Over the course of five days, Sounders FC paid tribute to its fans in two very big ways.
First, it ousted the rival Portland Timbers from the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 extra time win in the quarterfinals at Starfire Stadium on Wednesday. Then on Sunday, with 64,207 in attendance at CenturyLink Field and a nation-wide audience on ESPN2, put together a thorough performance to extend its home winning streak to six matches with a 2-0 victory over the Timbers in MLS play.
“We get two wins in one week against Portland. We advance in the Open Cup—we are certainly happy about that. But I am just happy at the way our team responded to the challenges of the week,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We got focused, we got forward and we were able to continue to have that good spirit of a team that has helped us all season.”
Seattle has always been a strong team at home, but that is amplified when the crowd gets larger. In 13 regular season matches played in front of crowds of over 40,000, Seattle is 10-0-3. When those crowds exceed 60,000, the Sounders are 3-0-2.
While the attendance climbs, Schmid sees an increase in the level of play, too.
“Our guys enjoy playing here. Our crowd is fantastic,” Schmid said. “I think the crowd pushes them on, they don't want to disappoint those people. As an athlete you just rise above yourself a little bit. It helps the opponent a bit because they get excited, but our team really has taken it to heart that when those people come they want them to keep coming back, and we are going to put on our best performance and play with a heart and desire.”
Seattle defender Chad Marshall has openly shared his enthusiasm for playing in front of the crowds of over 38,000 each week at CenturyLink Field. However, Sunday was an all-new experience for him. An 11-year veteran of MLS, the match provided him a wholly different perspective on the fever pitch emotions felt by fans and players alike in Seattle.
“It was incredible. I’ll definitely remember walking out in that stadium the rest of my life,” he said. “38,000 is great, but to come out to a packed full stadium is pretty cool.”
For Marshall, playing in front of that crowd was a bonus to an already tremendous week. He may be new to Sounders FC this season, but he is a quick study in the club’s history and rivalries and showed pride in Seattle’s unbeaten record against the Timbers this season that included two big wins this week.
“We don’t like them,” he said. “You could feel it from the preseason game this year, the tension there. It’s exciting to be a part of it.”
In nine home matches this season, Seattle has gone 7-2-0 and the crowds have totaled 384,865 for an average attendance of 42,763. Each year, Sounders FC has broken the existing league attendance record and with three more matches with the stadium opened to full capacity, Seattle is on pace to break the previous league record of 44,038 set last year.