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December 31, 2014 at 6:00 AM

The 14 most memorable Sounders moments of 2014

2014 is being widely pilloried as a slogging, 365-day downer of a year. This was the year of the Ebola outbreak, of unsanctioned annexations, of wide-spread protests and and a domestic political climate that grows more toxic by the day.

Sounders fans will remember it differently.

2014 was the year of the club’s fourth U.S. Open Cup title and first-ever Supporters’ Shield, of Dempsey and Yedlin doing their thing in Brazil, of one goal and one more win from becoming Major League Soccer’s first-ever treble winners.

Before we turn over to the blank slate of 2015 — I’ll get to that tomorrow — let’s take one last look back at ’14 with the 14 Sounders moments to remember from the past calendar year.

14. Starting off with a bang — Sounders 1, Sporting Kansas City 0 on March 8 at CenturyLink Field

Spring was the season for late winners. From March through May, it seemed like no matter how deep the hole, Seattle would find a way to crawl out of it at the death. Chad Barrett set the tone on opening day, scoring a stoppage-time goal in his first-ever Sounders appearance to sink the defending champs.

13.  Locking it down — Sounders 0, FC Dallas 0 in the Western Conference semifinals on November 10 at CenturyLink Field

Seattle’s defense was widely viewed as the team’s Achilles’ heel — not without justification — the shortcoming that would doom it come playoff time. Instead, the unit lifted the Sounders into the Western Conference finals on goal-differential, keeping a clean sheet to offset an attack that misfired throughout both legs of the series.

12. Fear the Revs — New England Revolution 5, Sounders 0 on May 11 at Gillette Stadium

Before New England became the Eastern Conference champion, it was an inconsistent squad of questionable backbone still searching for an identity. The first hint that it could be something more came at the expense of the Sounders, sending Seattle to its worst MLS defeat in club history.

11. That didn’t take long — United States men’s national team 2, Ghana 1 in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup on June 16 at Arena das Dunas

Seattle forward Clint Dempsey took just 31 seconds to silence any remaining doubts about whether he was fit to captain the national team, dancing through the Ghanian defense and finishing inside the back post to give the United States a dream start to Group G play. It only got better when John Anthony Brooks nodded in a header against the run of play late in the second half to give the Yanks all three points.

10. Manneh strikes again — Vancouver Whitecaps 1, Sounders 0 on October 1 at CenturyLink Field

Young Gambian striker Kekuta Manneh — who celebrated his 20th birthday just yesterday — is one of the most exciting attacking talents in the league on his day, as Seattle has found out more than most. Manneh hit them for a hat trick during a league meeting in late 2013. This October, he swiped the Cascadia Cup with a sprint-and-finish up the left side for the lone goal of this rivalry match on the stroke of halftime.

9. Honors even — L.A. Galaxy 2, Seattle Sounders 2 on October 25 at the StubHub Center

As far as pure quality of play goes, this might have been the best match of the season. It was the first of two L.A.-Seattle matches that would close out the regular season and a prelude to the Western Conference final — and the match least impacted by the tactical considerations that weighed down the ones that followed. Both teams tore into each other, play flowing from end-to-end, before the Sounders pulled two goals back in the second half to exorcise old StubHub demons.

8. What slump? — Sounders 4, Portland Timbers 2 on August 24 at Providence Park

Seattle made the drive down Interstate 5 with just two wins in its last six league games in its rearview mirror. Portland was licking its chops, eager to pile onto a rival showing its mortal side for the first time all season. The Sounders instead put together one of their most complete attacking performances of the year. Obafemi Martins scored two goals and dished out two assists as Seattle rolled its largest win at Providence Park in the MLS era.

7. Andy Rose at the death — Sounders 3, Real Salt Lake 2 on September 12 at CenturyLink Field

Another one for the great-standalone-game category, this showdown between Western Conference powers had it all: Momentum swings, wonder goals (see: Lamar Neagle’s bomb from distance), two good teams hitting the high notes and late drama, as substitute midfielder Andy Rose poked home the game-winner in the final minute of stoppage time.

6. Sounders confirm DeAndre Yedlin’s move to Tottenham on August 13

The rumors had swirled since Yedlin’s standout World Cup performance. The homegrown product, the Seattle kid, was close to signing with Italian giant A.S. Roma — no, it was Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League — wait, maybe he was going to stay after all. As inevitable as the announcement seemed by the end, it was still a shock: The 21-year-old right back was finally, officially Tottenham bound, though he would get one last chance to win some hardware for his hometown club before an offseason move.

5. Goals galore — Portland Timbers 4, Sounders 4 on April 5  at Providence Park

This was the first real sense that this Seattle team was different than the one that faltered down the stretch in 2013. The Timbers put the previous season out of its misery with a dominant two-leg playoff victory, but the Sounders fought back this time around. Clint Dempsey scored a hat trick, the last two strikes overturning a two-goal deficit as Seattle rallied for a hard-earned point.

4. A win isn’t enough — Sounders 2, L.A. Galaxy 1 in the Western Conference finals on November 30 at CenturyLink Field

Between the 25th and 35th minutes of Leg 2 of the Western Conference finals, the Sounders put together easily their best offensive stretch of the postseason. Brad Evans evened the series at 1-1 on aggregate in the 26th minute, then Martins and Lamar Neagle both came close. Clint Dempsey put Seattle in front 2-0 on the night and 2-1 overall in the 32nd. Yet once Juninho slammed in a shot off the left post early in the second half, though,  the 90 minutes of the first leg ended up mattering most: Having held Seattle scoreless in Carson, Galaxy now had the away-goals tiebreaker and rode it into the MLS Cup final.

3. Yedlin starts the break, Dempsey finishes it — USMNT 2, Portugal 2 in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup on June 22 at Arena da Amazonia

Yedlin wasn’t supposed to be on the U.S. squad for this World Cup, yet alone play in it. The young defender was still raw, even his champions admitted, and 2018 was a more realistic target. But there Yedlin was, coming on in the 72nd minute against European power Portugal with the score locked at one. And there he was, gashing the Portuguese D down the right flank, playing in the low cross that ultimately found a few different feet before Dempsey turned it in at the back post. Portugal scored an equalizer with just seconds remaining to slightly dampen the parade, but the U.S. was still in prime position to advance.

2. An instant classic in Philly — Sounders 3, Philadelphia Union 1 (extra time) in the U.S. Open Cup final on September 16 at PPL Park

It might have had less hype than some games that followed and far less impressive TV viewership (thanks, GOL TV), but it was the best blend of high stakes and high-level play of any Seattle game from the time I took over the beat. Philly was fearless and was a few unlucky, added-time bounces from lifting the Cup. The PPL Park crowd responded, especially in the second half, the whole stadium rising as one for counterattacks and corner kicks in the final minutes. Seattle survived to win its fourth Open Cup — and survive is the key word. Both teams were exhausted but proud in the postgame, knowing they brought out each others’ best and rose to the occasion.
1. Down to the very last day — Sounders 2, Galaxy 0 on October 25 at CenturyLink Field
Beautiful game this was not. The teams combined for 40 fouls on the day and Seattle managed barely 40 percent of the possession, not even notching its first shot on goal until midway through the second half. But the only stat that mattered to the home faithful was the final score. The Sounders needed just a point to win the club’s first-ever Supporters’ Shield as the regular season MLS champions and they ended up taking all three. Marco Pappa struck twice in the final 10 minutes, both in front of the Brougham End — where a few moments later, the Sounders lifted the Shield as cheers and rain poured down upon them.

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