A magical, record-setting inaugural season for the Seattle Sounders FC reached its conclusion last Sunday in Houston. In the deciding match of the MLS Western Conference Semifinals, the Dynamo defeated the Sounders FC, 1-0, on aggregate, winning the second leg in extra time.
The team returned home later Sunday night to the cheers and applause of its devoted supporters for a remarkable year in which many records were broken, both on and off the pitch.
Seattle was the first expansion team since 1998 to qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs and compile a winning record. The Sounders FC not only finished tied for the best defensive team in the league, but also scored more goals than any first-year franchise in 11 years.
In addition, Seattle claimed its first trophy. The Sounders FC won the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup with a 2-1 victory over D.C. United on September 2, completing a perfect six-game sweep of its cup-related matches. The Open Cup is the oldest cup competition in the U.S., dating to 1914, and Seattle became the second expansion team in the modern to lift it.
The support from the fans and the atmosphere they generate are already becoming legend as Seattle established itself as a soccer capital. Each and every competitive match was played before a capacity crowd. The Sounders FC smashed the MLS season attendance record, averaging 30,943 per regular season match. The crowd of 35,807 for the first leg playoff with Houston was a record for a conference semifinal, and ranks No. 7 among all MLS Cup Playoff matches.
The largest crowd in Pacific Northwest soccer history, 66,848, filled Xbox Pitch on Qwest Field for Seattle's August 5 friendly with reigning world champion FC Barcelona. Earlier in the summer, 65,289 witnessed the visit of England's Chelsea FC.
Another big crowd is expected on November 22, when MLS Cup 2009 will be played on Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. First kick is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. PT.
Houston visits the Los Angeles Galaxy on Thursday night to determine the Western Conference representative. The other half of the MLS Cup pairing will be decided Saturday when the Chicago Fire hosts Real Salt Lake.
Fredy Montero is MLS Newcomer of the Year
Sounders FC forward Fredy Montero became the first Sounders FC payer to earn an MLS season award, winning 2009 Newcomer of the Year. Montero finished tied for third in goals (12) and game-winning goals (4), and led MLS in shots (86) and was seventh in attempts on goal (32). He also scored the first goal in Sounders FC's 2-1 victory over D.C. United for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller and midfielder Freddie Ljungberg were the other two finalists for Newcomer of the Year.
"I am very happy and thankful to be honored," said Montero. "I was humbled to be among the top three nominees, along with my teammates, Freddie and Kasey. This has been a very successful campaign in my first season with the Seattle Sounders FC. I feel I will always be a part of the team's history and, in return, this team will always remain in my heart.
"There are many positive things I have learned here that have helped me grow as a soccer player and as a person," Montero added. "I thank all the fans for their confidence in me and my teammates. They are the best fans in the league. There's nothing like stepping out onto the pitch for a match at Qwest Field.
"I must thank my teammates for this award, because they gave themselves completely in every game and on every play," he said. "And I thank the coaches, especially Sigi Schmid, for their trust in my ability."
The 22-year-old Colombian was among Seattle's four representatives in this year's MLS All-Star game. He came to Sounders FC from Deportivo Cali. Montero twice led the Colombian First Division in scoring, including 2006-07 while on loan to Atletico Huila.
Montero made a most favorable first impression in MLS and has sustained a remarkable pace throughout the season. He made the transition to a new land and a new language while remaining one of the most prolific attackers in the league.
Scoring two goals and adding an assist in his debut match, Montero's start was the strongest since Brian McBride in the inaugural season, and his three goals in the first two games was the most productive since Luciano Emilio in 2007. He was named March Player of the Month.
From June 13 to June 28, Montero scored in four consecutive games as Seattle went 2-0-2
Montero has exhibited power with his heavy outside blasts, plus creativity in beating defenders on the dribble. Two of his scores were voted MLS Goal of the Week. He finished tied for second on the team and ninth in the league with seven assists, and he suffered the second-most fouls (62).