By most definitions it was. The club had an 18-7-9 record, the best of their three seasons and second best in MLS this year. They won a third straight U.S. Open Cup. They advanced out of group play in CONCACAF Champions League.
The Sounders did all that despite the retirement of designated player Blaise Nkufo – remember him? – and the almost season-long injuries to Steve Zakuani and O’Brian White. The club compensated by signing Mauro Rosales and developing Lamar Neagle.
They also built on their MLS-record attendance for the third straight season, this time drawing an average of 38,496 per home game. On Oct. 15, they set a club record for a regular-season game when 64,140 turned out to honor Kasey Keller. On Nov. 2, they set a club record for a playoff game when 36,021 showed up to watch what turned out to be their final game of the season.
And that’s about the only way that this season wasn’t a success. In their third straight try, the Sounders again were unable to extend their season beyond the first round.
Making the playoffs seemed quite an achievement in the expansion season, and maybe even the next. But this time around the early exit was a stain. And it will remain so until it is erased by advancing.