With Shield, Will Sounders Become Unstoppable?

As the countdown clock winds down toward first kick, I’ve gone through 40 years of Seattle pro soccer. History seems to repeat itself in some way, shape or form.

But in the case of this winner-take-all, season-ending match (OK, a draw will do it for the home side) for the Supporters’ Shield, there’s never been anything quite like it: the league’s top two teams vying with one another for a major prize as they cross the finish line. Never happened, not in 18 years of MLS, nor dating back to ’74 for the Sounders.

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S2 Investment is Groundbreaking for Starfire

There’s the unprecedented, and then there’s the not-so-sexy underpinning for building what dreams may come.

Certainly the sizzle for the Sounders 2 unveiling is the community ownership component in which 20 percent of the USL PRO franchise will belong to Rave fans from near and far. That’s groundbreaking, but it’s the literal groundbreaking behind the Starfire Stadium west goal that will truly unlock the potential of this already abundant soccer park, opening the door to new events and new fans.

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Starfire Stadium (lower right) will host Sounders 2 matches, with the new stadium support building constructed just to the west (Courtesy Starfire Sports)

Funds generated from the Sounders Community Trust Founders Club will be devoted to capital improvement projects at Starfire, namely the construction of a stadium support building (SSB) on the current site of the flag pavilion field.

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Promotion/Relegation: Been There, Done That

It’s been a hot topic of late, the notion of bringing promotion/relegation to America. But believe it or not, it’s already been here and people have done that.

One instance of promoting a top team into an upper division while relegating a bottom finisher was accompanied by little fanfare 25 years ago, when it was practiced in the Pacific Northwest, not by professional clubs, mind you, but by collegians.

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The Test of Time

Records are made to be broken.

Of course, the author of that saying assumes the team or league remains viable into the future.

Anyone who’s followed the struggle of professional soccer to gain a lasting foothold in America knows that you can fill a dustbin with all the acronyms–USA, NASL, MISL, ASL to name a few–that would rise and fall in the past 50 years.

And when a league and its members are laid to rest, the personalities adapt and move on. The records, however, remain behind. Never to be matched or overtaken. However, those records, those standards, can still provide a valuable service.

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Seattle broke a longstanding US Open Cup attendance record in 2010 with a ‘below-average’ crowd (Courtesy US Soccer)

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Mike England: A Most Decorated Defender

In a way, Mike England was the first Sounder whose reputation preceded him. That is to say there were high expectations, and then he exceeded them.

Two weeks prior to his Seattle debut in 1975, England walked off the pitch a winner at White Hart Lane. That was nothing new. His nine years with Tottenham were filled with fanfare and silver. He played nearly 400 matches for Spurs, winning an FA Cup, two League Cups and the North London club’s first UEFA Cup.

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England was a unanimous All-NASL Era selection and Sounders’ only 4-time NASL Best XI choice (Frank MacDonald Collection)

“I used to watch him play as a kid,” says David Gillett. “He was a big time international center half, representing his country and playing for one of the better teams in the country at the time.”

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Best Way Forward

Seattle didn’t get to be North America’s soccer capital overnight nor by osmosis. Along the way there were countless contributors and some colorful town criers. And without a doubt, the smoothest orator, the most polished salesman the game has seen in these parts was John Best.

It’s a shame Best could not make it to last week’s Sounders alumni and anniversary activities. Hopefully he had a view from on high, having passed away October 5 at age 74.

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Soon after returning to the Sounders as GM, John Best (left) sought to rekindle fond memories by organizing a reunion game (Frank MacDonald Collection)

Best loved celebrating history, celebrating the good times. In fact, it was one of the tenets of his management style. It was shortly after his return to the Sounders as general manager in 1982, that he organized the first reunion game.

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Hudson Comes Home

Once Alan Hudson made himself at home in Seattle, he never foresaw leaving. This week marks his homecoming.

Hudson has returned to the Emerald City for the first time in 31 years and, among other activities, will join fellow Sounders and FC Seattle alumni at Friday’s match versus Vancouver.

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Hudson assisted on club-record 51 goals in all competitions for the NASL Sounders (Frank MacDonald Collection)

While longtime Sounders fans will remember Hudson for being a smooth midfield operator and setting-up many, many goals from 1979-83, he’s traveled a very rough road for the past 17 years. His friends, former teammates and coaches have rallied to help make the trip not only possible but one to remember. Continue reading Hudson Comes Home

How Huddy Won Over Seattle

He was an acquired taste, Alan Hudson. He was ahead of his time, for sure, and such savants often suffer as a consequence. However, by working tirelessly, showing his colors and winning matches, Huddy emphatically won Seattle over.

This week he returns, and the occasion provides an opportunity to share what Hudson was all about and explain why he was, aIong with Mike England, an unanimous selection to the NASL Sounders All-Time XI. Continue reading How Huddy Won Over Seattle

Sounders Coaches: They Did It Their Way

While some 450 professional players have proudly worn a Seattle crest during these past 40 years, head coaches comprise an exclusive club of 11 who have trained, molded and inspired them.

That only scratches the surface of a coach’s duties. They are the club’s face. It can be a lonely job and exhilarating, all at once. And whatever the case, they relish that responsibility. Ultimately, although each goes about their business with their own unique style, their mission is success.

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John Best was a perfect first coach, not only building a team but a faithful following (Frank MacDonald Collection)

From John Best in ’74 to Sigi Schmid today, much has changed in the managing profession, and yet with all the science, knowledge and money now influencing world football, most of the same standards still apply: observation, imagination, communication and perseverance.

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Pick A Team to Beat Portland

O, magic team sheet on the wall, who are the fairest XI of them all?

As the anniversary year winds up, Sounders FC has invited one and all to weigh in with their picks for an all-time XI. It’s not quite a dream team, since there are rules to follow. But that’s to be expected in these days of salary caps, financial fair play and transfers subject to the ubiquitous ‘upon medical exam, and receipt of P-1 visa and ITC.’

While intensive education and debate will make for a full experience, most people just want to have fun. So enjoy yourself. But there’s nothing more fun than beating Portland, so pledge to make your Sounders XI strong enough to beat the Timbers XI next year, when their 40th rolls around.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to put the best fantasy team on the fantasy pitch, which, of course, is thick, rich natural turf. Remember, it’s a fantasy theme and to replace all divots.

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Gabriel is a must in Sounders All-Time XI. See his joy juxtaposed to Timbers’ dejection? Classic (Frank MacDonald Collection)

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Seattle's Soccer Nation: Past, Present & Future