The 2009 season in review - 4th place

It's been 4 days now. 4 days since the FC Dallas game. And I still find myself checking the MLS website multiple times a day, just to look at the season standings and give myself some tangible proof that no, I'm not dreaming, and yes, we actually did it.

The season is over, but the playoffs are just beginning, and in their inaugural year in MLS the Sounders will be taking part. And maybe it's a little bit silly to recap the year now, since we have at least two games remaining, but just thinking about it makes me want to just smile and jump up and down. Actually writing about it is causing my fingers to shake with glee. I can't help it. Despite what the owners said, what the coaches said, what the players said, I never really expected this team to make the playoffs this year. Even as the 4th place team in the west, 8th overall. My expectations were never that high.

But then who could have forseen, really, the perfect storm of events that seemed to form around this team? I mean, it feels just a little bit too much like one of Joe Roth's cheesy movies. How else could Fredy Montero have led the league in goals, in his first year in MLS, as a friggin 22 year old? In what other world could Keller and Marshall have somehow found the fountain of youth, keeping our goals-against numbers down in respectable territory? It was really a magical run. It's a cliche, but there's no other word. Somehow as the season went along, the team coalesced, the whole being more than the sum of the parts. Or however that phrase goes.

And we were no small part of it. Us, the fans, providing what was arguably the best atmosphere in all of MLS, though I'm sure Toronto and DC United fans would quibble with that. I mean, we had one of the best home records in the league. That seems to be pretty good proof that something is working. And maybe some of it is the turf surface or the long travel distance. But you can't tell me that, when Jaqua poked in that stoppage time winner against the Rapids, that he wasn't being boosted by the crowd somehow. I like to think we gave him that extra inch on his stretch to toe-poke the ball into the back of the net. Crazy? Yes, but that's the way this whole season has been.

You really can't single out one player that made the difference. True, Freddy Ljungberg being healthy and able to start 23 games was a huge boost. But so was Nyassi, flitting down the wing, tormenting outside defenders from every team. So was Alonso, becoming our own defensive force in the center of the pitch. Le Toux, Riley, Evans, you could name any one of the regular starters. And it wasn't just them. Stephen King off the bench, Zakuani as a dangerous reserve. Jarrod Smith! Who would have guessed that Jarrod Smith would become a fan favorite, just for the effort and hilarious clumsiness he showed in his rare appearances? He even got a goal against Los Angeles, bless his Kiwi heart. Although I'm still fairly certain he intended it to be a cross instead of a shot.

So the dream season lives on, at least for a few more weeks. It's been unreal to get to this point. But I'd like it to go further. I'd like to see just how much this city, which has seemingly adopted the Sounders as their own, would go crazy over a deep playoff run. Seeing green and blue scarves on random passers-by in downtown Seattle... who could have guessed? And I'm imagining... I can't help it, but I am... I'm picturing a sold-out Qwest Field, top to bottom, 67,000 strong, to watch the home side in MLS Cup. It is, after all, only 3 matches away.

But first we have to get thru Houston. And I can honestly say I wouldn't mind if this fairy-tale of a season ended after the first round. Because even if this is a movie, it could be Rocky, where the lovable underdog loses in the end. And that'd be alright. The ride just to get here has been indescribably wonderful.

Besides. There's always time for a sequel.

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