Ten years ago this April, the club’s ownership group unveiled the name of their MLS expansion franchise during a ceremony at Seattle Center. On Tuesday, they marched back there with MLS Cup in hand.
More than 40 years, multiple leagues and several coats of paint ago, the NASL Sounders called Memorial Stadium in Seattle Center home.
That also was the site where a minor-league edition of the club won a pair of USL championships under the leadership of a local, first-time head coach by the name of Brian Schmetzer. Next door at the Space Needle, 10 years ago this coming April, an ownership group revealed the name of its MLS expansion team, a name that would link it with all of those versions past.
On Tuesday, the Sounders returned to Seattle Center with an elusive silver trophy in tow.
Seattle celebrated its first big-league soccer championship with a march through the downtown streets and a rally beneath the Space Needle, where a crowd of thousands skipped out for a long lunch break to greet the MLS Cup champions.
“I certainly imagined a parade someday and bringing the community together in this way. I wasn’t sure how long it would take,” majority owner Adrian Hanauer said. “I’m obviously very excited to march back to our roots and Memorial Stadium and reward this amazing fan base.”
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray mispronounced title-game MVP Stefan Frei’s name — referring to the goalkeeper as “Steven” — but even he understood the historical significance of the site of Tuesday’s celebration.
“Forty years ago, this is where it all began,” Murray said. “Many years of blood, sweat and tears later, here we are.”
Memorial Stadium is where Hanauer attended his first Sounders game as a boy. That’s where Schmetzer fell in love with the game, too. It’s where a teenage Jordan Morris watched Schmetzer’s USL team win its championship, and it’s where the coach discovered Zach Scott at an open tryout the player says was so small-time that several peers showed up in jean shorts.
Scott, who retired after Saturday night’s MLS Cup victory at Toronto after 15 years with the club, was jubilant Tuesday, looking more like a kid on Christmas morning than a grizzled defender mourning the end of his career. The 36-year-old led the crowd in a rendition of Jingle Bells, an ad-libbed version that the team sings in the locker room after every road win.
• Owner Joe Roth compared Toronto’s overconfidence with how the lions looked at persecuted Christians in Roman coliseums.
• Morris refused to get goaded into a dance party with Panamanian defender Roman Torres
• Clint Dempsey, who sat out the title run because of an irregular heartbeat, said now that the Sounders have won one the 2015 champion Portland Timbers “can’t say (expletive).”
This was a Seattle party with a distinctly international bent.
Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro, who scored a do-or-die penalty kick in Saturday’s shootout, waved one of his nation’s flags. Assistant Ezra Hendrickson was draped in one from his native St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and performance analyst Ravi Ramineni carried one from his native India.
They all came together in the shadow of the Space Needle, a stone’s throw from the spiritual home of Seattle soccer, to bask in the adoration of an adopted city that had craved this moment for so long.
“Most of all, it’s just humbling and inspiring to me to see all these people out in it,” Hanauer said. “It brings me back to being part of the Sounders back in ’74, going to my first games and having that indelible mark left on me.
“I have the feeling that this team has done that for another generation of fans.”
• Seattle’s win over Toronto drew 3.5 million television viewers, the most ever for an MLS final.
• No Sounders were chosen in Tuesday’s MLS expansion draft by the fledgling Atlanta and Minnesota teams.