The Seattle Sounders Experience

August 11, 2010 at 5:06 am | Posted in Games In My Travels, General Football, Whitecaps Season 2010 | 11 Comments

I had the opportunity to visit Seattle this weekend and there just happened to be a game on last Sunday night: Seattle Sounders v Houston Dynamo.   It was an opportunity to get a glimpse of life in the Major League Soccer as we await the entry of the Vancouver Whitecaps in 2011.

To put it all into context, I can remember some five years ago making my way to see the Whitecaps play the Sounders in the old United Soccer Leagues Division 1.  The Sounders played in Quest field on that day, which can hold close to 70,000 fans, in front of what could only have been 2,000 fans at the most.   There was very little atmosphere as the fans, for the most part, watched the game in a kind of bored silence.

At Sunday nights match the attendance was announced as 36,000.    What an incredible difference!   The Sounders have masterfully marketed their team and Seattle has embraced the Sounders with a passion and love which is truly remarkable.  The Sounders fan group are clearly very well organized, making tremendous noise and conducting chants and songs which the whole ground participated in on the night.   One has to remember there is a deep recession going on in the US right now, but the ground was packed.

The game is put on as a form of choreographed entertainment and the atmosphere was like a festival.   It was a young well- heeled and apparently well educated crowd.    We walked through Pioneer Square before the match and the fans were just gathering for the pre-match parade to Quest field.

While I cannot begin to say exactly what it is that has made Seattle Sounders  such a huge success, it has something to do with the team’s intelligent and creative management and ownership, who have clearly engaged their supporters and made them feel a part of the team.  They have done this through direct Democracy (I believe season ticket holders have a say through a vote with respect to team management), and through treating the fans with respect, unlike the ownership of the Seattle Supersonics who pulled the old “give me a new facility or I will leave” trick which is so shamefully practiced by many owners in American sports.

If the experience proved anything to those of us who have been going to little Swangard Stadium and supporting the 86er’s and the Whitecaps all of these years, it is that a Tsunami is about to wash us away!    We will soon have a new regime which will overwhelm us.

As a long time supporter, I have already felt the alienation of this coming reality caused by the new uniform and logo fiasco.   I believe the whitecaps should have consulted long time season ticket holders on this topic, and acted in the manner of the Seattle Sounders, employing direct democracy.   Sadly we were overlooked by the new regime which has lost touch with us.  I suppose we had better get used to it.  I expect the Whitecaps to be a tremendous success in MLS, but if the team gets complacent on such issues and alienates fans further, they will not be the success the Seattle Sounders have been.

On a different note, I have to say the football itself was mediocre.  The game suffered from being played on fieldturf, which is a very unforgiving surface. Many good footballing moments were lost and many plays were broken up by the high bounce the ball takes off of the surface.

Houston was a poor team, and both teams played a quite pedestrian style of football.  The game was very competitive, fast and physical however.  Sounders fans were sent home happy as they beat Houston 2-0.  What was lacking in the match was a bit of tactical sophistication and fine footballing skill.  Seattle do have some great talents in their squad, however, in particular Fredy Monteiro, Sanna Nyassi and Uruguayan World Cup squad member Alvaro Fernandez.

I was thrilled to see Fernandez play;  he brought a footballing class to the game which was missing before he came on mid-way through the second half as a substitute. Fernandez coolly scored a goal on his home debut.  I feel Sounders fans will get a lot of joy out of him.

As a whole, the experience was nothing short of incredible and demonstrates how far the MLS has come.   Cynics who said the game of football would never catch on in the US and Canada must now surely eat their words and retreat in shame.

Football has truly arrived in the USA; Seattle is the place it is all happening.

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  1. Addressing your logo change – I’ve been backcountry skiing and riding Whistler/Blackcomb my whole life. first impression of the logo was a triple-black diamond, followed by “oh, I get it, mountains reflected in the waves, VW in the waves….” It’s unique. At least your logo wasn’t shopped out to a Mississippi firm that desecrated a historical circle crest while Merritt Paulson coined ads emphatically stating “YOU CAN’T FAKE THIS”. Your transitional phase has been much smoother than our neighbors down south.

    I do take issue with your statement that “a Tsunami is about to wash us away! We will soon have a new regime which will overwhelm us”. I see this sentiment expressed by the Southsiders, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. The reason the Sounders are a success is because the ECS creates an atmosphere unrivaled in MLS every game. Vancouver’s attendance will be admirable, but what about your support? They are entirely different concepts. The Southsiders are a laughingstock with Evil Bert as one of the leaders (that video is never going away)

    Vancouver’s traveling support in the NASL was legendary, and reinventing that begins with establishing another supporters group. Good luck with that, b/c there’s not much time. I’d suggest rounding up as many men aged 20-30 as you can that are currently playing league soccer in Vancouver.

  2. I can’t tell you how much we love to go to Seattle but sometimes it is just hard to get there to watch the games and now we finally can see them here in Everett. Anyone come on in if you are in the area.

  3. http://everettwablog.com/?p=8711

  4. *sigh* Again with the new logo?

    If you think Seattle’s method of “direct democracy” was so great, why not mention the fact that Seattle’s FO intentionally left “Sounders” off the ballot in an attempt to prevent it from being picked. AND the FO chose a logo that was NOTHING like their old logo (kind of like us), with radically tweaked colours (kind of like us).

    In other words, both teams kept the original names, but our FO wasn’t trying to screw us over; both teams changed their crests; both teams tweaked their colours (Seattle moreso than Vancouver).

    So what, exactly, is it about Seattle’s approach to branding that you like so much compared to Vancouver’s?

    • Seattle learned a lesson when they left Sounders off of the list of names for the club. It just demonstrates how important tradition is in football, and that people have a long memory. While it is true Seattle departed from their logo and colours (as they had many times during their non NASL years), at least they came up with a logo which is emblematic of Seattle and has some charm. Nothing succeeds like success. Vancouver’s logo and uniform are a failure in my view and of very poor quality. That is the difference.

      • Well, that’s just it then. It comes down to opinion. But the opinion of the majority is that, while the Space Needle is a nice touch, the Sounders logo is not a particularly good one. I would bet it will be changed in the next ten years to do away with the awkward “home plate” thingy in the background, while Vancouver’s, though minimalist, would not need that kind of updating.

        Curiously enough, you say that you like Seattle’s badge because it is “emblematic of Seattle” – and I agree completely; but then take that attitude to Vancouver’s new logo, and no one can disagree that the Whitecaps new logo (mountains) is far more emblematic of Vancouver than a large surf-style wave (which is far more appropriate for a California or Hawaii based team (wikipedia California Surf for an example)).

  5. […] […]

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  7. […] Deep in the furthest Pacific Northwest reaches of Major League Soccer, a fully-engaged Seattle Sounders helped kick off Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the United States. Blue versus a light sea foam-ish green was the scene, a decidedly mild color combination on the field to clash nicely with the incredibly energetic vibe in the stands… but that’s nothing new in Seattle. […]

  8. […] to clash nicely with the incredibly energetic vibe in the stands… but that’s nothing new in Seattle.For Di Matteo’s Blues, this was the first official match since their gritty Champions League […]

  9. […] Deep in the furthest Pacific Northwest reaches of Major League Soccer, a fully-engaged Seattle Sounders helped kick off Chelsea’s pre-season tour of the United States. Blue versus a light sea foam-ish green was the scene, a decidedly mild color combination on the field to clash nicely with the incredibly energetic vibe in the stands… but that’s nothing new in Seattle. […]


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