22 matches. 1,980 minutes of soccer. Three countries. Five backflips (and one excellent air-punching extravaganza).
The first half of the Sounders season has taken the club to great heights and some frustrating lows. From the slow month of March to the historic run in the CONCACAF Champions League to the seven-match unbeaten run…this campaign has certainly kept us on our toes.
Given that we’re at the midpoint of the year (17 league matches played and 17 remain), let’s take a look back at the top five moments that have come to pass in 2013 so far. In descending order, of course.
5. Djimi Traore scores extra-time winner at Sporting Kansas City
The Sounders needed a win in a big way. Having only registered one in their first seven MLS matches, the demand for points was becoming dire. A trip to the site of last year’s U.S. Open Cup final defeat was in full swing with neither the Sounders or Sporting Kansas City able to break the deadlock as injury time began. Enter defender Djimi Traore. Taking control of Brad Evans’ flick, the gangly-legged Malian took one touch in the six-yard box and slotted the ball past an astounded Jimmy Nielsen to give Seattle the 1-0 lead, a scoreline that held until the final whistle.
The goal was considered the catalyst that propelled the Sounders to emphatic four-goal performances in their next two matches – both of which were wins.
4. Sounders top then Western Conference-leading FC Dallas 4-2
Two matches following the club’s massive win at Kansas City, the Sounders hosted FC Dallas, who came to CenturyLink Field as the top team in MLS. Fresh off a 4-0 beating of the San Jose Earthquakes the week before, Sigi Schmid’s side was full of confidence…and in this match, it showed.
Goals from the forward trio of Eddie Johnson (16’, 62’) Lamar Neagle (31’) and Obafemi Martins (83’) were enough to put away the 10-man Dallas squad, ending their nine-match unbeaten run.
3. Obafemi Martins becomes the Sounders third Designated Player
Since 2009, the Sounders have positioned itself as one of the marquee clubs in MLS for foreign talent to come and play for. The likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Kasey Keller and current captain Mauro Rosales have all made homes in Seattle.
In March, that list grew by one back-flipping Nigerian striker who goes by the name of Obafemi Martins. A veteran of Italy’s Serie A, England’s Premier League, German’s Bundesliga and most recently, Spain’s La Liga, Martins has seen it all, and has scored a ton of goals along the way. Now he’s a Sounder and has been somersaulting his way into our hearts ever since.
2. Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson represent the Sounders in World Cup Qualifying
This isn’t technically a Sounders moment, but it does involve two of the team’s most prominent names. Both Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson received national acclaim for the part they played for the USMNT in the last round of World Cup Qualifiers.
First it was Evans, who netted the most dramatic of late winners at Jamaica back in June - a match that marked one of his first starts at right back for the USMNT. Johnson followed up that performance in Seattle four days later by scoring in front of his home crowd to push the USA to a 2-0 win over Panama. Two huge goals that made the entire country proud.
1. The Sounders reach the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinals
No Major League Soccer team had done it before. Many had tried, all had failed. In March, sandwiched between their first two league matches, the Sounders played Mexican side Tigres in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League. Losing the first leg in Monterrey 1-0, many thought Seattle wouldn’t be able to turn the tie around at CenturyLink Field. The team had other plans…
Down 1-0 (and 2-0 on aggregate) after just 23 minutes, the Sounders powered themselves back into the match thanks to three second-half wonder-goals from DeAndre Yedlin, Djimi Traore and Eddie Johnson. The 3-1 result was enough to push the club to its first-ever CCL semifinal, where it faced Santos Laguna and fell only one goal short of the final.
The Sounders sign their first ever Homegrown Player in DeAndre Yedlin who goes on to make the MLS All-Star Game roster (first rookie since 2005)…Playing old Cascadia rivals, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in front of 55,000+, the Sounders come from behind to win 3-2…Head coach Sigi Schmid coaches his 400th MLS match when the Sounders played at Vancouver…Over four-match home stretch (SJ/DAL/VAN/DC), Sounders score most goals in team history (13).