Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest
Drew Sellers/Sportspress Northwest
For a night anyway, looks like Adrian Hanauer saved his job.
The Sounders on Sunday had the back of their general manager, whose job is subject to ballot approval by season-ticket-holding fans for the next couple of months, a marketing device that has gone viral nationally, with amused speculations on the fates of every sports GM in the country, were the idea of sports democracy to catch on.
The Sounders did the one thing that fans of any sport ask of the front office: Win. Big. Even better than it was 3-0 over the Portland drearies, capturing an an emotional wave that even had Timbers players helping with an own goal and probably a second -- kinda cute how they wanted to help along the party.
From the spectacular pre-game tifo, to a Golden Scarf salute to retired fan favorite and Portland nemesis Roger Levesque, and especially because of of 66,452 who showed up to the Clink with nothing more at stake than a mostly ordinary MLS game, the evening was a peak experience for soccer passionates here and around the U.S.
Never has the rhythmic chant "Se-attle . . . Soun-ders" had such a robust resonance.
"Everyone thought this was never going to happen in U.S. soccer," said Schmid of the boisterous crowd, a club record for a league game and the second-biggest for a stand-alone MLS game. "This wasn't the Seahawks playing here, this was the Sounders."
Pre-game, the Emerald City Supporters in the south-end stands rolled out a giant tifo featuring a caricature of a card-playing Schmid holding a royal flush, reading, "We go all in."
Schmid, who was not tipped about the stunt, was clearly moved by the salute.
"It was a little emotional for me," said Schmid, eyes glistening a bit post-game. "This club is the best thing to happen to me in soccer."
Given his resume, that's saying a little something. The enthusiam was echoed at halftime in the pressbox, where MLS Commissioner Don Garber held court, a grin threatening to split open his head.
"It's another one of these great (MLS) moments — we've been saying that a lot lately," said Garber, whose league in the land of gridiron and diamond continues to gain steady traction. "To be out on the field, seeing those fans — and for 1,200 fans to come up the freeway from from Portland — it's a great moment for the sport."
The busloads of Oregon rowdies made themselves known in the northeast corner of the stadium, which typically has open the upper deck only for international friendlies or David Beckham appearances. But they chilled quickly in the 25th minute when their player, defender Mamadou Danso, punched in an own-goal, the most mortifying of soccer moments made more intense by the contemptuous nature of the Northwest rivalry.
The Sounders' Brad Evans, barreling down the right flank mostly undefended, sent a cross to Fredy Montero, closing in on goal. Danso slid feet first between Montero and the ball, but instead of knocking it into the stands, he put the ball into the net past his goalie, the astonished Donovan Ricketts.
Three minutes later, Evans delivered again, dropping a looping pass forward to Eddie Johnson, who captured the ball on a short hop and deftly left-footed a shot just inside the far post, underscoring why he has been called up — unofficially, as yet — to the U.S. Men's National Team.
The lead was destined to stand against a 7-16-9 Timbers team that had already fired its coach earlier in the summer and has won only twice since the Fourth of July. But it didn't keep the Timbers from knocking out of the game, at least temporarily, Seattle defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Parke with blows to the head from airborne collisions with Portland forward Bright Dike.
Both players were bloodied but resilient, returning to play because this was the sort of event whose participation shall not be thwarted by a couple of open wounds.
"This was a special opportunity," said Evans. "There are certain games you always remember — the first game here (in 2009), the friendlies against (English powers Manchester United and Chelsea).
"Tonight topped almost all of them. It was just phenomenal. I mean the support was unreal, and I think we put on a good show for the people."
The Sounders finished the scoring part of the show in the 62nd minute, when frantic action in front of the goal had Montero and Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury sliding and stabbing at the ball in front of an empty net. Jewsbury appeared to provide the momentum for the ball, doubling the Portland mortification. But the scoring call a couple of minutes later credited Montero, who appeared to benefit from the smallest of deflections.
The celebration raged, causing some wonder as to why this sort of engagement isn't replicated in larger stadiums around the country.
"We can't look at Seattle and think we're able to do that in every market," Garber said at halftime, answering a question about soccer-specific stadiums that are rarely over 25,000 capacity. "(Seattle) is just a perfect alignment of pent-up demand, great team branding, focused ownership, passionate, knowledgeable fans, and a city that's embraced the team from the start.
"Until they're hanging from the rafters like they are here, those stadiums are right."
The rafters? The Sounders hadn't thought of selling those.
Next home game.
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