Seattle Sounders Profile
|Major Honours||MLS Cup (2), MLS Supporters' Shield (1), US Open Cup (4)|
The Sounders have become one of MLS' most-feared teams since making their debut in 2009.
The Seattle Sounders joined MLS in 2009 and over the next decade became one of the most successful teams in the league. Owned by Adrian Hanauer, the Sounders have made the MLS Cup play-offs in every season they have played. They have won two MLS Cups, four US Open Cups, one Supporters' Shield and set multiple MLS attendance records. Joe Roth, former chairman of 20th Century Fox and Walt Disney Studios, was the majority owner from 2007-15. He left the ownership group in 2019.
The Sounders name was originally not going to be used so the team could have a fresh start from the USL side. However, fan backlash to the proposed names (Seattle FC, Seattle Republic and Seattle Alliance) included many write-in votes for Sounders and the team reversed their decision and stuck with tradition. The official team colours are Sounder Blue, Rave Green and Cascade Shale to represent the water, the forest and the mountains of Washington state. The badge is a two-layer heraldic shield that features the famous Seattle Space Needle.
Hanauer is the majority owner and he was the owner of the Sounders USL team too. He was also the Sounders GM until 2015, when he tempted Garth Lagerwey away from Real Salt Lake. Celebrity minority owners include baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., The Price is Right host Drew Carey, NFL star Russell Wilson and his musician wife Ciara, and rapper Macklemore. The estate of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is also a minority owner, as is his sister Jody Allen.
The Sounders have only employed two managers in their history to date. The late Sigi Schmid was in charge from 2009 to July 26, 2016, and Brian Schmetzer has been the manager ever since.
The Sounders squad has included many USMNT superstars over the years including Clint Dempsey and Kasey Keller, homegrown players Jordan Morris and DeAndre Yedlin, plus Fredy Montero, Raul Ruidiaz, Cristian Roldan, Brad Evans, Chad Marshall, Stefan Frei, Osvaldo Alonso and Nicolas Lodeiro.
The Sigi Schmid era
The Sounders hired German Sigi Schmid to be their first manager and signed Sweden's Freddie Ljungberg as their first Designated Player. They signed USMNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller as the big-name player, picked defender Brad Davis in the Expansion Draft and signed forward Fredy Montero on loan from Deportivo Cali in Colombia. Their debut game was a 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in front of 32,523 home fans as Montero scored twice and Evans found the net as well. Seattle won their first three games and had two stretches of at least five games without defeat during the season.
The Sounders made noise in the US Open Cup with qualification wins over Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids. They beat the Portland Timbers (USL) in the third round and Kansas City Wizards in the quarter-finals. They defeated the Houston Dynamo in extra time in the semi-finals and became just the second-ever expansion team to win the US Open Cup when they won 2-1 at D.C. United on September 2.
The MLS regular season ended with a third-place finish in the West, making the Sounders just the third expansion team to make the MLS Cup play-offs. They lost in the first round though, 1-0 on aggregate, to the Houston Dynamo.
Ljungberg was traded to Chicago and replaced as a D.P. by Alvaro Fernandez, a midfielder from Uruguay, and Blaise Nkufo, a Swiss forward. The Sounders had a rough start to the season with eight losses in their first 15 games, but they rebounded with 10 wins down the stretch to make the play-offs. Montero led the team with 12 goals and the Sounders set a league attendance record by averaging 36,173 fans. They made it through the CONCACAF Champions League preliminary round but were eliminated in the group stage. In the MLS Cup play-offs, Seattle lost 3-1 on aggregate to LA Galaxy in the first round.
Success again came in the US Open Cup. They beat the Timbers on penalties in the third round and shut out the Galaxy 2-0 in the quarter-finals. The semi-finals featured a 3-1 win over Chivas USA and Seattle repeated their title success with a 2-1 home win over Columbus Crew as Sanna Nyassi scored twice in front of 31,311 fans.
In 2011, the Sounders posted the second-best record in MLS with 18 wins, nine draws and just seven losses. The October 15 game drew 64,140 fans in a send-off for Keller, who had announced he was going to retire at the end of the season. That game came 11 days after Keller, as captain, had lifted the US Open Cup for the third straight year when Seattle beat Chicago Fire 2-0 at home. Seattle made the MLS Cup play-offs again but, for a third consecutive year, lost in the first round, this time 3-2 on aggregate to Real Salt Lake.
Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning replaced Keller for the 2012 season and Seattle added forward Eddie Johnson, who scored a team-leading 18 goals. Seattle again made the US Open Cup final in 2012, but this time they lost at Sporting Kansas City 3-2 on penalties. The Sounders finally broke through to get an MLS Cup play-off win in 2012 as they beat Real Salt Lake 1-0 on aggregate in the first round. Their play-offs ended with a 4-2 aggregate loss to the Galaxy in the Western Conference finals though.
The Sounders brought in local native DeAndre Yedlin as a Homegrown Player for the 2013 season after his college career at the University of Akron. They also added midfielder Shalrie Joseph and Designated Player Obafemi Martins. The biggest signing came in August when they acquired USMNT forward Clint Dempsey from Tottenham Hotspur on a D.P. deal for $9million. The Sounders reached the semi-finals of the 2012/13 Champions League but were eliminated by Santos Laguna 2-1 on aggregate. Dempsey scored his first goal in the final game of the MLS regular season as Seattle drew at home to LA Galaxy and finished fourth in the West. They beat Colorado Rapids 2-0 in the knockout round of the MLS Cup play-offs but lost 5-3 on aggregate to Portland in the conference semi-finals.
The Sounders added goalkeeper Stefan Frei for the 2014 season and also brought in defender Chad Marshall. Johnson was traded for allocation money and Steve Zakuani left for Portland. Martins led the team with 17 goals, while Dempsey scored 15. The Sounders won another US Open Cup, this time with a 3-1 extra-time win in the finals on the road in Philadelphia. They also won their first Supporters' Shield with the best MLS regular season record. They beat FC Dallas in the first round of the play-offs with an away goal but lost to the Galaxy in the conference finals on away goals after a 2-2 aggregate score.
Cristian Roldan was drafted for the 2015 season, while Yedlin was sold to Tottenham for $4million. The Sounders made the play-offs but lost in the conference semi-finals to FC Dallas on penalty kicks after a 3-3 aggregate draw and a tie on away goals. The Sounders made it through the group stage of the Champions League and into the 2016 knockout round, losing 5-3 to Mexican side America at the next stage.
Before the 2016 season, the Sounders signed local kid Jordan Morris on a Homegrown Player deal after he had finished at Stanford University. In July, they added Uruguayan midfielders Nicolas Lodeiro and Alvaro Fernandez on D.P. deals after Martins had left to play in China. The season started poorly with just six wins from their first 20 games and after a 3-0 loss to SKC, Schmid left on mutual terms.
The Sounders and the Brian Schmetzer era
When Schmid left on July 24, longtime assistant Brian Schmetzer took over. Lodeiro and Fernandez (after four years away) had joined the team, but Dempsey was left out due to an irregular heartbeat. The Sounders found their stride at the end of the season with eight late wins to finish in fourth place. Morris led the team with 12 goals and was named MLS Rookie of the Year.
In the play-offs, Seattle beat Kansas City 1-0 in the knockout round and took out FC Dallas 4-2 on aggregate in the semi-finals, with Lodeiro scoring three goals across the two games. In the Western Conference finals, the Sounders beat Colorado Rapids 3-1 on aggregate as Morris scored in both games. The MLS Cup final was in Toronto against Toronto FC and despite not registering a shot on goal all game, the Sounders prevailed 5-4 on penalty kicks to win the league title for the first time.
Dempsey returned for the 2017 season, but the Sounders won just five of their first 17 games. That changed with a 13-game unbeaten streak and the Sounders ended up in second place in the West. The play-offs started with a 2-0 aggregate win over Vancouver as Dempsey scored twice in the second leg. The Sounders routed Houston 5-0 on aggregate in the Western Conference final, with Will Bruin scoring in both games. The MLS Cup final was a rematch in Toronto, but this time TFC won 2-0.
Brad Evans left for Kansas City before the 2018 season and Seattle added Peruvian forward Raul Ruidiaz on a D.P. contract in the summer window. The Champions League saw Seattle reach the quarter-finals, but they fell 3-1 on aggregate to Guadalajara in March. Seattle won their final five regular-season games to finish second in the West. However, their play-off run was short as Seattle lost to local rivals Portland in the first round on penalty kicks after a 4-4 draw on aggregate.
