Sports fans in Seattle have something to cheer about again!
In a year in which Seattle's pro sports teams have fallen on hard times, the expansion Seattle Sounders of MLS have generated a buzz in the city not felt since the Seahawks made it to Super Bowl XL.
Currently second in the Western Conference behind Chivas, the Sounders are displaying an exciting brand of soccer with such current and rising stars as Fredy Montero, Freddie Ljungberg, and Kasey Keller.
The boost they've provided was needed.
Last year could be defined as the low point of Seattle sports.
The year began with rumors of the Seattle Sonics relocating at the end of the NBA season. The most successful of Seattle's franchises, the Sonics joined the NBA as an expansion team in 1967.
In the ensuing years, the team would collect one championship (1979), three NBA Finals appearances, six trips to the Conference Finals, and six division championships.
It seemed improbable that the NBA would leave Seattle.
However, the improbable happened as the Sonics owner ordered the team moved to Oklahoma City at the end of the season. Fans fought valiantly for their team and their pride (Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer even offered to chip in for the team), but to no avail.
The move of the Sonics created a void in the Seattle sports scene that was only made worse by the fortunes of the other teams in town.
Major League Baseball's Seattle Mariners began the 2008 season with high expectations after trading for pitcher Erik Bedard in the offseason. However, they were only a shadow of the more successful Mariner teams earlier this decade.
The team quickly fell flat and the manager and general manager were soon fired after losing the respect of the team and fans. The Mariners finished the season with an American League-worst record of 61-101.
Luckily, Seattle was still able to look forward to the NFL's Seahawks...right?
The Seahawks had won four straight division titles at the beginning of the 2008 season. In 2005, they stormed through the season with a franchise best record of 13-3 and made it through the playoffs to Super Bowl XL, a game they lost against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Everything seemed ripe for another great season.
In what turned out to be one of the biggest surprises of the season, the Seahawks hardly did anything at all. They finished the 2008 season with a 4-12 record and added yet another disappointment to Seattle's year.
Throw in the University of Washington's win-less football season and it's possible that no other city in sports history has had a worse year.
It's one thing if one team has a horrible season; it's quite another for every team to do so. Needless to say, Seattle was pretty down on itself.
And who would have guessed that the anit-depressant for the city would come from the Seattle Sounders, the expansion team in a sport that is far down the pecking order of American popularity?
Yet, the Sounders are selling out the lower bowl of Qwest Field, 30,000 strong at every game. More established MLS teams are struggling to get half as many per game.
It is evident that fans in Seattle are responding to the Sounders' winning ways, something that's been rare in the city for over a year. The thousands that show up to games all carry some form of team merchandise and proudly show it off to the world.
The Seattle sports scene is alive again, thanks to the Sounders. As a result, a new mecca for American soccer has been born.
Now, can Seattle's other teams thrive off the enthusiasm?