Based on the reactions of players, coaches and out-of-town reporters, it seems highly unlikely Pacific Northwest soccer fans will have to wait another 37 years to see the U.S. men’s national team come to town.
The team defeated Panama 2-0 on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field in Seattle in a 2014 World Cup qualifying game. It was played in front of more than 40,000 raucous fans, who delighted nearly everyone involved.
“It was awesome,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “When we can almost fill a football stadium and get that bowl in there, it was cool. We’d like to come back. It is an amazing city. The guys haven’t been happier in months ... and to cap it off with a win is just perfect.”
The last time a qualifier was played in Seattle was in October 1976. One of the reasons the U.S. soccer federation has avoided the Emerald City is the lack of a natural grass playing surface at CenturyLink. A temporary grass field was brought in for Tuesday’s game and while a few players slipped during the match, there were no complaints afterward.
“You better believe there will be more to come in the future,” said Brad Evans, a Seattle Sounders midfielder who played defense Tuesday. “Hopefully it becomes a venue like Columbus (Ohio) or things like that, where it is used every World Cup cycle.
“The crowd was absolutely insane tonight. The guys had nothing but positive things to say.”
It sounded like a typical Sounders game, with the crowd standing throughout, singing and chanting — led by the U.S. supporter groups — and causing the stadium to shake after each goal was scored. Sports Illustrated reporter Grant Wahl said it was the best crowd he’s seen out of the 86 U.S. national team games he’s seen.
“Unbelievable. The best crowd I’ve played in in the United States, without a doubt,” midfielder Michael Bradley said. “From all the players, a big thank you to everybody who was here, to everybody in the 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.”
The crowd wasn’t the only highlight for Sounders fans, as Eddie Johnson also scored a goal in his home stadium, capping off a nearly flawless offensive performance for the Americans.
“It is a dream come true to play in the U.S. jersey and to play in front of my fans, fans I play in front of week in and week out, I couldn’t ask for a better feeling,” he said.
Johnson deftly corralled a long pass from Geoff Cameron and quickly booted it home for the second goal of the game.
It capped a special night for the city he now calls home.
“A couple of (teammates), not naming any names, said they would love to play in Seattle,” Johnson said. “They were telling me, ‘Eddie, you are lucky to play in front of such great fans.’ They said it was a European atmosphere.”
And the fans hope they get another chance soon to serenade the national team.