The Seattle Sounders ExperienceAugust 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.