They came, as they always do, a couple thousand strong.
But the March to Match before Tuesday night’s U.S. Open Cup Final at XBOX Pitch at Qwest Field between Sounders FC and the Columbus Crew had something different this time: Peter McLoughlin, the two-week-old president of Sounders FC who was attending his first match – and march to it.
“I want you to know that I’m a huge soccer fan, and I know you guys are the best soccer fans in America,” McLoughlin told the assembled mass at Occidental Park, the starting point for the March.
“Because of your support and passion, the entire country has learned that Seattle is the soccer capital of the United States of America.”
After a rousing round of applause, cheers and chants, McLoughlin was presented with his first Sounders FC scarf.
Once the throng began making its way to Qwest, McLoughlin quickly became just another raised scarf in the crowd.
McLoughlin was accompanied by his wife, Kelly; Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer; and minority owner Drew Carey. He paused several times to accept congratulatory handshakes from, and pose for pictures with, fans. By the time he had reached the stadium, McLoughlin was sold.
“It’s everything I expected and more,” he said just before entering Qwest. “The fan base has just tremendous support. It’s really exciting to hear all the chanting, and have Drew Carey here, and being able to watch the game with Adrian.
“It’s a really an exciting first match for us, and we’re looking for a victory. I really do love the sport of soccer, so it’s a thrill for me to be here with the Sounders and cheer them on to a big victory.”
One of the marchers who took a moment to welcome McLoughlin was Megan Sego, a 24-year-old Sounders fanatic from Shoreline. She is a regular at the March to the Match.
Why? “Why not?” she said. “Portland thinks they’re the soccer capital of the U.S., but they’ve got another thing coming to them. Just look around. This is great. I’ve been playing soccer since I was a kid and it’s awesome to have a team like this to root for.”
Sego, however, was more excited about one of the team’s newest players than its new president. She came to a match carrying a huge “Blaised and Confused” banner – a tribute to forward Blaise Nkufo.
Carey also flaunted his fanity prior to the March, predicting that the score of the Cup final would be 2-0 or 3-1.
“If anybody has a chance to get to their bookie before the match starts, it’s going to be a Sounders’ victory – no doubt about it,” he said. “Take it to bank. Bet your house. Don’t even worry about it. Bet your house, your kids, your family.”
One thing that was a sure bet: Peter McLoughlin will not soon forget his first March to the Match.