The Sounders FC fans' passion for the game and love for their team was "shocking," said Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber.
TUKWILA — The crowd. The scarves. The band. The win, and the instant love affair between Seattle soccer fans and their team, Sounders FC.
All of it blew away Major League Soccer officials, including commissioner Don Garber.
So said the league’s big boss Tuesday in a conference call with reporters.
“What happened in Seattle was surprising to us, I’d even say shocking to us,” Garber said of Sounders FC’s inaugural game Thursday. “It is unprecedented in terms of the size of that crowd — 32,000 fans. I believe that if they opened up the stadium to 60,000, they would have sold all those seats. They had 90 corporate boxes sold. Everybody was clad in their team colors and waving the scarf.”
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Garber said Toronto FC, where Sounders FC plays its first road game April 4, set the standard for the league’s loudest and most passionate fans, but that the atmosphere at Qwest Field is hard to top.
Sounders FC fans will put on an encore performance Saturday when their team hosts Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m.
Garber was a big hit everywhere he went in the Pacific Northwest last week. His tour of the region started with a stop in Vancouver, B.C., last Wednesday to announce that the city will become home to the 17th MLS franchise. Then it was off to Seattle for Sounders FC’s inaugural match, where Garber personally thanked Seattle for its support of the team in a pregame ceremony. Garber received what will become a Qwest Field pregame tradition, in the spirit of the Seahawks’ 12th Man flag raising or throwing out the first pitch at a Mariners game — a golden scarf.
From here it was down I-5 to Portland, where Garber welcomed the Portland Timbers to MLS as its 18th franchise. Both Vancouver and Portland will begin play in 2011.
Garber lauded Seattle for its ownership group, its knowledgeable soccer fans and its stadium’s downtown location.
“What really got Seattle going and delivered the 32,000 fans and the massive excitement was the fact that Joe Roth, Adrian Hanauer, Drew Carey and the Seahawks are a dream ownership group that have just busted their behinds … to put together the plan that delivered the success that we had on Thursday night,” Garber said.
Ljungberg set for Saturday
Star midfielder Freddie Ljungberg appears ready to play Saturday, Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said after Tuesday’s practice at Starfire Sports Complex. Ljungberg’s status hinges on how he feels today and Thursday after being pushed in practice to determine his fitness level.
Schmid said Ljungberg should be on the team’s 18-man active roster. “Then the minutes depend how the game goes,” Schmid said.
Only three substitutions can be made, so there is still a chance that Ljungberg could be on the active roster but won’t get into Saturday’s home match against Real Salt Lake.
• Sounders FC signed former Washington player Kevin Forrest to a contract. Forrest, of Edmonds, cleared waivers from Colorado.
José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or firstname.lastname@example.org