Beyond the spectacle of it all–the crowd, the goals, the unlikely outcome–many of us came away from then-Qwest Field that brisk March night seven years ago believing we had found our next Mr. Sounder.
In 2009, Ozzie Alonso had pulled on the 6 shirt and instantly made it his own. For all the flash of the Rave jerseys, for all the flair exhibited by Fredy Montero, Seattle fans have always held their highest regard for a man with bite. A player who competes, who gives no quarter, who wins ball after ball and tackles hard. He makes the nuanced plays, the runs to open space and close down runners. He plays hard but stops short of becoming a hard man, at least from the home perspective.
Alonso covers acres of ground in each appearance, and last week’s Vancouver derby marked his 250th appearance for Seattle in all competitions.
There are those players whom we never wish to leave Sounderland, if only because we never wish to play or cheer against them. And yes, of course we love that sort of competitor.
Jimmy Gabriel, the original No. 6 and the original Mr. Sounder, never played for another U.S. club and has long made his home here, near the Sound. Nearly 40 years since his last tackle, we still love Jimmy.
Sounders fans can’t imagine Alonso ever appearing in opposing colors. Yet during the past winter, we were given pause to contemplate just such a possibility. The untouchable tag was removed and Alonso’s name was dangled for all MLS to see. For me, the thought of seeing Ozzie in purple or orange or red was repugnant.
Thankfully, Alonso’s only offseason travel was the previously-thought-to-be impossible and emotional trip back to his island homeland. By first kick he was right back where he belonged, wearing the Rave Green 6 and in very fine form in the middle of the park.
When the Honey Badger’s at the top of his game, he gives Seattle the best chance to win. Fans have rated him a solid 7 through the first five matches. Clearly, Alonso is not only back but performing as well as ever. Now if only the rest of the pieces can fall into place, the Sounders can begin climbing the table.
While Zach Scott is the faraway leader in combined Sounders (USL and MLS eras) appearances, at 336 and counting, Alonso is the first to log 250 for any Seattle top flight entity. Scott Jenkins played 262 times in the A-League and USL-1.
Two-hundred fifty becomes all the more impressive when taking into account Alonso’s traits: increased mileage as a midfielder, tackling and his overall tenacity. Almost always he goes the full 90, full-on.
Without knowing whether the club marks these occasions with plaques or maybe a few platitudes in the locker room, it just feels right to acknowledge such a milestone, especially knowing the amount of commitment and passion Ozzie puts into it. Keep on doing your thing, Mr. Sounder, for many years to come.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Coming soon is the outcome of the MLS balloting for MVP, and for the first time a Sounders FC players is a finalist.
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.
It’s the latest Sounders home match in terms of the calendar, and Sunday’s forecast indicates it shall rate as far and away the coldest.
By the time Seattle and L.A. kickoff at the CLink, temperatures will drop to freezing, with a wind chill driving it down to feel like the mid-20s. Better bring an extra scarf or two, if not for yourself then for those in need of winter wear.
It’s a detectable difference. Bouncing out of bed on match day with belief is much better hitting the floor with faint hope.
That’s the big, big difference between Monday’s series-deciding clash at the CLink and those home playoffs that came before it.
For the first time in the MLS era of the Sounders, they are playing a second leg at home without the handicap of a deficit. In fact, Seattle is an away goal to the good following the first-leg draw to FC Dallas. So, if nothing moves the nets, that’s good enough.
In the postseason, it’s all about surviving and advancing to play another day. Ultimately, that’s the name of the game: Taking care of business. There are no style points.