The Sounders did it, they won major MLS silverware. In their sixth year in MLS, the Seattle Sounders were the best team in the league and claimed the Supporters’ Shield after beating the LA Galaxy 2-0 on Saturday.
It feels like it’s been a long time coming, but really, I think that’s just the high expectations of the Sounders fan base. Prior to winning the Shield, they’ve collected four US Open Cup trophies and have reached the postseason every year. But after five disappointing performances in the playoffs, many critics were saying that the Sounders just couldn’t win the “big matches.” The victory on Saturday set the record straight.
Only six times has the Supporters’ Shield, which is awarded to the club with the best record at the end of the regular season, been decided in the last match of the season. And of the previous five times, none of those were between the number one and two teams in the Shield race. But this year the Sounders were first and LA was a very close second. Seattle needed a win or a draw to claim the title, but over the years the Galaxy has proven to be one of their biggest foes. So it was no small task.
It wasn’t until the 85th minute, that the Sounders finally broke the 0-0 deadlock. Obafemi Martins took a quick free kick, had a nice combination with Clint Dempsey, and then found Marco Pappa streaking into the left-hand side of the penalty box where he first-timed it into the back of the net.
The world erupted.
But to be perfectly honest, at first amid the adrenaline that was rushing through me, all I could think was, “Nooo, don’t run to that corner! Come celebrate over here!” But alas, he ran to the opposite side of the goal from where I was positioned, so I didn’t really get the great celebration shot I so wanted to capture. But the match wasn’t over, yet.
In the final seconds of stoppage time, Marco Pappa (once again) was applying defensive pressure on the keeper, and actually managed to steal the ball. He was now facing an open goal with a couple of defenders scrambling back to cover.
Now you have to remember, I’m watching this through my camera lens. I can’t see that Oba is wide open waiting for a pass (though I did have an inkling that someone else was there). I can’t really see just how many defenders are still back there. I just stayed focused on Pappa.
And then he flicks it past a defender with his left foot. I never saw it enter the goal. I just stayed on him to get his reaction, and hoped that he would turn my way. And sure enough, he graced me and the rest of the photographers in that corner with a great celebration.
It’s funny, in the days following the match, I’d heard from people who were watching from the stands that the post-match celebration on the field seemed a bit subdued. True, there was no confetti, and the “presentation” of the Shield consisted of just one person quickly handing it over to Brad Evans when no one else was really paying attention. But being down there among the players and coaches, there was definitely a celebratory feel permeating the pitch.
But the season is not over, yet. The playoffs are next. And there is one more trophy to be won: The MLS Cup. The Sounders will try to be the first team ever to win the domestic “treble” – US Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield, and MLS Cup. Hopefully on December 7th I will be down on the pitch witnessing and photographing US soccer history.