Category Archives: USL Sounders

Features regarding the A-League and USL-1 era of the Seattle Sounders (1994-08)

10-Men Can Tell A Tale

If they were writing a book entitled The Team Most Unlikely To, the Sounders would already be well into chapter four.

On the heels of the improbable second half and 2016 playoff run to an MLS Cup, in the first 18 matches this season Seattle has staged a three-goal comeback in the last 15 minutes versus New England and, earlier this week, come from a man down and a goal down at Portland to earn a dramatic draw at the expense of two points to their most despised rival.

An instant classic: Clint Dempsey celebrates his stoppage-time equalizer at Portland. (Courtest Sounders FC/Charis Wilson)

The first two acts are unprecedented. Seattle had never won a top flight championship, let alone after such a disastrous start. The Revs also proved to be a foil for Sounders history.

While Dempsey’s last-gasp equalizer at Providence Park was extraordinary, especially coming in a derby game away, seeing red has never been an automatic death sentence. After all, the same scenario played out at Memorial Stadium 24 hours earlier, with the Reign reeling in full-strength Kansas City.

Chances: Slim and Slimmer

There have been studies completed in the sport’s upper echelons on the likelihood of a side winning shorthanded. One, published by the University of Nottingham in 2015, found that home sides that have a player sent off, average 1.67 points and a 10-man visitor 1.06. Of course, among the key variables is the amount of time spent playing down a man.

Earlier research in the EPL suggests that teams are getting better at playing with a man down. Still, the percentage of teams able to win a match after losing a player from a leading or drawn position descend into the single digits. Faced with doing so on the road, the chances dwindle further. And yet.

Leighton O’Brien, right (beside Peter Hattrup), being honored as a past USL MVP in 2014. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Flipping through 40 seasons (43 years) of Seattle teams, some of the most improbable outcomes involving 10v11 occurred away. Two happened in Toronto, the first in 1974.

Sounders Great Escapes

In their inaugural season the Sounders overcame a red card for an 86th-minute winner from Davey Butler. In 2011, following Jhon Kennedy Hurtado’s early exit, Fredy Montero connected on a free kick at the death for a 1-0 smash-and-grab.

Brian Schmetzer could offer up another instance. In 2002, Schmetzer’s rookie season as Sounders coach, A-League Indiana was level with Seattle, 2-2, when Jason Farrell took his second yellow. No matter. Brian Ching came to the rescue, scoring twice in the final 13 minutes for a 4-2 victory.

However, the mother of all 10v11 wins was a year earlier, in 2001. Playing 20, 40 or 50 minutes short in a northern latitude is one thing. But when it’s practically an entire match under a broiling Texas sun, that’s a different matter entirely.

One Harsh Start

On Labor Day weekend, Seattle took flight to El Paso. A boisterous crowd of about 2,500 was on hand for the game and postgame fireworks. Temperatures reached 91 degrees just before kickoff. Shortly thereafter, the Sounders looked like road kill.

O’Brien, here at Portland in 2008, finished as the USL Sounders’ career leader in game-winning goals (15).

In the sixth minute, referee Jesse Johnson, from nearby New Mexico, reached into his pocket, flashing a red to Viet Nguyen for a hard tackle. Nguyen strode to the locker room with Bernie James, his coach, right behind. James was ejected for excessively arguing the call.

Sure enough, soon El Paso went in front, 1-0. At that point, offers O’Brien, a team can either succumb to the inevitable, or choose the alternative.

“When you go down to 10, you get a little bit more focused because you know your chances aren’t going to be as great,” he says. “You’re very focused on the tactical, like where do I need to be. And you have that Alamo effect, where you’re down and against the odds, and you’re working harder for each other.”

Buddy, Can You Spare a Call?

Of course, to come from behind when playing 10 versus 11, a team needs some luck, some favorable calls. In Seattle’s case, they got not one or two. They got three big calls.

A Federal Way native, O’Brien played eight seasons for the Sounders.

“Obviously, the tide changed, because the ref ended up giving us three penalties,” says O’Brien.

“You hardly ever see it; it’s bizarre, a team getting three penalties,” remarks O’Brien. “It was a funny game. You’re down a man on the road, it’s hot, it’s El Paso, and you’re normally not going to get those calls.

