Tonight’s soccer match at Qwest Field might have paired the Clash and the Republic.
San Jose’s original Major League Soccer team was called the Clash. And when Seattle was awarded an MLS expansion team, traditional soccer names such as Republic and Alliance were considered.
However, both teams finally settled on traditional names of another kind. And therefore tonight’s game will renew a rivalry pairing two of the oldest names in United States professional soccer.
“It’s so nice that they are the San Jose Earthquakes and we’re the Seattle Sounders,” said Alan Hinton, who has been part of the Puget Sound soccer scene for three decades. “I think that’s got a ring to it, and a lot of people that used to come to the old Sounders’ games are young enough to still come today.”
Hinton speaks from first-hand knowledge, as he coached the original Sounders of the North American Soccer League from 1980 to ’82. Among their top rivals were the original Earthquakes.
“Big time, big time,” Hinton said of the Sounders-Quakes NASL rivalry. “First of all, we had Bill The Beer Man here. He used to wind up the crowds. He used to stand there and put his arms up to one side and they’d go ‘Seattle!’ and he’d put his arms up to the other side and they’d go ‘Sounders!’ And they would go nuts. And then we’d go down to San Jose and they’d have a guy there named Crazy George. ...
“There was always rivalry off the field and a lot of rivalry on the field, too, because San Jose used to have a lot of international players: a lot of Englishmen, and Yugoslavian players in those days. Very good players, and they used to have very good teams.”
The Sounders and Earthquakes met 24 times in NASL outdoor games, including what proved to be the original Sounders’ final game, played at Spartan Stadium in San Jose.
After the NASL folded in 1984, the rivalry of the two cities lived on in the Western Soccer Alliance, although that Seattle team was called the Storm.
When San Jose became a charter member of MLS in 1996, its original owners decided to break with tradition, and the team was named the Clash - complete with an inexplicable scorpion logo.
By 1999, the team admitted its marketing mistake and reclaimed the Earthquakes name.
That allowed for a new era of the old rivalry, and the MLS Quakes met the USL first-division Sounders seven times: twice in U.S. Open Cup matches and five times in friendlies.
That Quakes franchise was a success on the field, but the lack of a proper stadium led to a move to Houston, where the team plays on as the Dynamo.
When MLS expanded back into the Bay Area, this ownership consulted its fans about which nickname to adopt.
“We really found out that they love the name ‘Earthquakes,’ and that any other name was unacceptable to them,” said David Alioto, the Quakes’ executive vice president.
When MLS placed its next expansion team in Seattle, the ownership group – including longtime USL Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer – also listened to its fans. And just as in the Bay Area, those fans valued tradition.
Sounders FC was born. And the stage was set for today’s 7:30 p.m. kickoff, which marks the first regular-season meeting of Sounders and Earthquakes in 25 years.
The Sounders will meet Real Salt Lake in a play-in game for the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. However, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he is concentrating only on San Jose for now and will consider lineups and playing time for the cup competition later. ... Individual game tickets for the Sounders’ July 18 friendly against Chelsea will go on sale May 11.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808