Sounders FC players and coaches were disappointed with a first-round exit from the MLS playoffs for the third year in a row. But the Sounders set an MLS record with 27 victories in all competitions this year.
The 2011 Sounders were the winningest MLS team in history.
With 27 wins in all competitions — regular season, playoffs, U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League — the Sounders surpassed the 2000 Chicago Fire, which had 26, for the most victories in one season.
The feats included a third straight Open Cup title; a runner-up finish in the CCL group stage; and a stellar MLS regular season (top two in the league and franchise highs in wins, goals and goal differential).
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But that success was only a partial consolation after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake resulted in another early postseason exit. Seattle lost the two-leg Western Conference semifinal, 3-2, on aggregate goals.
“There were a bunch of positives to take, but unfortunately we came up short,” said forward Mike Fucito.
Added defender Jeff Parke: “We had high expectations. We wanted big things. With the group we had here, there was definitely enough talent to push and win (an MLS) Cup.”
The Sounders will have a few more weeks to rue another playoff letdown.
Coach Sigi Schmid said the team will continue activities, such as organizing offseason training programs, up to Thanksgiving. Focus must turn swiftly to 2012 with next season starting earlier than usual with the CCL quarterfinals.
Players are optimistic this year’s ups and downs will help the team grow.
“It’s going to be good for us for the next season,” said forward Fredy Montero. “We are more mature. We know how to play (in the) playoffs right now, and we are really sad because it was too late, but we need to focus for the next season.”
Looking ahead, it’s easy to get excited.
The Sounders will get back star midfielder Steve Zakuani, who is in the final stages of recovering from a broken leg suffered in April. Forward O’Brian White is also on pace to be ready for preseason after surgery in August to remove a blood clot in his leg.
“You can definitely tell we’re going to be a really strong team with these guys coming back,” said midfielder Lamar Neagle, a Federal Way native.
Optimism for next year is all that’s left, it seems, after another season ended too soon.
End of road for Keller
The feeling was admittedly weird.
Wednesday marked the final game of Kasey Keller’s celebrated 20-year career, his final three seasons with Sounders FC.
“It’s over. It’s been a helluva three years,” the retiring goalkeeper said. “Obviously (it was) an honor to be able to come home and play for something as cool as the Sounders have become and were from the first minute. You couldn’t have asked for a better end of my career.”
Keller reiterated he would be surprised if his next job wasn’t with Sounders FC, but said lots of options are available.
• MF Mauro Rosales wasn’t able to play in Wednesday’s season finale due to a sprained knee. Rosales, the leading contender for MLS newcomer of the year, said he’s hopeful of finalizing a contract extension soon.
“I think next week we’re going to finish everything, so I can be here,” said Rosales, 30, who had a franchise-record 13 assists this season. “I’m very confident that everything’s going to work out.”
• Los Angeles could finish this season with the most wins in an MLS season. The Galaxy has 26 victories, with potentially two more games.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org