“We were defending most of the time and caught them on the break and must’ve got pulled down,” he adds. “But we were in the box for those three, so we must have been getting chances on goal.”

O’Brien took each of the penalties, all within a span of 21 minutes. To this day, when he shares the story, there are disbelievers. But it’s a fact.

“I remember going left (on the first penalty), then right, and saying, ‘Aw, f*** it, just smash it’ (on the third),” grins O’Brien.  “It was a head game (with the keeper) at that point.” The Sounders won, 3-2. (The match also featured a fourth penalty; the Patriots converted a consolation spot kick in the 89th minute.)

O’Brien is now technical director for Pac Northwest SC.

It remains the only hat trick of penalties in Sounders lore. It’s also the only time Seattle has scored three times with a man disadvantage. It’s a game that often comes to O’Brien’s mind, a tale of redemption, of resilience and rarity.

Rare are the occasions when a side can play shorthanded for 84 minutes and earn a result, never mind a win. “If you’ve got that team spirit, you have that mentality to do it,” maintains O’Brien. “It’s up to the spirit of the group. When your backs are to the wall, you give that little bit extra.”

Seattle vs Portland: By The Numbers (USL Era, 2001-08)

A-League/USL Era – Sounders vs Timbers (2001-08)

League – 32 Meetings

Home (form): 9-4-3 GD: 26-16 [WDWWWWLLLLWDWWWD]

Away: 7-7-2 GD: 15-16 [LWWLWWLLWLDLWDLW]


Playoffs – 4 Meetings

Home: 2-0-0 GD: 4-0 [WW]

Away: 1-1-0 GD: 2-2 [LW]

Total: 3-1-0 GD: 6-2 [LWWW]

Open Cup – 2 Meetings

Home: 1-0-0 GD: 2-1 [W]

Away: 0-1-0 GD: 0-2 [L]

Total: 1-1-0 GD: 2-3 [LW] Continue reading Seattle vs Portland: By The Numbers (USL Era, 2001-08)

A Brief History of Homegrowns & Finals

When he takes his place on the terra firma of BMO Field on Saturday night, the mission of Jordan Morris is to do whatever it takes for the Sounders to bring home the Anschutz Trophy.

Win the ball. Hold the ball. Connect. Cover and mark bigs on Reds set plays. Set-up or score a goal, all the better. But just win.

The Philip F. Anschutz trophy

It would be Seattle’s first such championship in the top flight of North American soccer, and it would obviously hold extra special meaning to a Mercer Islander who grew up watching the boys in Rave. And given Puget Sound’s proclivity for producing top-class players, it would be a fantasy come true for fans, to see a homegrown lad lift MLS Cup.

Continue reading A Brief History of Homegrowns & Finals

A History of Outbursts

If set to a soundtrack, the game is more suited to symphony than garage band. Fortunes can change quickly in soccer, but usually following a long, drawn-out build-up. Yet there are the exceptions, when the drumbeat does double-time and the cymbals crash repeatedly.

So it was on Sunday. Just when it was seeming Dallas and Seattle were destined to finish the first leg of their series in a scoreless stalemate, the Sounders came unleashed, attacking in fury and soon finding themselves as top dog in a pairing with the top side in MLS this season.

Reversing roles, scorer (Nicolas Lodeiro) celebrates with creator (Jordan Morris) after the second of the three goals vs. Dallas. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Interim (Really? Still?) coach Brian Schmetzer pondered in his postgame presser whether he’d ever witnessed anything quite like it, the succession of blows by Valdez, Lodeiro and, again, Lodeiro during an 8-minute span early in the second half.

Continue reading A History of Outbursts

Anatomy of a Hat Trick

How many ways can thee examine a hat trick? While delving deep into Seattle lore, let us count the ways.

You can do it early; you can leave it late.

Tommy Ord did the first Sounders trick in 1977, three games after arriving in a trade.

Cam Weaver completed his in the 34th minute. Three others required the full 90.

Mark Baena’s three hat tricks is the most for a Seattle player. (Frank MacDonald Collection)

Five hat tricks started in the first four minutes. Mark Baena was scoreless for the game’s first 62 minutes, then… BOOM-BOOM-BOOM!

