A Few of My 2014 Favorite Posts

Over the past year it’s been a privilege to share some stories both from Seattle’s vault of soccer history and reconnect with those giants who guided us to this point in time, when football’s support here has reached historic levels.

To give added oomph to celebrating this Sounders anniversary I was invited to share what I’ve experienced and what I’ve learned. And when an invitation was lacking, sometimes I made things happen, and starting this blog was among those measures.

In closing out 2014, I’ve curated the XI posts I most enjoyed researching and writing, then linked them below. Also, because I can, I named another seven to be dressed and ready on the bench.

Thanks for reading. And feel free to let me know what kinds of things you’d like to see going forward. Because the great thing about history is that we’re always making a fresh batch.

I. A Stand-Up Character

Sounder at Heart’s Jeremiah Oshan suggested it, and it was truly an pleasure asking his family and former coaches what makes Marcus Hahnemann so unique, words that I wanted him to see.

II. Mike England: A Most Decorated Defender

As a Centralia high school senior, I requested a Sounders appearance at an assembly. They sent four starters south, 90 miles to Centralia, and they blew away the students with energy and showmanship. Among them, Mike England was simply pure class in how he engaged everyone. I began our interview by making sure he knew the difference he makes, then and now.

III. 1995: When Seattle Stood Atop America

What if, I wondered. What if MLS had brought Seattle into the fold from the start? The Sounders were not only predominantly homegrown but a side that would’ve instantly challenged for the title in the league’s inaugural season. If they had, how many trophies might we possess?

IV. Zach Scott at 300: Epitome of Improbability

Three-hundred appearances is a mean feat even if you’re a star. Having seen Zach put into the extra work during and after training, and knowing there still far more to it, I wanted others to share why they think he’s been able to meet every challenge and continue to grow as a player.

V. Sounders at 40 (Seattle Times three-part series)

NASL Sounders, When the Love Affair was Born

FC Seattle Leads the Way, Goes Organic

USL Sounders: Champions, But Nobody Got Rich

The Seattle Times , sports editor Don Shelton and beat reporter Matt Pentz were ideal partners in providing a platform to both tell the Seattle pro soccer story and honor those on whose shoulders Sounders FC now stands. As Matt’s fine feature illustrated, the local soccer community really doubled down and invested in the game’s future here when pro game was at its ebb. There’s no way to objectively compare players of the different eras over 40 years, so I went directly to coaches and let them pick teams for the ages.

VI. Sounders at 40: A Fairytale of Sorts

Asked to condense the ‘How did we get here?’ story into 2000 words, I sought to share little nuggets and elements the Sounders’ founding fathers felt were integral to Seattle becoming a bastion of of the sport.

VII. The Breakthrough Kid: Jimmy McAlister, Seattle’s 1st Homegrown Player

Today, it’s DeAndre Yedlin coming through the academy system, a top college program, the Sounders first team and then being sold to Spurs. But in the beginning, Jimmy McAlister made it big with little infrastructure or a road map.

IIX. ’96 Sounders: They Shall Overcome

True grit got Seattle its second title as the Sounders overcame injuries and loss of key players to MLS to repeat as A-League champs.

IX. When Pepe Plays, Love Is In The Air

No Sounders personality over 40 years is more joyous than Pepe Fernandez. His love for the game and its people is infectious and he’s truly a Seattle treasure.

X. Alan Hudson Homecoming (Three-part series)

Hudson Comes Home

How Huddy Won Seattle Over

The Trip of a Lifetime

I had long wanted to see original Sounders come back from Britain to witness the effect of their early devotion to building the game. Against considerable odds, Alan Hudson got that opportunity and I was grateful to share both his story and his reflections.

XI. What’s in a Captain?

Part of the Sounders Anniversary series, here’s a look at the qualities of a team skipper, from Jimmy Gabriel to Brad Evans.

In The 18

Sounders Coaches: They Did It Their Way

It’s an exclusive club: Only 11 men have managed the Sounders since their inception, and each did so in their own, distinctive way.

A Gift of Inspiration

I can’t thank my parents enough for what they gave me, and I miss them dearly. Learning that this story from 2009 was well-remembered, I brought it back for the Christmas season.

A Thanksgiving for Soccer

There’s a significance to playing on Thanksgiving that goes back to our forefathers gathering to play or college teams going deep into the national tournaments.

Promotion/Relegation: Been There, Done That

Believe it or not, promotion/relegation was once tried in Northwest collegiate soccer, and it proved a springboard for one program first becoming a champion at the small-college level, then a playoff contender in Division I.

S2 Investment is Groundbreaking for Starfire

From the ol’ Fort Dent days to Starfire’s initial opening to the addition of the Sounders HQ in 2009, it’s been amazing to see the transformation of this soccer park. With the S2 investment, it can jump to a whole new level.

They’ve Come A Long Way

How fun it was to hear stories from the gentlemen who actually were there at the start of local collegiate soccer in the Sixties. Ron Jepson (UW) and Joe Zavaglia (SU) are true community treasures.

The Best of Times

Seattle Pacific’s remarkable four straight trips to the NCAA D2 final (three championships) becomes all the more special as nearly 30 years have passed and no team has matched it.

Getting From Niche to National

How to take the U.S. Open Cup to the next level, not just in Seattle.

A Closer Look at All-time Seattle Selections (Three-part series) 

All-Time NASL Sounders Selection

All-Time FC Seattle Selection

All-Time A-League/USL Sounders Selection

Drilling deeper on the coaches’ choices for Seattle’s best over past 40 years.

