Facing off against Al Ahly in the Club World Cup Saturday (9 AM PT, FOX 13+/FS2/FOX Deportes) is a huge match for the Seattle Sounders. For many reasons it could be a one-and-done for the first MLS side to play in the Club World Cup.
The first of those reasons being, well, that they’re first.
The second is that Liga MX sides still generally do better than MLS sides when they play, and Liga MX sides have one second-place finish in this tournament and have finished four times in third. Al Ahly — not CAF, just Ahly — have taken third three times themselves.
Ahly? They’re absolute giants. From mid-2016 to the present they have won four Egyptian Premier League titles, two Egypt Cups, and the CAF Champions League twice. They finished second in those three tournaments five more times.
In all competitions since October 2022, they are a massive 16-0-4, +28. Seattle is 0-1-1, -1.
Their anthem was written by a journalist once fired by an Egyptian dictator.
Fans of Ahly were one of the key groups in Egypt that brought down former president Hosni Mubarak, as the ultras were one of the few civil organizations allowed to exist in the later years of his dictatorship. They would then suffer for further calls of democracy, as the Port Said massacre may have been the result of Ahly’s ultras calling for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to step down.
Al Ahly are a grand club, familiar with the territory, with supporters throughout the world, especially in the Arab world.
They deserve all respect, for they are formidable.
We are Sounders,
We are Sounders, from Brougham End!
And we know what it’s like to be underdogs, because from doubt is where we rise.
In 2009, MLS figured that Seattle would be another mediocre expansion side. The Sounders responded with a winning streak to open the year, a trophy and a playoff appearance. More doubt around the league in 2010 — another trophy, another playoff appearance.
The old guard in American soccer kept doubting. Seattle kept winning, averaging a trophy every other year and making the playoffs.
When Sigi Schmid was fired, doubt came back. Seattle went on the most incredible run under Brian Schmetzer, making the playoffs after being given a 1% chance and then winning the whole damn thing, on the road, in 20-degree temps.
That’s when things changed. MLS stopped doubting the Sounders, because Seattle kept making the finals, and won another.
Then, in a year after getting upset at home, the Sounders were back in the Concacaf Champions League. They merely had to beat two Liga MX giants, an MLS Cup winner and one of the best teams in Central America. Seattle did that, as underdogs in every two-leg affair after the first — they never lost a match.
Underdogs? That’s OK.
It’s time to topple giants, because that’s what Sounders do.