Nearly 40,000 rain-soaked fans were packed into CenturyLink Field on a wet Saturday in March.
In other words, MLS is back.
Sounders FC’s season opener started with a tremendous full-stadium display of green and blue moments before kickoff and ended with one of Seattle’s most dramatic finishes. Newcomer Chad Barrett scored after a wild scramble in front of the goal in the fourth and final minute of second-half stoppage time to claim a thrilling 1-0 win against defending MLS Cup champion Sporting Kansas City.
Cue the bedlam from 39,240 in attendance, the franchise’s largest crowd for a home opener.
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“When I scored, I couldn’t even hear myself screaming,” Barrett said. “I’m pretty sure I was screaming, or I was going through puberty — one of the two.”
The goal came at the 93:33 mark, the second-latest in Sounders history behind Djimi Traore’s goal last year at 93:59, also a game-winner against Kansas City. Seattle is on a 7-0-1 streak in the head-to-head series with SKC in league games; five of those wins, remarkably, have come in stoppage time.
“Wow, that’s kind of cruel and unusual against K.C.,” Barrett said, “but I really don’t care. I’m glad to be a part of that.”
Kansas City coach Peter Vermes, during the postgame handshake, told Sigi Schmid: “You guys do this to us every time.”
The winning play started when Osvaldo Alonso won possession in Seattle’s end and quickly burst forward to start a counterattack. He passed to Clint Dempsey, who found fellow second-half substitute Sean Okoli, a homegrown player from Federal Way making his MLS debut, on the right wing.
Okoli’s initial cross was cleared straight into the air and Dempsey leaped high to win the header, but the shot was denied by the crossbar. Dempsey then tried a flying-scissors kick on the rebound, but he didn’t connect cleanly. The ball trickled to Barrett for the putaway just a couple feet in front of the goal on what he jokingly called the “white guy’s bicycle kick.”
Schmid’s reaction from the bench?
“Instantaneous happiness, joy and a few other words I can’t say,” he said with a smile.
The final whistle would come moments later as the Sounders improved to 4-2 in home openers.
The win matched Seattle’s total from the last 10 games of 2013. Triumph also enabled the team to, in some effect, move past last year’s disappointment, which might have crept into this season in a scoreless tie.
“Sigi said today that we’re not talking about last year anymore,” said captain Brad Evans, “and (this win) kind of puts it to rest. Whatever happens from here on out is up to us, it’s up to this group and how we push forward together.”
Added Schmid: “It sets a great tone.”
Goalkeeper Stefan Frei earned the start for Seattle after a training-camp competition with Marcus Hahnemann. Frei made three saves to earn the shutout.
But a more glaring figure was the Sounders being on the receiving end of 25 fouls, a franchise record and perhaps something that would have rattled the team in the past.
“One of the things we talked about going into the season was we wanted to be a team that would fight, scratch and do everything we could until the end of the game,” said Schmid, “and today was a good snapshot of that.”
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184
On Twitter @joshuamayers