When Brad Evans walks out onto the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field for a home match, he usually does so with his head down, keeping his focus on the task ahead of him in the match. Sunday was different though. Sunday was special.
Against the Portland Timbers in a heated derby match, Evans reminded himself as he was walking out of the tunnel to look up and take in the atmosphere of 67,385 fans.
“This was probably the most emotional I’ve been before a game. Just the sheer numbers, ” he said. “You never know if this is going to happen again.”
It was an attendance figure that had never been reached for a soccer match in the Pacific Northwest, surpassing the 67,052 that saw Seattle take on Manchester United in a friendly in 2011. It was the third-largest crowd in the United States this year, trailing only CONCACAF’s Gold Cup quarterfinal round at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore (70,540) and semifinal round at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas (81,410).
It was the third-highest attended match worldwide over the weekend, too, invading territory normally reserved for top teams in Germany, Spain and England.
The bedlam started well before opening kickoff and even long before the 37,000-square-foot tifo display was unveiled in the south stands.
“Today I drove in around 2:15, 2:30 and I already saw all green walking around,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “It was fantastic. When you’re out there as the team marched out for the national anthem, you just look and saw everything full. I still pinch myself every time I see that.”
On the home debut night for Clint Dempsey – a superstar that has gained recognition nationwide since his move to MLS three weeks ago – the crowd made it a night to remember off the field as much as the players did on the field.
“When you’re a kid, that’s what you dream about,” Demspey said. “It’s awesome to play here, to play in front of 67,000. Having their support, it helps you. They’re the 12th man.”
That sentiment was echoed by Mauro Rosales, who assisted on the winning goal scored by Eddie Johnson in the 60th minute.
“These fans they made everything today and they've made everything the last five years,” he said. “They are going to be here forever, it’s something great for us. Being here at my age is a dream come true.”
The night was capped with a pair of saves by Michael Gspurning, who finished the night with four saves to earn his seventh shutout of the season and lift Sounders FC to 11-8-4 and into playoff position.
“Over 67,000 fans. Playing Portland. Playing a great game. Awesome night,” Gspurning said. “A night that I will remember in 20 years.”