By John Boyle
If you’ve followed the Sounders much over the past few years, you probably know a bit about Zach Scott, the Sounders ultimate grinder, and it’s hard not to like the guy who has been hanging on this long after making the jump from soccer’s lower rungs to MLS along with the Sounders in 2009.
Well Scott just gave every Timbers-hating Sounders fans another reason to love him, saying this after Seattle’s 1-0 win.
“I’m positive the majority of those are wins,” Scott said when he was told he’s faced the Timbers 27 times in his career. “I told the guys before the game, this career is so fleeting. There is so much uncertainty day-to-day whether you’re in the lineup, whether you have a job next year, but the one thing I know for certain is that we beat Portland, period. We’re always going to be the team to beat. They can say there’s a changing of the guard, they can say we’re a group of stars and they’re the team, but in the end we’re the ones who are going to come out victorious.”
I’m tempted to just end the blog post with that quote, because it’s that good, but that just seems a bit lazy, so…
Let’s start with the crowd. The 67,385 was a Sounders record and the largest for any soccer game in Seattle. It was also the second largest stand-alone crowd in MLS history (there have been several big crowds for games paired with international friendlies) and it was the third largest soccer crowd in the world this weekend behind a pair of games in Germany’s Bundesliga, though Man U will play in front of a bigger crowd Monday.
“Incredible,” said midfielder Brad Evans. “You’re always asked questions about those games you remember, and obviously this will be one of them. Probably the most emotional I’ve been before a game for sure. Sometimes I walk out with my head down, but this one I was like, ‘you need to lift your head and take a good look around and soak it in, because you never know if this is going to happen again.’
Evans noted he got particularly emotional seeing his likeness on the pregame Tifo display: “That almost got the floodgates opening there. That was the first time that happened. Just overall a very special night.”
As for the game itself, it was Clint Dempsey’s debut, and he had some memorable moments, but the game’s only goal came from Eddie Johnson, who has scored four times in five games against Portland.
“I like to play in big games,” Johnson said. “We know how much it means to our fans, we know how much it means to this organization. For a player at the end of the day you want to step up in big games, you want to show your value.”
Johnson noted that he didn’t get a lot done in a physical first half, but that for a forward, getting the goal erases that: “I probably completed like two passes in the first half, but I knew eventually the game was going to open up, and at the end of the day, all your bad passes and touches go away when you score a goal. That’s the good thing about being a forward.”
And the win wasn’t just big for the Sounders because it was against a rival, it was also an important game for their playoff hopes against another of the top teams in the Western Conference. With the victory the Sounders jump into fifth place, one spot behind Portland, but having played two (or more) fewer games than everyone else in the West, Seattle actually has the second best points-per-game average in the conference behind only Salt Lake.
So no, Dempsey didn’t score in his debut—despite some crazy efforts—but the Sounders certainly sent their fans home happy.
“Yeah, I tried some stuff,” Dempsey said. “I had like a little ninja kick trying to put the ball in, wasn’t able to get that. Had a bicycle that was on goal. I had a header cleared off the line, I had a shot the keeper saved for a corner. Had a bit of a heavy touch in the first half that I’d like to have back—could have done a little better with that… but all in all I’m getting good looks, it’s only a matter of time before the goals and assists start coming. But I’m happy with the touches I’m getting, and more importantly, I’m happy with the way the team played and performed in getting three points. I don’t care if I score at all. As long as we keep winning, that’s the most important thing.”