The STATE of Soccer in WASHINGTON
Washington State is known for being one of the most successful soccering states in the entire country. Not only is this because of the high level of youth soccer, but this idea of Washington being a leader in the sport has been greatly helped by the success of our own Seattle Sounders. As a team, we are known for our record-breaking attendance, our total authority in the Open Cup, and not to mention finishes in the top 4 in the MLS Western Conference every year. At first, some accredited all the success to that fact that we were a young team; others said it was due to the coach staff; either way it doesn’t matter. The Sounders are expected, by fans and opponents alike, to do well, and so far, this has been the way things have occurred. But is the Sounders magic beginning to wear out as we finish the season? Or are we Sounders fans a bit too ruthless when judging the achievements of our team? As we enter the last few games ahead, and the Portland match set for Sunday, we look at the Sounders success and the playoffs ahead. Are we prepared for the next two months?
When looking at the current standings, the Sounders are sitting in 4th place in the Western Conference with 49 points. While we are unfortunately out of contention for the Supporters Shield, and lost in the final of the Open Cup to Sporting KC, we have qualified for the playoffs for MLS Cup. Yes, if you were a Portland fan, you might look at this as a successful season. After two coaches, elimination from playoff contention, and currently finishing one of their worst seasons in the MLS, they would be overjoyed to be in our position. But do we Sounders fans consider ourselves to be in an acceptable position? Was our season a success even though we were unable to claim any silverware (so far)? (Note: Seattle has advanced to the quarterfinals in the CONCACAF Champions League.)
Did you realize that every season we’ve been in the MLS; we’ve qualified for either the playoffs. And every year, without fail, we’ve failed to move on out of thr first round. Have we been unprepared for the playoffs? Have we simply just underachieved? No matter what form we had recently had in the league, we’ve never been able to move past that wall that we call the MLS Cup. Now, in our fourth season, it’s becoming a big talking point. Are we going to be able to bring an end to our playoffs curse, or are we yet again going to be disappointed with our results? Where we currently stand, there is a possibility that we would meet up with the San Jose Earthquakes, which is what I’m sure everybody dreads of happening. Still, it’s a mutual agreement that we need momentum going into the playoffs, and a win against Portland could be just the thing we need.
This Sunday, we are set to play Portland, which in many Cascadia fans opinions, is the biggest rivalry in the history of the MLS. Both the Sounders and Portland come into the game pretty equal. Sounders are 1-1-3 in the last five games, and Portland is 0-2-3. When we played them last month, the game ended in a thrilling 1-1 encounter, but for many Sounders fans, it seemed more like dropped points in both the league and the Cascadia Cup. With 67,000+ people expected at the game, and the difference between the two teams in the standings, supporters expect the Sounders to come out on top. While this is indeed a game that is one we want to win, how far would it get us in our pursuit to win silverware? It would temporarily put us in 1st place in the Cascadia Cup; then we would have to wait and hope that Vancouver could beat Portland in the final game. As for the league, it would bump us up to 2nd place, only if both the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake were to fail to pick up any points. This of course is physically impossible, as they play each other in another Western Conference battle.
As many, including myself, have noticed, many of the major things affecting us as a team are events and results of other teams. This cannot keep occurring. We have reached the point in the season where everything that occurs around us must be made less critical through our own actions. We want to be able to have our future in our own hands, not dangling in thin air based on the results of another game. Before the season finishes, we play both RSL and LA. They are currently sitting 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Western Conference, and if we were to beat both, we would overtake both, and would rocket ourselves into a much better position going into the playoffs. This of course is up to us and us alone. While the season overall may not have been the most successful to date, there is still more work to be done. With a winning end to the season, and success in the playoffs, critics will still of course point out the problems we’ve had. But as we know that doesn’t really matter to the fans.
As Sounders fans, we enjoy the fact that the team is successful. We support our team strongly, and always have. Ever since our inaugural season we have set attendance records, and we have continued setting the bar, starting at an average of 30,943 in 2009 and accelerating to 42,134 this year. We rank in attendance in European leagues, and the fans expect success. You can hear it at the stadium when we let in a goal. You can see it etched on their faces when the team makes a mistake; we expect success. Which, technically, we have had every year. Now, as we head towards the final games, and the playoffs, we hope as fans, coaches, and players, that we can all work hard and win the ultimate victory, MLS Cup.
Zoë Birkbeck writes for goalWA.net as part of our new internship program that connects us with young writers, photographers and videographers to give them experience covering soccer online in the state of Washington. Zoe is highly active in the sport. The Roosevelt High School (Seattle) senior is a player (goalkeeper), coach and assistant referee. To learn more about our intern program please email us at goalWA@gmail.com.