The Seattle Sounders got some of what they wanted from their Sunday evening match with Portland. They won that second meeting, 1-0, on a lovely flick header from their striker Eddie Johnson in the 60th minute of the match. The victory over their archrival Timbers moved Seattle into the bracket of teams that qualify for the payoffs, and left them only slightly behind the Timbers in the standings.
Nearly 68,000 fans came out for Sunday’s game, a regular season attendance record that rated worldwide attention. Only Dortmund in Germany’s world famous Bundesliga drew more fans. No other team in Major League Soccer is even close.
For a few big reasons and a thousand little ones, the Sounders can load that downtown stadium like a phone booth. Green-scarfed fans come from every direction. It is a big, green contentious company meeting. None of them talked of losing the game. Few mentioned how well the Timbers were playing. It was a summer Sunday eve, in our own home, with our new star player Clint Dempsey and it was too weird to think we could lose.
The playoffs are two months away. There will be many changes and much anxiety between now and then, but the Sounders have lagged outside the playoff bracket all season and they were palpably thrilled to win the game, and palpably thrilled to have it over with. A loss or even a tie would have been a disappointment.
Clint Dempsey is a new frontier as well. He is arguably the first premier soccer player to come to the MLS in the prime of his career. It helped that he is from Texas, that he is also a star on the US National team and that he played in the MLS seven years ago. But every team in the league noted his decision to play for Seattle. If Dempsey will come, then the league must be good enough for others of his caliber. Big house, big player, big night. Seattle keeps pushing the MLS boundaries, of talent and tally, a little farther.