By John Boyle
Well that was a good time, wasn’t it? With two Sounders in the starting lineup, the U.S. National Team beat Panama 2-0 in what was the first World Cup qualifier in Seattle since 1976. And if the passion shown by the 40,847 in attendance, as well as the reaction of players to that crowd is any indication, this region won’t have to wait nearly as long to get another important U.S. game.
Yes Seattle is tough to get to for European-based players, and yes a temporary grass field is hardly ideal, but Tuesday night showed that those are inconveniences worth putting up with.
“Obviously you can’t talk about the game tonight without talking about the crowd,” said midfielder Michael Bradley. “Unbelievable. The best crowd I’ve played in in the United States without a doubt. So from all the players, a big thank you to everybody who was here, to everybody in this city who makes this a special night for us, because people don’t know what a difference it makes when you play in an atmosphere like this.”
Added US coach Jurgen Klinsmann: “Amazing crowd. It was just a wonderful atmosphere. The players enjoyed it tremendously. We all did.”
Of course Sounders players Brad Evans and Eddie Johnson have been telling their US teammates about crowds in Seattle for a while, and the fans certainly did not disappoint.
“I’ve been telling the guys all week, ‘Wait ‘til game day, watch how the fans are.’” Johnson said. “That’s all the boys are talking about after the game, the crowd.”
Johnson added that, while he can’t name names, more than one player in the locker room told him they’d love to play in Seattle some day.
Here’s what Evans had to say about it: “It was insane. From warm-ups to thanking the crowd after the game, it was absolutely nuts, but to be expected. It’s nothing new, so not surprising at all.
“Everybody is so impressed. It’s really gratifying for them to be outspoken about it, to say, ‘You guys have something special here.’ Why it took so long to get one here, it is what it is, but now that it’s here, you’d better believe there will be more to come in the future… The crowd was absolutely insane tonight, the guys had nothing but positive things to say about it.”
And US goalkeeper Tim Howard: “It was really, really cool. It was inspiring for us.”