Born in 74 Sounders Legend: Jimmy McAlister continues to pave the way for future Sounders

jimmy mcalister pt.3

The Seattle Sounders will honor former player Jimmy McAlister prior to Wednesday night’s home match against Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m. PT; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS) as part of the 50th Anniversary celebration.

A local kid who became a star in the North American Soccer League, McAlister kick started the successful franchise the club has grown into today.

Just two years after the Sounders’ inaugural season in 1974, McAlister signed to the Seattle squad immediately after graduating from John F. Kennedy High School. It was an exciting time for the Washington native, knowing he was about to embark on his professional career with his hometown club.

“I was one of the first local players to play so it was a big deal to me,” said McAlister. “[The team] had a local 11 when I grew up watching from the time I was like 15 and 16 till when I signed, so it was important to me that it was a local club.”

Although he spent his first year with the reserve team, McAlister went on to be one of the more impactful players during the Sounders’ early history in the NASL.

His standout performances with the Sounders helped him break into the U.S. Men’s National Team, earning six caps from 1977-1979. A vital piece to the club’s backline at the time, McAlister went on to win Rookie of the Year in the NASL in 1977 while supporting his team to the NASL Soccer Bowl that same year.

The title showdown between the Sounders and the New York Cosmos ended in the East Coast side’s favor, but McAlister recalls that day as one of the most impactful moments of his career, including swapping jerseys with one of the greatest soccer players of all time.

“I've got a lot of memories on and off the field, but playing in Soccer Bowl '77 against Pele was a big one,” he said.

The team’s supporters also left a lasting impression on McAlister.

“The fans have always been the focal point of the Seattle Sounders,” he said. “From the time the players used to run [carnations] into the crowd [in honor of] the support they give; It always amazes me.”

The former left-back was with the club for just three seasons, but they were arguably some of the most significant years in his career. Along with McAlister’s own development in the sport, the growth of soccer in the Pacific Northwest was also prominent during his Sounders tenure.

“When we started, the game wasn't that big of a deal, so guys like Dave Gillett (‘74-‘80), Adrian Webster (‘74-‘79), and Tommy Jenkins (‘76-‘79), went into the schools and really, really worked the community hard to make it what it is now,” he said.

McAlister has continued that trend in advocating for the game to this day, as a coach and current Director of Soccer at Seattle United, in hopes of leading youth players in the PNW toward the right direction within their own soccer endeavors.

“All the kids, all the things they've done, the kids that have gone on to big colleges, the kids who play for the Sounders… It's just neat to watch,” said McAlister.

Current Sounders players Paul Rothrock and Jackson Ragen are among the players McAlister has coached who have made it to the club’s First Team. He’s confident he can help more local players in the future will follow the path he helped carve out almost 50 years ago and suit up for the Sounders.

“I take pride in those kids making the team and playing and there'll be a lot more,” he said. “We have some really, really good players in our system and I think at the end of the day, you'll see some of these clubs with local elevens.”

“They won't have to go all over the world to find talent; they will be right in their backyard.”

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