On opening night in 2009, the Sounders FC played their inaugural match against the New York Red Bulls. The nationally televised debut for the 15th Major League Soccer club at CenturyLink Field came against a team that just a few months earlier was playing in the MLS Cup final against the Columbus Crew.
Four years later, six players remain from the 18-man roster for the upstart Sounders, while the Red Bulls don’t have any players still on the team from that night.
That group – Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Zach Scott and Steve Zakuani – has remained intact as a good part of the backbone for the Sounders FC through four consecutive appearances in the MLS Cup playoffs and the US Open Cup final. While several other key players have come and gone with great contributions to that cause, those six have remained stalwarts for the club.
“It seems like 2009 was just last year,” Scott said. “We’ve kept a good core group together and the organization has done a good job of finding the right pieces.”
Alonso is the club’s all-time leader in minutes played with 9,660 minutes in 113 career appearances. He has six goals and 11 assists in that time while locking down the defensive midfield role in a way unmatched in the league in 2012 when he earned MLS Best XI honors.
Evans is the club’s fourth-leading scorer all-time with 13 goals and is third with 14 assists in 88 matches. His play in the Sounders midfield has also earned him calls to three January camps with the US National Team and he made his international debut on July 4, 2009. While his primary roles have been in the middle and right side of midfield, he has also made a few appearances at forward, left-mid, right back and once even filled in at center back.
He remembers that first year fondly and credits the organization for finding those pieces that would make a great locker room in the inaugural year.
“That first group of guys was such a great group of personalities and it was the perfect fit to come in to the first year of an expansion team with that group of guys,” Evans said. “It was a lot of hard-working, talented guys that may have been on the fringe of their previous club teams. The locker room was phenomenal.”
Hurtado was a finalist for MLS Defender of the Year in 2009, when he also earned an All-Star nod. He has made 81 appearances, the most of any of Seattle’s center backs on a team that has been among the best defensively each year.
Ianni took great strides in the 2012 season and now has 74 appearances while contributing three goals and two assists – including the MLS Goal of the Year in 2012 and a game-winning bicycle kick against the Houston Dynamo in 2009.
Scott has started all along the backline, earning the opening night left back job in 2009, which he held for the first five matches before moving into a reserve role. Last year, he had career-highs with 20 appearances, 16 starts and 1,437 minutes, mostly at right back.
Zakuani missed a large chunk of time to injury from 2011 until late in 2012, but is still the club’s active leading scorer with 17 goals and 13 assists in 72 matches. His explosive play on the left wing had him among the elite young players in the league in 2010.
“It’s important that we’re five years along now and we still have the same core group of guys,” Evans said. “That’s also a testament to the front office bringing in the right guys that were the right fit.”