For all of the heartache of how the year ended, there were also a lot of memorable moments in 2014 for Sounders FC.
Here are our Top 10:
10. January 27 – When Seattle traded an international roster slot to the Montreal Impact in exchange for Lamar Neagle, it was a small price to pay to bring the Federal Way native back to his original club. Just how deep Neagle’s impact at CenturyLink Field would be was a far cry from the minimal cost to acquire him, though. In his third stint with Sounders FC, Neagle was a steady performer throughout the year and finished with career-highs with eight goals and four assists, ranking him in a tie for second on the team in scoring with international star Obafemi Martins. Neagel was a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the Year and was Sounders FC’s Humanitarian of the Year.
“It’s great to hear the whole ECS chanting ‘253’,” Neagle said. “It’s nice to have that backing.”
9. August 25 to September 29 – What was a small wave of momentum in May turned into a tsunami in late summer. In a seven-game stretch, Seattle went 5-0-2 to jump to the lead in the race for the Supporters’ Shield. The streak included three straight 1-0 shutouts against the Portland Timbers, Columbus Crew and Chivas USA, five straight victories and saw Sounders FC climb to the top of the Supporters’ Shield race with a thorough 2-0 victory over Real Salt Lake.
“We believe in ourselves and today was our day to turn believers out of the doubters,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said after topping Real Salt Lake. “It was our chance to show that this is a team we can beat and a team we can play against and we can play well.”
8. November 19 – After five years in Seattle and being named the club’s Most Valuable Player four times, Osvaldo Alonso was signed to a new contract in November, making him the club’s 10th Designated Player signing. He is also the third player that signed with Sounders FC prior to becoming a DP, joining Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales. In five years with Sounders FC, Alonso is the club’s all-time leader in games (139), starts (135) and minutes (11,839) and is 10th in goals (6) and seventh in assists (12). In 2012, he was voted MLS Best XI and has been named an All-Star three times.
“For me, it’s unbelievable. Playing here, being in Seattle with the fans,” Alonso said. “When I look back to when I defected and to be playing right now, it’s amazing for me. I never imagined it would be like it is now.”
7. March 16 – Obafemi Martins came to Sounders FC amidst much fanfare after a long process to acquire the Nigerian forward from Levante in Spain. Seattle finally announced his signing on March 15 and media met him at the airport upon his arrival. Not much more than 24 hours later, he stepped on the pitch for the first time at CenturyLink Field, coming in off the bench in the 70th minute in a 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers. He turned around the next day and flew back to Europe for a friendly with the Nigerian National Team. His first score came on a game-winning goal in Sounders FC’s first win of the season on April 20 and he finished the year with eight goals and four assists in 20 matches.
“I had to take my time because the defender was in front of me. I had to take my time and control it and it went in,” Martins said after his game-winner against Colorado. “I was hoping I was going to play and try to score, but the important part is winning. The three points is very important today, so I’m glad.”
6. August 25 – Staying at CenturyLink Field and in the Cascadia Cup rivalry, we go to Seattle’s other home match with the Timbers in August. A record-setting crowd of 67,385 was on hand and the Emerald City Supporters paid tribute to Sounders FC with a remarkable tifo display with the “Build a bonfire” theme. In a typically hard-fought battle, Eddie Johnson netted a 60th-minute header off a ball from Mauro Rosales to give Seattle a 1-0 victory.
“Getting the three points in a rivalry, the confidence was great for us. (67,000) people to go along with it in the stadium, how good is that?” Rosales said after the match. “Now everybody is going home happy.”
5. Sounders FC with the U.S. National Team – The U.S. National Team had its best-ever year in qualifying top of the table in the Hexagonal Round and winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Sounders FC was at the heart of the campaign. Eddie Johnson continued his climb back into the U.S. consciousness, Brad Evans became a prominent figure on the American squad in World Cup qualifying and Seattle signed U.S. captain Clint Dempsey in August. Johnson continued his rise back to a regular role and World Cup hopeful with five goals and one assist in 17 appearances, including the game-winning goal against Mexico to qualify the U.S. for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Evans was on the fringes before an impressive January camp thrust him into contention for the starting right back role and he hasn’t relinquished the position since. He started in nine matches, highlighted by scoring the stoppage-time game-winning goal against Jamaica in June. Meanwhile, Dempsey reached 100 caps and continued his spell as captain of the U.S. squad, netting six goals and two assists in 10 matches.
“We’re proud of the fact that as a club we’ve been able to play good enough soccer that it allowed them to get exposure and to get seen and has given them the opportunity to go to the national team,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.
4. June 11 – It had been since 1976 that Seattle had played host to a World Cup qualifying match and CenturyLink Field welcomed the U.S. National Team with open arms for a June match against Panama. A crowd of 40,847 was on hand to see Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson score in perhaps the Americans’ most complete performance of the year, a 2-0 thrashing of Panama.
“You can’t talk about the game tonight without talking about the crowd,” said U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley. “Unbelievable. The best crowd I’ve played in (front of) in the United States, without a doubt. A big thank you to everybody in this city who made this a special night for us. People don’t know what a difference it makes when you play in an atmosphere like this.”
3. July 31 – Sounders FC has had seven players in the club’s history named MLS All-Stars. The seventh came this year and it was just one part of a stellar year for defender DeAndre Yedlin. The Seattle native and O’Dea High School product was signed as the club’s firs- ever Homegrown Player in January, earned the starting role in training camp, scored a crucial goal to start a dramatic comeback against Tigres in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals and added a goal and an assist in the MLS Cup Playoffs. In Kansas City, he lined up alongside the likes of Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan and the stars of the league. Yedlin was named to the team by Commissioner Don Garber and was the first rookie to make the All-Star team since Michael Parkhurst in 2005.
“I thought it would take a good half of the year to learn. I wasn’t expecting to come in and start right away,” Yedlin said after the season. “It just shows that if you believe in yourself anything can happen. An opportunity arose and it worked out for the best.”
2. March 12 – Seattle came into the year with high hopes and the primary focus in the early-going was on CONCACAF Champions League. Entered in a quarterfinal matchup with Tigres UANL from Mexico, Seattle fell behind 1-0 in the first leg in Nueva Leon. By halftime of the second leg at CenturyLink Field, that deficit jumped to 2-0. Seattle was not to be denied though. DeAndre Yedlin scored his first professional goal on a screaming volley in the 53rd minute. Djimi Traore followed that up in the 60th minute with a blistering 35-yard shot off the half-volley that rocketed under the crossbar in one of the more sensational goals in club history. Eddie Johnson netted the go-ahead goal in the 75th minute and Sounders FC held on to become the first MLS team to oust a Mexican opponent in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“I’m very proud of the way we came back in the second half,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “We wanted to win, we felt we could win. I’m very proud of what the guys accomplished and to be the first is always a good thing.”
1. August 3 – On the schedule, a mid-summer match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field may not have been nearly the draw that it was until rumor started to circulate that Seattle had signed U.S. National Team captain Clint Dempsey. Fans chased the story and even tried to track Dempsey down at Sea-Tac Airport, but the #DempseyWatch craze proved fruitless until he was introduced to the crowd at CenturyLink Field prior to Sounders FC’s match with Dallas. Majority Owner Joe Roth unveiled the new star to the approving roar of the 39,360 in attendance.
“I just want to thank you all and the Seattle Sounders organization for making me feel so welcome and at home,” Dempsey said through the stadium’s public address system. “I look forward to getting on the field and playing in front of some of the best fans in the world. I think we’ll accomplish some great things here.”