One would guess that there is no other pinnacle for a journalist, same as a player, than to be there when a trophy is awarded. This is exacerbated though when the repercussions of that win are greater than the mere addition of an honour to one club’s honour roll.
The Sounders FC organisation is not everybody’s cup of tea, occasionally not even mine, as my regular readers know. But once in a while, there can be something redeemably human about the club, usually centered around a clutch of genuine loyal fans and some of those players who love the club and the city to its core; players who would berate anyone who suggested the club was just two years old or the fans mere customers.
On the occasion of the US Open Cup final, the entirety of the city’s soccer community excelled itself. Sounders FC has a 30,000 plus number of season ticket holders who show for MLS games, however for the Cup Final they started at an attendance of zero. The club managed to sell an incredible 31,000 tickets for an under-advertised competition that deserves better than the disdain with which many MLS clubs treat it.
The atmosphere around the ground that night was like a real European game, not just ‘as close to it as you get in the US’ – but like the real thing. Folk who had bought season tickets because it was cool and well marketed, but otherwise show little interest in soccer, were replaced with real fans of the sport and the club.
Fans who had been unable to follow the cup run due to the small capacity at the Starfire Stadium used for the earlier rounds, were now able to join the US Open Cup excitement.
Columbus Crew added to the occasion by bringing their A game, though sadly the midweek fixture prevented more of their fans from attending. Sanna Nyassi had been with Sounders since the USL days and is a player I had watched grow and mature. However despite a massive step up in his game in 2010, he hadn’t been able to find the net until just three days before.
The Cup Final was to be his night. He scored both goals as Sounders bounced back from Kevin Burns’ early goal from a smooth and slick Crew move.
After the game, the joy on the face of long time Sounders loyalist Roger Levesque was evident. Levesque may only rarely set the MLS alight but he is without doubt the biggest fan of the club on the playing squad. After the round of interviews with Sounders players and staff, I sought out Roger before retiring to sample the atmosphere among jubilant fans in a bar. No-one’s smile was wider than Roger’s. No-one’s emotion more genuine. And he only played two minutes.
In the aftermath of the match, respected US Open Cup historian Josh Hakala, wrote a piece After 97 years, is the tournament finally starting to arrive?, in which he credited Sounders FC and their fans for a re-birth of the venerable tournament.
It is to be hoped he is right. This competition deserves more TV exposure. The increase in roster size should enable clubs a little more leeway in fielding top players. Perhaps even the success of TP Mazembe at the World Club Cup will reinforce the luminosity of what lies at the end of the US Open Cup rainbow; CONCACAF entry leading to possible World Club Cup entry.
If it happens and the competition starts to increase in profile, Sounders FC and their fans will deserve a lot of the credit. No-one will be happier than Roger Levesque. Except perhaps Josh Hakala.
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