. It’ll be darkness.
Pumas are a great team. They deserve to be on this stage no matter what anyone in this country or theirs says. They’ve been counted out at their enemies’ demise. You may say they’re masters of the vibes, but we’ve been that too. Expectation shouldn’t be seen as birthright. The opponent is worth the fight.
The reason why I believe we could be at the mountain top tonight is because of the valleys we’ve gone through together. The most pain I’ve ever felt as a Sounders fan was during the 2020 MLS Cup. Yeah, the Sounders got waxed by a worse team without some key players. Sure, the coaching staff got the tactics wrong. And, yes, Caleb Porter lifted an MLS Cup over our heads. But do you know what the worst part of it all was? We were alone. I sat in my apartment by myself. So did you. We weren’t together. We couldn’t hug and we couldn’t cry together.
Tonight is much different. I’m confident but I’m knocking on every piece of wood I can find. This club and this team are so much different than anything else that exists in the world. We are Kelyn Rowe, hometown kid who finally arrives at a club where he can fulfill his destiny. We are Raul Ruidiaz, a player who wasn’t counted as good enough to play for Mexico’s elites. We are Jordan Morris, we’ve faced setback after setback but here we are. We are Cristian Roldan, counted out but not forgotten. We’re Stefan Frei, constantly showing our doubters to be fools. We’re Nicolas Lodeiro, a captain with a point to prove. We’re the Sounders. We’re a family. We’re here because we’re together.
I think about the lyrics to Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel. We’ve climbed the hill with the wind blowing and we can see the city light, time will be still tonight. Hopefully the information that the owl delivers us is the glory we expect to see. Are you ready to trust your information? I know I’m ready for my heart to go “Boom-boom-boom”.
Pack your things, we’re going home. Go Sounders.