Sounders at 40: A Fairytale of Sorts

Note: This feature was first published in the Sounders match program and media guide in March.

To some, it’s ancient history. To others, the memories are so vivid it seems as if yesterday.

In truth, it’s been 40 years since they first trotted out the Memorial Stadium tunnel with Henry Mancini’s Salute to the Olympians, now known as their musical theme, blaring over the loudspeakers.

Forty years of Seattle Sounders fútbol.

'75 Pele
Fans have flocked to Sounders games since the beginning (Frank MacDonald Collection)

Much has changed since 1974 yet many traditions have more than endured, growing stronger with the years. Sounders FC may be in its infancy with regard to MLS, but the Sounders’ history is as rich as any club in America, with a penchant for pulling passionate crowds, producing quality players and lifting trophies for four decades.

Continue reading Sounders at 40: A Fairytale of Sorts

You Don’t Always Get What You Want

We all know the story of Ralphie and his craving of a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas in 1930s Cleveland. It’s fun and fiction and ends, albeit after some plot twists and turns, with the 10-year-old boy blissful, laying in bed beside his new BB gun.

Now picture this: Same era in Seattle. Preteen boy in Mount Baker awakes on Boxing Day, hoping his Christmas present was just a bad dream. But no, there it is, on the floor. A misshapen skin of leather wrapped around a rubber bladder. A new ball, all right. Yet Robert’s parents had got it all wrong.

As a child, my Uncle Bob wanted a football such as this.

Alexander MacDonald, Robert’s father, must have meant well. The then-fiftysomething Scot had grown up in the outskirts of Glasgow, learned the shipbuilding trade on the River Clyde and later built ships for the Australian navy on the Duwamish. He was described as a stern, humorless man, but not mean-spirited.

As it turned out, Uncle Bob unwrapped this type of football. He was not happy.

No, Alexander MacDonald was raised on association football and even in his adopted city, many of the industrial workers played in state league matches on the Woodland Park pitch each weekend.

Continue reading You Don’t Always Get What You Want

A Gift of Inspiration

Note: This was first published in December 2008 at SoundersFC.com. Sometimes the gift of experience can be everlasting.

My mind has been revving round and round these past few weeks. Thoughts flash by from holidays past, and one memory simply begs for attention.

The year was 1979. It was my final Christmas as a teenager. That translates to fewer toys of any sort. At 19, you are on the threshold of adulthood, at least according to the date on the driver’s license. From then on, practicality prevails.

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The trappings of an incredible season: trophies, fans filling the upper deck and smiles all around (Frank MacDonald Collection)

On that particular Christmas morning, I remember two things rather vividly. First, Dad deposited a box of barbell weights on my lap. But it was a featherweight gift, a simple slip of paper, which has left the far more lasting impression.

To this very day, I wonder what possessed my parents to choose such an unlikely present and, if they hadn’t, exactly where I would be today?

Continue reading A Gift of Inspiration

A Stand-Up Character

Looking back, those first impressions of Marcus Hahnemann were the most telling. That last 24 years have only served up reinforcements.

He arrived at Whidbey Island’s Camp Casey as the third- or fourth-choice goalkeeper. A week later Hahnemann was Number 2 and by late September the starter for Seattle Pacific. It was not only his ability, but his drive that made the difference.

That winter, prior to an intramural basketball game featuring a team of SPU soccer players, Hahnemann capped the pregame huddle by barking, “Kyle on three. One-two-three: Kyle!” Our first child had been born the previous morning. His name: Kyle. More than just a colorful character, this young man was not only very much aware but thoughtful of others.

Wherever he played over 20-plus years, Hahnemann was a crowd pleaser (Courtesy Sounders FC)

That’s what made it so easy to root for him all these years, knowing that he was earnest and talented and caring and so full of life. The fact that he started and finished his body of work in his hometown merely made it better. Best of all, however, is knowing he traveled the world and represented himself and Seattle with an honesty and transparency that is refreshing and also emblematic of what we desire of our ambassadors.

Continue reading A Stand-Up Character

The Best of Times

They were the best of times, no question.

The closest thing to collegiate soccer dynasty setting its roots in Washington came in the early Eighties, to a place once known as the Little School by the Canal.

Seattle Pacific University has long been synonymous with soccer. Six NCAA championships (five men’s, one women’s) will do that. But it was a remarkable run from 1983-86 that may never be matched around these parts.

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Capping a run of four straight trips to the final, in 1986 Seattle Pacific became the first D2 repeat champion.

During those four seasons, SPU won three Division II national championships and nearly a fourth. The Falcons, despite playing the most grueling schedule in D2, averaged 18 wins per year and became the first 20-win program in the state.

Continue reading The Best of Times

Oba: MVP Worthy

Coming soon is the outcome of the MLS balloting for MVP, and for the first time a Sounders FC players is a finalist.

In his first full season with Seattle, Obafemi Martins set club records for goals and total points (Courtesy Sounders FC)

Obafemi Martins made the final cut, along with Robbie Keane of the Galaxy and New England’s Lee Nguyen. Since everyone has their own subjective reasons for voting, and since we peons have no say, very few words will be devoted to pleading a case. However, this is the time and space to examine the numbers and how Oba’s fare when compared to Sounders legends who did claim their league’s top individual honor.

Continue reading Oba: MVP Worthy