Back in May of 2011, the Sounders FC supporters ushered in the MLS version of the Cascadia Cup rivalry by honoring the legends of the Sounders in a gigantic overhead tifo display before Seattle hosted the Portland Timbers at CenturyLink Field. Fredy Montero, Roger Levesque, Preston Burpo, Jimmy Gabriel and Brian Schmetzer were all depicted in giant portraits under the banner of Decades of Dominance.
There was also goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann.
After finishing his collegiate career at Seattle Pacific University, the Bellevue native played three seasons for the Sounders in the A-League, winning back-to-back titles in 1995 and 1996 before moving on to MLS and England.
The fans never forgot his time at Memorial Stadium, though, and selected him as one to be honored in a pivotal moment in the club’s history.
So it’s only fitting that just before the Sounders meet the Timbers on Saturday, Seattle would announce that Hahnemann is joining the team after acquiring the 40-year-old US international through the allocation process.
For Hahnemann, it is a dream come true.
“It’s absolutely amazing. The first game I went to, I was in awe of all the people. It was what we always dreamed would happen in Seattle and what I always imagined when I was here,” said Hahnemann. “I’m still kind of shocked that it all happened because I was really resigned to the fact that it wasn’t going to happen. This is where I started my career and I wanted to finish here.”
Like in every fairy tale, though, Hahnemann had to go through some turmoil to reach the “happily ever after” moment.
In the Sounders FC’s inaugural season in 2009, Kasey Keller was the face of the club. The goalkeeper from Olympia, Washington, made his own return from a successful European career and was set to play into his retirement with his hometown club.
At that time, Hahnemann was in the midst of a successful stint with Reading in England, where he played seven seasons. He wasn’t ready for a return at that time and knew that if he came back to MLS, he would only want to play for the Sounders.
So he waited.
He signed with Wolverhampton in the summer of 2009 with a contract that took him through the summer of 2011. With Keller still in net for his final season, Hahnemann toyed with the idea of coming to the Sounders last summer, but the logistics of the allocation process made his return difficult. So instead he signed with Everton to back up US National Team starter Tim Howard on a short-term contract. When it became apparent that a return to Seattle would not be an easy task, he stayed at Everton through the end of the 2011-2012 season.
Now out of contract, he did return to Seattle over the summer. However, with the Sounders playing their way to the top tier of the Western Conference with league-leading goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, he was resigned to a life of retirement. He moved with his family back to Bellevue and was ready to start coaching at the youth level.
He couldn’t even bring himself to go to a Sounders match with his father.
“There is no way I could describe it. It was tough,” he said. “It felt like something was missing from myself. I thought if I stayed away it would be less painful.”
It was then that Sounders FC owner and general manager Adrian Hanauer called to ask if he wanted to come play in MLS.
“If it’s for Seattle,” Hahnemann said, “definitely.”
The move to the rave green brings Hahnemann’s career full-circle. After winning an NCAA Division II national championship playing for Cliff McCrath at Seattle Pacific University in 1993, he signed to play with the upstart Sounders in the A-League, where Alan Hinton would be his head coach.
After leading the Sounders to the A-League title in 1995, the natural progression would be for Hahnemann to sign with Major League Soccer in the league’s inaugural season. However, Hahnemann is not always one to follow conventional thinking.
“The Sounders were my team. We were like a family. It was a blast,” he said.
He stayed with Seattle and won a second title in 1996, then jumped to the Colorado Rapids. There he made his way to the MLS Cup Final in 1997, falling to DC United. After the 1999 season, he left for Fulham in England and stayed there until finally returning this summer.
Along the way, he was also named to the US World Cup squad in 2006 and 2010, though he didn’t make any World Cup appearances.
With the Sounders, he joins the goalkeeping crew that has the second-best goals against average in the league and he expects to start as a backup to Gspurning, though it’s not a position he intends to hold without challenging the starter.
“Hopefully I can give the team the backup they need and that experience,” Hahnemann said.
He will begin training with the Sounders next week and hopes to be ready to contribute soon.
In the realm of Sounders history, though, the goalkeeper for two of Seattle’s 10 major trophies has already made quite the contribution.