In Seattle, the Sounders name has been synonymous with soccer for 39 years.
On Friday at CenturyLink Field, Sounders FC celebrated a small piece of that history when over 30 alums were invited to a reunion of sorts at Seattle’s 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Friday, bringing together players from different generations for a VIP experience before one of the biggest matches of the season.
“We have a unique history that pre-dates 2009. The first step was just getting those guys together and reaching out to those that are local and inviting them to a game and showing them that they’re part of something bigger than just their one team,” said Sounders FC Director of Business Operations Taylor Graham, himself a Sounders alum. “Their efforts, whether it was last year or 39 years ago, have not gone unrecognized.”
Among them were champions from the A-League in 1995 and 1996, as well as 2005 and 2007.
Scott Jenkins was there, stepping on the turf at CenturyLink Field for the first time since netting the game-winning penalty kick to lift Seattle to a shootout victory over the Richmond Kickers in the 2005 A-League Championship game.
So was local standout Chance Fry, who played for the Sounders in the North American Soccer League as a 19-year-old in 1983 and returned in the A-League in 1995, winning two titles before retiring in 1997.
Jake Besagno was there, too. The Seattle University product played a pair of seasons with the Sounders in the USL and scored the game-winning goal in a friendly with Real Salt Lake in Seattle in 2005. Besagno subbed on in the 65th minute of the match and scored on his first touch as a professional as he headed in a free kick for the only goal of the match to top the MLS side.
Players from throughout the different editions of the Sounders gathered in the Southeast corner of the stadium, catching up with old teammates and players from other Seattle teams that they’d never met before watching the match in a suite.
“It’s such a great way to bring everyone together,” said Billy Sleeth, a former Washington Husky who played for the Chicago Fire and Colorado Rapids before finishing his career with the Sounders in 2004 and 2005. “I thought it was an awesome event. It was very nice of the Sounders to put it together. I haven’t seen a lot of these guys in eight years and that’s the fun part about it – getting all these guys together.”
Seattle has a rich soccer history that includes players from near and far. Players like DeAndre Yedlin get the opportunity to play right in their backyard while others have come from all parts of the world. Whether they played in the Kingdome with the club in the North American Soccer League, at Memorial Stadium with the A-League team or at CenturyLink Field in front of 67,000, they all can call themselves Sounders.
“There’s nothing that brings soccer in this city together like pulling in the roots of Sounders history,” said Graham.
Sounders FC will continue to bring those roots back to the surface in the future as the club is able to reach more and more former players. Friday night was just the beginning for Graham, though.
“It’s just a place to start. There are a lot of Sounders alums out there and we don’t have information for all of them,” he said. “You have to start somewhere, so we started small and hopefully it can grow into something annual that will get bigger and better.”