Dempsey retired after the 2018 season, tied for the franchise record in goals scored, while the Sounders also released their original captain, Osvaldo Alonso. Two months into the 2019 campaign, Marshall retired, but the Sounders kept piling up wins and finished second in the West to secure a record 11th straight play-off appearance. Seattle beat FC Dallas 4-3 in the first round as Morris scored a hat-trick, including the 113th-minute winner. In the conference semi-finals, the Sounders beat Real Salt Lake 2-0 and they upset top seed LAFC 3-1 in the conference finals as Ruidiaz scored twice. For the third time in four years, the Sounders faced Toronto FC in the MLS Cup final, but this time the game was in Seattle. With 69,274 fans on hand, Seattle thrashed TFC 3-1 to win their second MLS Cup.
Seattle brought in Brazilian midfielder Joao Paulo on loan in January 2020. The season started with two draws against Honduran side Olimpia in the Champions League, but the Sounders were eliminated on penalties in the round of 16 tie. After two regular-season games, the season was suspended due to COVID-19, resuming in July at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando. Seattle made it through the group stage but lost to LAFC 4-1 in the last 16.
In the regular season, they won five of six in September and October and only lost once in the final six games to finish second in the West. They beat LAFC 3-1 in the first round of the play-offs and FC Dallas 1-0 in the conference semi-finals. The Sounders then enjoyed an epic comeback to beat Minnesota United at home in the conference finals. Down 2-1, Ruidiaz scored in the 89th minute and Gustav Svensson won the game in the 93rd minute. In their fourth MLS Cup final, the Sounders couldn't defend their title, falling 3-0 at Columbus Crew on December 12.
Seattle Sounders' rivals
The Sounders have geographic rivalries in the Cascadia Cup with the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps.
The Sounders/Timbers rivalry is one of the oldest in the United States and may be the fiercest in North America. The rivalry dates back to 1975 in the NASL and has taken flight in MLS. Seattle head into 2021 with a 12-10 lead in MLS games with six draws between the teams. They have met in the US Open Cup eight times, with Seattle winning on five occasions. Portland have won two of the last three meetings and eliminated the Sounders from the 2013 and 2018 MLS Cup play-offs.
The rivalry with Vancouver isn't as fierce as the one with Portland. Seattle lead the MLS series 13-7 with six draws between the teams. They have met once in the MLS Cup play-offs, with Seattle eliminating the Whitecaps in 2017. As Vancouver is in Canada, they don't play in the US Open Cup. The teams were placed in the same CONCACAF Champions League group in 2015 and Seattle won the home leg while earning a draw in Vancouver.
Seattle Sounders' top players
Clint Dempsey is not only the most high-profile player in Sounders' history but is also tied for the franchise record with 47 goals from 115 games between 2013 and 2018. He tied the record set by Fredy Montero, who scored 47 times in 119 games between 2009 and 2014. Obafemi Martins scored 40 times in just 72 games between 2013 and 2015. Three active players are in the top six on the Sounders scoring list as Jordan Morris (35), Raul Ruidiaz (33) and Nicolas Lodeiro (32) head into the 2021 season with a chance to break into the top three. Ruidiaz has 33 goals in just 53 games with the Sounders.
Lodeiro holds the team record with 58 assists in 121 games as he enters the 2021 season. Montero previously had the record of 34, tied with Mauro Rosales (2011-13). Dempsey had 28 assists and Brad Evans had 27 from 2009-17. Cristian Roldan enters the 2021 season with 26 assists, just outside the top five.
Kasey Keller was the Sounders' first goalie and he played in 93 games from 2009-11 after retiring from the USMNT, where he was on four FIFA World Cup rosters. Keller's team record of 30 clean sheets was broken by Stefan Frei, who now holds the record with 63 in 220 appearances.
Osvaldo Alonso holds the team record with 277 appearances between 2009 and 2018. Frei is second on the list, with Brad Evans ranking third at 200 games. Cristian Roldan is the active leader with 173 games heading into the 2021 season, while Chad Marshall rounds out the top five with 156 appearances from 2014-19.
The Sounders have a long history of signing Designated Players, including Martins, Dempsey, Alonso, Lodeiro, Ruidiaz and Joao Paulo. Swede Freddie Ljungberg was their first D.P. when he signed from West Ham United in 2009. They also signed Mauro Rosales, Christian Tiffert, Shalrie Joseph, Nelson Valdez, Blaise Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez, Victor Rodriguez and Xavier Arreaga on D.P. contracts.