The New York Red Bulls not only are the Seattle Sounders’ next opponent, but they also were their first opponent when the club made its Major League Soccer debut on March 19, 2009.
Five Sounders who were part of that 3-0 victory before a crowd of 32,523 remain a part of the team that will once again play host to the Red Bulls on Sunday: defenders Zach Scott and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, and midfielders Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani.
“It was just the best night ever,” Zakuani recalled this week. “If you want to launch a franchise, you won’t ask for anything more than a three-nil home win. We keep a clean sheet, you have a sellout — it was just a perfect night. And it was the first time for all of us experiencing what we experience now every weekend, almost. It was a phenomenal night. I can never forget that.”
In the almost five seasons since that first kick in club history, the Sounders have gone 74-40-42 — the second-best record in MLS over that period (behind Los Angeles, 78-40-39).
Evans said some of Seattle’s success is reflected in the fact that five players — and original coach Sigi Schmid — remain five seasons later.
“It’s a testament to what this club has accomplished over the last five years,” he said. “Obviously, bringing in a good group of guys from the beginning got us off to a good start.”
It was not that way for New York, which returns only one guy from that 2009 match: Mike Petke, who played the full 90 minutes as a defender and returns Sunday as the Red Bulls’ coach.
“Is he going to start? I’ll take Petke out there,” Schmid joked. “Tell Mike he should come out on the field again. We’ll let him play for that one. … But in its own way it also speaks for (Sounders FC) because we’ve stayed a steady course, we haven’t panicked along the way. We’ve kept a semblance of continuity. … Continuity is a good thing if you have a good team.”
This season, New York and Seattle have very good teams. The Eastern Conference-leading Red Bulls will enter this match atop the Supporters’ Shield race with 51 points, while the Western Conference-leading Sounders are one point behind New York.
Whichever club wins on Sunday could become the first in MLS to clinch a spot in the playoffs, depending on other results.
Clint Dempsey (hamstring) and Leo Gonzalez (groin) were kept out of training Friday. Schmid said Dempsey could return to practice Saturday and could fill a reserve role Sunday. The coach didn’t rule out Gonzalez either but implied he is doubtful for this weekend. ... The second annual “Northwest Legends of Soccer Night” will be held Oct. 25 at the Tacoma Soccer Center. The highlight is an indoor soccer match featuring players from the North American Soccer League, United Soccer League and Sounders, along with former Tacoma Stars and Seattle Seadogs players. They will be coached by former Sounders and Stars coach Alan Hinton and former Sounders coach Jimmy Gabriel. Tickets are available at SoundersU23.tix.com. ... Mariachi Wenatchee and Folklorico dancers will perform at 4:20 p.m. Sunday at Occidental Park before the march to the Sounders match. After arriving at CenturyLink Field, the groups also will perform in the North Plaza as part of the Sounders’ celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. ... MLS has announced that its teams will wear pink ribbon patches on their jerseys, pink sweatbands and shoelaces and play with pink balls in designated games to promote breast cancer awareness. The Sounders will take part in the promotion in their Oct. 5 match at Colorado and the Oct. 9 home game against Vancouver.