The Seattle Sounders have all the makings of a huge football club.
They have an average attendance higher than Chelsea. Star man Clint Dempsey receives a similar wage to Andres Iniesta. CenturyLink Field is larger than Benfica’s Estadio de Luz. And yet still the Sounders wait for their first MLS Cup.
The club won the US Open Cup in its inaugural season, and followed that up by winning the trophy twice more in the subsequent years. This early success hinted at a bright future and many may have expected Seattle to dominate for years to come, but that has yet to materialise.
It’s not for a lack of trying though, on or off the pitch. Attendances continue to rise season on season, and Adrian Hanauer has built a squad packed with international talent. In Clint Dempsey, Osvaldo Alonso and Obafemi Martins, the Sounders have three of the best Designated Players in Major League Soccer. Former Manchester United man Kenny Cooper and UEFA Champions League winner Djimi Traore are also on their roster.
It seems strange that a side that won three trophies in as many years, and even made the semi-finals of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2012, should struggle to such degree in the end of season play-offs.
The Sounders’ regular season record is far from perfect either, with the club making the play-offs every year but only really challenging for the Supporters’ Shield in 2011. However, it is particularly remarkable that they continue to bow out of the running for the MLS Cup at the same stage every season – 2012 being the only year that they made it past the Conference semi-finals.
Seattle’s play-off record reads as follows: an extra-time defeat to Houston Dynamo, beaten home and away by LA Galaxy, a narrow aggregate loss against Real Salt Lake, victory over the same side before succumbing again to the Galaxy, and a double derby defeat to Portland Timbers having had to see off Colorado Rapids in the qualifier.
If there’s a way to stumble in the play-offs, the Sounders have found it. Ever since their foundation, they have remained a talented team that can’t get close to winning the biggest prize in American soccer.
Well could this finally be the year? The early signs are promising. After two disappointing home defeats, Seattle are now three games unbeaten and their multi-million dollar strike partnership of Dempsey and Martins is starting to blossom.
It will certainly be interesting to see if the Nigerian can shoulder the workload when his teammate disappears off for a summer kick-about in Brazil, particularly given that the division’s other star names Jermain Defoe and Thierry Henry are also likely to be remaining in the US.
As history tells us though, getting through to the end of the season may be less of a problem than actually performing when the time comes in the play-offs.
But if Liverpool are to finally win the Premier League this year, then why can’t the Seattle Sounders get their hands on the MLS Cup?
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