A Loss In The Family

Sounders legend Mark Peterson (4/19/1960-7/7/2011)

In the final match that the Sounders and Timbers played against each other in the North American Soccer League in 1982, Mark Peterson scored the only goal in a 1-0 Sounders win at Portland’s Civic Stadium to close out the regular season.

As the Sounders and Timbers resume their rivalry at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland on Sunday, it was Peterson’s goal that was on the minds of many in the Sounders family.  On Friday morning, the mood changed as word spread quickly through the Sounders family that Peterson died on Thursday night at the age of 51.

“I was absolutely stunned.  He was one of my Sounders kids.  We had a great group of young Americans,” said Alan Hinton, who coached Peterson in his rookie season with the Sounders in 1980.  “To get a call to say he passed away was just a tragedy … very sad.”

Peterson was a Tacoma native and Wilson High School alum that joined the Sounders at the age of 19 after one year with the Sounders development program.  He went on to score 18 goals in that rookie season, but came in second to fellow Tacoma native Jeff Durgan of the New York Cosmos in NASL Rookie of the Year voting.

In 99 appearances over four seasons for the Sounders, Peterson scored 48 goals, before the club folded in 1983.  Among his personal highlights was a two-goal performance in a friendly with Manchester United in 1982.  He went on to play from 1983-1986 with the Tacoma Stars in the Major Indoor Soccer League, netting 79 goals in 127 matches.  He also had six caps with the US National Team from 1980-1985, scoring once on the international level.

“Mark was a very close friend of mine from the years we played together with the Sounders,” said Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who played with Peterson from 1980-1983.  “Mark was a very talented goal-scorer and always a nice man.  I have nothing but respect for him.  He was way too young at 51.  This is a sad day.”

After he retired from professional soccer, Peterson coached the U18 team at the North Tacoma Soccer Club.

When the Sounders FC faced the Timbers on May 14 in their first match as competitors in the top league in North America since then, Peterson and Jeff Stock were honored with the Golden Scarf at CenturyLink Field.

“It was wonderful that he got recognized.  I’m sure his family was very, very proud,” Hinton said.  “Mark was a great guy and gone way too soon.”

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