It was a much different soccer world in America, and even in the state of Washington, in the early 1980’s. The idea that an American player could excel alongside foreign team mates in a top-tier league was a new one. Defenders? Maybe. But an out and out America striker? Practically unheard of…and then came Mark Peterson.
by David Falk
See also: A tribute to Mark Peterson’s life
It couldn’t have been that long ago that Mark was kicking the ball around as a youngster for the Norpoint Royals. It seems just yesterday that the Wilson High grad made his way up to the NASL Seattle Sounders’ roster; it seems like just weeks since he was delared the “North American Player of the Year” in the NASL.
It seems like only months since Peterson turned down a chance to play for “Team America” so that he could stay a Sounder.
It has been literally been just weeks (May 14, 2011) since Mark stood on the pitch at what is now called CenturyLink Field and raised a Golden Scarf while standing next to his long time friend, fellow Tacoman, Seattle Sounder and Tacoma Star, Jeff Stock.
These two as young men were part of the second wave of Americans to invade the British-dominated roster of the North American Soccer League Sounders. Before them were names like David D’Errico, Jimmy McAlister, others. It was Mark and Jeff who made such an impact on Seattle sides filled with players such as Alan Husdon, Roger Davies, Bruce Rioch, David Nish.
It was Mark Peterson who scored two goals against Manchester United when they visited Seattle in 1982.
It was that little kid from Norpoint, all grown up, who was declared the rarest of rare things in those days, and still today even: a natural, American-born talent at the striker position.
The news of Peterson’s passing hits Sounders fans of my age (49) right between the eyes. Mark was about our age, hit his peak when we were all going into our mid-20’s together. He represented a dream in all of us: to be an American kid out there not only playing the world’s game, but keeping up with some of the best players in the world. In 1982, that was a stunning accomplishment.
Current Seattle Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer was another of those local Americans who made the Sounders. “I am deeply saddened over the unfortunate loss of Mark Peterson,” Brian said in a brief club release. “Mark was a very close friend of mine from the years we played together with the Sounders. Mark was a very talented goal scorer and always a nice man. I have nothing but respect for him. He was too young to go at 51. This is a sad day.”
“He meant a lot to me,” Jeff Stock said in the Tacoma News Tribune. “We grew up together and kind of went through everything together: the youth national team, the Olympic team, the Sounders and the Stars. We were pretty close afterward too. It was a proud moment when we were both given the Golden Scarves. I guess it’s no secret how he felt to me: He was like a brother. … He was one of the top scorers for the Sounders, a battler and an all-round good guy.”
This look back is published only a day or so after learning of Mark’s death. It’s just a beginning look back at a man and a career that inspired local players and touched many.
pros (e.g., Billy Crook, Tim Bartro, etc.). He was a real talent and for me his
two goals against Manchester United in 1982 (the first and the last Sounders’
goals in a 3-0 victory!!!) were a treat beyond compare. For those of us who got
to see him play, he will be missed but never forgotten.”