On Thursday night, the Sounders FC invited their fans to celebrate the inaugural season at Qwest Field in the Season Ticket Holder celebration. Players and coaches were joined by several hundred fans in celebrating the clubs inaugural season.
With the tremendous amount of success the Sounders FC enjoyed in its first campaign, winning the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup and reaching the MLS Cup playoffs in their expansion season, suffice it to say that there were no clear-cut winners when the club announced their 2009 team award winners.
Goalkeeper Kasey Keller was voted Most Valuable Player while Tyrone Marshall earned Defender of the Year, defender Taylor Graham won the Humanitarian of the Year and Fredy Montero took home the Budweiser Golden Boot for leading the team in goals.
“It was tough because you could name a number of people – Montero had his impact on the team, Freddie Ljungberg had a huge impact on the team and there was also consistent play from some guys are unheralded. Guys like Osvaldo Alonso and Tyrone Marshall. Those are all guys who were very consistent,” head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s good when those choices fall hard because if it was clear-cut, that means you probably didn’t have a good year.”
In his first season in MLS, Keller set a league record for consecutive scoreless minutes to start a season at 457, posting three complete shutouts to start his MLS career. He was No. 2 among MLS goalkeepers with a GAA of 0.92 and tied for 2nd in shutouts (10) and wins (12).
“Goalkeeping is a very important position and he was solid and consistent all year. That’s been Kasey’s trademark his whole career,” Schmid said. “Having a solid goalkeeper makes life easier for everyone.”
Montero won the league Newcomer of the Year award and scored 12 goals in his first season in MLS after starting his career in his native Colombia, putting him tied for third in the league. He scored the first goal in Sounders FC’s history, a strike from the right side of the box in Seattle’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls on Opening Night. He was named March Player of the Month after scoring three goals in his first two games. From June 13 to June 28, Montero scored in four consecutive games as Seattle went 2-0-2.
Marshall was a veteran presence in the middle of a stingy Sounders FC defense that allowed a league-low 0.97 goals per game while adding two goals and two assists to the offensive cause.
“It was good fortune for us to make the trade to get Tyrone over here,” said Schmid, noting the tandem he developed with Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. “It was tough to differentiate between those two guys because they were both so good for us this year.”
Graham, meanwhile, was sidelined all season with various foot injuries, but turned the setback into an opportunity to get more involved in the local schools, youth organizations and the club's philanthropic initiatives.
“This year has been two extremes. It’s been absolutely amazing to see the city of Seattle embrace soccer the way it has. From a playing standpoint it was very frustrating because injuries forced me to be a locker room guy and a community guy,” Graham said. “I always want to be an asset to the organization whether it was on the field or off. I’m glad the community appreciated the experience as much as I did.”
Graham worked closely with Seattle Children’s Hospital and America SCORES Seattle, which empowers students in urban communities using soccer, writing, creative expression and service learning.
Several other players also played prominent roles in the community, but Graham’s injury afforded him extra opportunities.
“Everyone was involved in the community. I think that’s our role as a team because the community embraced us so much,” Graham said. “I had the opportunity to do it a little bit more because I wasn’t traveling or tired from training. I felt like it was my responsibility based on my condition.”
Graham is fully recovered (“I want preseason to start tomorrow,” he said.), but that won’t change his desire to help in the community.
“I’ve always been involved in the community,” he said. “That certainly isn’t going to change next year.”
For all the successes of the 2009 season, just like Graham, the club is looking for bigger and better things from the 2010 season. They will open March 25 at Qwest Field against the Philadelphia Union.