Heritage Match Spotlight: Honoring Sounders players from our previous eras

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The Seattle Sounders organization is celebrating its rich history this Saturday in the team’s Heritage Match against the Vancouver Whitecaps (7:30; Watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV, 93.3 KJR FM, El Rey 1360AM | TICKETS).

As part of the club’s 50th Anniversary season, the Heritage Match honors the different pre-MLS eras of the Seattle Sounders. It’s not only a recognition of the past, but also a commemoration of the individuals and teams that paved the way for the future generations.

Take a look at those who left a lasting imprint on the club throughout each of its four eras and how they have supported the organization toward a thriving future in Major League Soccer.

NASL - Jimmy McAlister

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Jimmy McAlister is recognized as one of the first local stars to break out during the club’s early seasons in the North American Soccer League. Just two years after the Sounders’ inaugural campaign in 1974, McAlister came into the picture, signing him shortly after he graduated from John F. Kennedy High School. After a year of participating for the reserve team, McAlister became a vital piece to Seattle’s back line; so much so, he was honored with the Rookie of the Year accolade for the NASL in 1977.

It was a momentous period for the club in terms of growing the game and the Sounders name, and McAlister believes a lot of that came from the players themselves.

“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.

APSL - Marcus Hahnemann

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Marcus Hahnemann began his professional soccer career with his hometown club after finishing a successful collegiate tenure with Seattle Pacific University, where he recorded 46 shutouts and won an NCAA Division II National Championship title. From 1994-1996, Hahnemann was a force to be reckoned with for the Seattle side, posting a goals-against average of .57 over the span of 14 APSL matches in his first season alone.

Though he returned to the Sounders in 2012 to finish off his professional career, he remembers his first stint with the club carrying a feeling of unity that he will never forget.

“It actually felt like a team,” said Hahnemann. “From that first Sounders game we had at Memorial Stadium and the trainings we had, and the camaraderie with all the guys on the team, whether they were young and old, we weren’t all the same people, but when we stepped on the field, we knew we were together.”

A-League - Viet Nguyen

Washington native Viet Nguyen has been connected to the Seattle soccer community since his youth days playing for the Federal Way Soccer Club and the University of Washington Huskies. His professional endeavors also kept him in the Seattle area when he was given the opportunity to compete with the Sounders in 1999. He stayed with the club for five seasons, making over 150 appearances, before retiring in 2004 and transitioning to coaching.

Nguyen recalls the very first match the team played at Qwest Field (now Lumen Field) against the Vancouver Whitecaps, when he scored in the club’s 5-0 win over their rival, as the highlight of his time with the club. To play at a stadium of that capacity was surreal for the players, but it was the supporters in the stands that made it a memorable day for the former Sounder.

“It was jam-packed with fans from all over the city, the state,” said Nguyen. It was a special moment for the city, the fans and for the Sounders, just as a program to kind of be on the map. And it might’ve launched the soccer buzz in the Seattle area.”

USL - Danny Jackson

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From 2003-2008, the Seattle Sounders’ current play-by-play commentator Danny Jackson played a vital role for the team as their star center back. Shortly after finishing his first season with the Seattle side and earning Defender of the Year honors for both the club and the A-League, the Sounders transitioned over to the United Soccer League where he captained the team for four seasons.

The feeling of unity Hahnehmann experienced during his time with the club was also evident during Jackson’s tenure.

“We created a great nucleus of players, a good foundation that carried us through all the way to really, the very end of 2008,” said Jackson. “And so it was a really exciting group; we played hard, we enjoyed each other on the field, but equally we enjoyed spending time with each other off the field.”

And the culture remains the same to this day.

“It has been there for so many years and will continue forward,” said Jackson. “The Sounders have a really bright future, but it’s been really built off the foundation of what's come from past players, past teams, past coaches, and past iterations of the Sounders.”

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