Just 30 minutes away from the home of the newest MLS expansion franchise, Sounders FC midfielder Stephen King was raised in Medford, New Jersey.
And while the Philadelphia Union may have success in their inaugural season in 2010, the buzz in the Philadelphia area does not even come close to what King saw in Seattle throughout the 2009 season.
“I don’t think there is any team that will ever be able to launch a franchise as successfully as we have. It’s just amazing,” King said after returning to Seattle from Medford during the off-season. “I think Philly will do a nice job, but I don’t think they’ll quite be able to do what Seattle has done. It’s definitely one-of-a-kind out here.”
While he’s loved the Northeast his whole life, King is more than happy in Seattle.
“The Philadelphia area is a hotbed for soccer. Youth soccer is very big in that area and being from there, I always wanted a team there, but I’m very happy here in Seattle,” King said.
He spent the majority of his off-season at home in Medford, training while spending time with family and friends. And he had a good 2009 season on which to build.
In his second year out of the University of Maryland, King played in 10 regular season games for the Sounders, starting three of them. But he made his biggest impact in Seattle’s run to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup championship, scoring three goals in the Sounders' six tournament games.
And with the CONCACAF Champions League this season, those types of opportunities will become even more prevalent for the 23-year-old King.
His goal in 2010 is to earn a starting role with the Sounders FC, but he knows that it may take more than just impressive training sessions to get that starting position.
“Everybody wants to be a starter and I feel like that’s something that I can work towards,” he said. “Performing well in a game that means something in front of the fans definitely carries more weight. If you have a great week of practice, coaches are happy with you, but until you start performing well in the games, you can’t quell any fears that the coaches may have to put a lesser known guy in those games that matter. Practices are important, but playing games in front of people - it’s crucial.”
For all the success Seattle had and for as strong a contribution as King made in the Open Cup, his goals this year are higher, especially for the team.
“We had a great first year – we won a championship and got into the playoffs. But I think we were all pretty disappointed that we didn’t get to the MLS Cup,” King said. “Now we’ve been around for a year and we all know each other’s tendencies and strengths and weaknesses and I feel like we can build on that. Why can’t we win another Open Cup? Why can’t we win the Supporter’s Shield and go for the MLS Cup? I think that’s going to be the standard here for this club.”
Now well into the first week of training camp, King and the Sounders will head to Arizona on February 3 for nine days of training. Then it's off to La Manga, Spain for more training February 15-27. This all in preparation for MLS First Kick on March 25 against Philadelphia in front of a national ESPN2 audience on their home pitch at Qwest Field.