The Sounders brought a large traveling party with them to the U.S. Open Cup final in Philadelphia.
There was the standard 18, of course, the starters and the bench. But the reserves came along, too, the promising youngsters and the role-playing vets, the guys who helped pave the road to PPL Park even if they weren’t in the squad once they got there.
“You were there to support your teammates, because at times, you were on the field leading up to that championship,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “… That’s why everyone on the entire roster traveled to Philadelphia, to be a part of that game even if you weren’t a playing.”
Seattle’s 2-0 victory over Los Angeles at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, the one that clinched its first Supporters’ Shield title in club history, was another celebration of the collective.
Afterward, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid thanked everybody in the organization from the ownership to the equipment staff. Clint Dempsey deflected MVP hype away from himself and toward Obafemi Martins, Osvaldo Alonso and Chad Marshall.
Barely a half hour earlier, Marco Pappa had scooped his second goal over Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and sprinted toward the sideline. The Sounders bench intercepted him well before he got there.
Chad Barrett wrapped Pappa in a bear hug, and Jalil Anibaba was right behind him. Neither player got on the field in the match that decided the Shield, but each played a role in helping set it up.
Barrett scored four goals in four matches to help the Sounders pull out of a dip that was threatening to become a nosedive back in August. Anibaba was the defensive Swiss army knife, with the speed to fill in for DeAndre Yedlin on the flank while the latter was away at the World Cup and with the discipline to move to the center when injuries piled up.
“It makes everybody buy in and feel a part of the championship, which every single player on this roster is,” Scott said.
The regular-season title, like the U.S. Open Cup, is a tribute to depth, to limiting the valleys and stretching out the peaks throughout a long campaign.
“The standings don’t lie and they have been the better team over the course of the year,” L.A. midfielder Landon Donovan said. “We give them credit. That could have been ours, but I think we gave up too many points earlier in the year and it came back to hurt us now.”
The playoffs are less about depth and more about your best XI. Just five wins separate the postseason qualifiers from an MLS Cup title – six for the unfortunate souls that must survive the play-in games in the middle of the week.
The Sounders await the winner of the Dallas-Vancouver, fourth-/fifth-place game in the West, which will take place Wednesday in Frisco.
Next weekend, a new title run will begin.
“We get a day and a half to enjoy it, so that’s good,” Schmid said Saturday.
“We will enjoy it today and tomorrow, then it’s back to work on Monday.”
By the numbers: 13-4. L.A.’s edge in shots in its 2-0 defeat to Seattle on Saturday — the Sounders didn’t manage their first until the 76th minute.
In their own words: “I think last year was a freakish year. Luckily I didn’t lose all my hair—I am blessed that way in that I didn’t lose my hair, my grandfather was bald but I don’t have that gene. Last year was really frustrating at the end. We were playing upside down, trying to make things work and we just couldn’t get it to change, couldn’t get it to work” — Seattle coach Sigi Schmid on the disappointing end to last season.
Up next: The first leg of the Western Conference semifinals at either Vancouver or Dallas, the winner of Wednesday’s play-in game. Match date and time to be determined.