It was a night to remember at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night as the Sounders FC opened up the stadium to full capacity and scored a 3-2 comeback victory over their rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Seattle has won five of their last six matches and is now in the driver’s seat in the Cascadia Cup standings at 1-0-1.
Here are four things we learned from Seattle’s victory.
Send ‘em home happy
An MLS season-best 53,679 fans packed the stands at CenturyLink Field for the Cascadia Cup clash. It was the ninth time the Sounders have had more than 40,000 in attendance and the fifth time attendance exceeded 50,000. And the Sounders have shown an uncanny ability to dominate when the crowds grow larger. They are now 5-0-0 with 50,000 or more in the crowd and 7-0-2 with over 40,000. It was the fifth-largest crowd for an MLS match at CenturyLink Field and the Sounders feed off of that atmosphere.
“You can sense the energy. You can sense that there’s a little more there. It gives you a different feeling, when you walk out on the field, and I think the guys realize that, and they respond to that,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Is that the reason that we score goals and win games entirely? Probably not, but right now we'll keep it going.”
At each Sounders FC home match, a two-pole display is held high for Lamar Neagle. “Pride of the 253” reads the signage, paying homage to Neagle’s Federal Way upbringing. Saturday night, he made a prideful impact for the Sounders, assisting on Andy Rose’s goal in the first half, earning the penalty for the second goal and then scoring the third himself.
The 26-year-old has seven starts this season for the Sounders, playing at forward alongside Obafemi Martins and Eddie Johnson. He now has four goals and three assists, both tied for the team lead.
“He’s playing well. Just his running off the ball, his hold up play tonight I thought was pretty good – it was much, much better than it has been. He’s just done really, really well,” Schmid said. “He got the assist on the first goal on the ball that he slipped in to Andy Rose and he scores. You can’t ask a lot more of a forward than that.”
Six Sounders regulars were unavailable for Saturday’s match. Brad Evans, Eddie Johnson and Mario Martinez were away on international duty, Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani were out with injuries and Shalrie Joseph was serving a suspension. Seattle has been using a slew of different lineups and Schmid has started 21 different players already. On Saturday, he got particularly strong performances from many of those players. Neagle himself has been a complementary piece that has proven vital to the Sounders FC’s success, but he wasn’t alone. Rose was making his fourth start of the year and finished with a goal and an assist. Servando Carrasco was making his seventh straight start in the middle of midfield and scored the second-half penalty, but also helped to jam up Vancouver’s midfield with his defense and was a consistent link to the Seattle attack.
“I think different people have stepped up on different days and different occasions,” Schmid said. “They know when their opportunity comes and they want to take hold of it. The thing is, the guys have confidence in each other and have in confidence in the guy playing next to them.”
With the US National Team facing Panama on Tuesday in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match at CenturyLink Field, many players from the US squad were in attendance for the match. Johnson and Evans hosted several of their teammates, putting on display the unmatched home crowd. US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann was there too, and he made a point to say that crowds like the one on Saturday were a big reason why US Soccer chose Seattle as a host venue for a World Cup qualifier.
“Well one of the big reasons why we are here is because the atmosphere is always tremendous here in Seattle. The support from the fans for their team is outstanding,” Klinsmann said. “We want to enjoy that and show them a good game and win this game badly. We are all looking forward to it.”