You can do it in a gallop; you can do it at a canter.

For Brent Goulet in ’89, it was as fast as 1-2-3; his hat trick started and finished in seven minutes. The longest hunt: 77 minutes from first to third for Chuggar Adair.

You can wait a month; you can wait for years. Continue reading Anatomy of a Hat Trick

The Best of 10s

You couldn’t tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don’t ask).

Touring Starfire
Nicolas Lodeiro (Courtesy Jane Gersovich/Sounders FC)

There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn’t speak the language. But I’m pretty sure the ol’ man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain’t that always the case?

Since the height of Pelé’s reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football’s most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.

Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle’s new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.

Peter Hattrup, 1995 A-League MVP

Continue reading The Best of 10s

Schmetzer & Seattle Soccer Intertwined

As his father tells the story, Walter Schmetzer beckoned Alan Hinton to watch his vaunted Lake City Hawks to watch a player of promise. But it wasn’t his son.

Still, as is often the case when coaches scout young (in this case U18) players, the original target can be eclipsed by another aspirant sharing the field, and that’s how on spring day in 1980 Brian Schmetzer’s long association with Puget Sound professional soccer began.

Schmetzer’s first turn as a Sounders head coach was from 2002-08.

Over 36 years since, Schmetzer has been associated as a player or coach with virtually every entity where one could draw a paycheck. Of the 500-some players who’ve worn a Seattle or Tacoma shirt over the years, Brian’s probably watched, played beside or coached an overwhelming majority of them.

Continue reading Schmetzer & Seattle Soccer Intertwined

10 to Go: The Final Countdown

And so it’s come to this. Ten MLS matches remain for the Sounders to right themselves, reclaim their dignity and reach the playoffs.

Yet we Rave are a greedy fan base. Can’t help it; the Sounders made us this way. Six playoff berths plus five trophies in six seasons does that. This year, we were told, the objective was once again qualify for the postseason and then eliminate all in our path, an MLS Cup triumph making it truly a December to remember.

If MLS Cup is the ultimate objective, then making the playoffs is primary, short-term goal. (Courtesy MLS)

Technically, that plan’s still good to go. Seattle clings to the sixth and final playoff slot in the West. However, given a league-worst form of five straight losses and Houston’s game in hand, it’s hardly an iron grip. More like a fingernail dug into a ledge.

Continue reading 10 to Go: The Final Countdown

Fortress for A Week (Or So)

After a couple trips back east and a bus ride to BC, the Sounders get to make themselves at home for the rest of May.

A three-match home stand featuring visits by Sporting KC, Colorado and the Red Bulls presents no rollovers as they are a combined 3-3-9 on the road. The low-riding Rapids are actually unbeaten (1-0-4) and miserly (2 GA) away. Go figure.

Of course fans will settle for nothing less than nine points, preferably with two of the games lighting the flames on multiple occasions. Historically, that’s not too much to ask.

Each of the past two seasons Seattle has taken all the points from three-match stands, scoring eight times a year ago against Colorado, Philly and Dallas. That started a string of six straight home wins and set the Rave on a course for the Supporters’ Shield.

The Kingdome could be sunny or gloomy inside.

Continue reading Fortress for A Week (Or So)

Scoring Kings of Cascadia

Legends are made from exploits when matches matter most. Sometimes that’s the postseason, and sometimes those feats come in the context of a derby.

Delivering the goods consistently in derby matches makes one tifo-worthy. (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Leafing back through time, those who have constructed tifo-worthy Seattle careers have largely done so through earnest effort, tenacious battling, artful orchestration and as fearless saviors. But of course, the most golden of moments is when the ball billows the back of the twine, and the crowd goes wild. Glory beyond compare awaits those who score goals, and the bigger the occasion, the more splendid the finish and the more goals, the better.

Here, then, going into Sunday’s match with Portland, are Seattle’s golden boys of Cascadia, era by era, over the past 41 years:

NASL / Sounders, 1974-83

Cascadia goals: Peter Ward (6); John Rowlands (5), David Butler (5), Paul Crossley (5), Mark Peterson (5)

Peter Ward proved a one-man wrecking for the Timbers in 1982. (Frank MacDonald Collection)

Continue reading Scoring Kings of Cascadia