Seemingly every aspect of the Sounders evolution moved forward in 2011 – except the most coveted. The Rave Green got no closer to an MLS championship that their first two seasons. Instead, the third-year team hoisting a trophy was across Puget Sound, in Bremerton.
Once more, the region’s appetite for top-flight professional matches proved practically insatiable. Sounders attendance climbs yet again, boosted by CenturyLink Field’s upper deck being opened for the final home date. The new MLS record average is 38,498 – and that excludes the new Pacific Northwest record of 67,052 for the Manchester United summer friendly.
On the field, Seattle progresses on three fronts. In league, where the season has been expanded from 30 to 34 fixtures, the Sounders average 1.85 points and finish just four points off the L.A. Galaxy’s Supporters’ Shield pace. They also claim the first all-MLS version of the Cascadia Cup, going unbeaten (2-0-2) versus Portland and Vancouver. Seattle continues to own the U.S. Open Cup, becoming the first MLS club to win three in a row, and doing so before another tournament record attendance for the final, a 2-0 win over Chicago.
Nobody in MLS wins more league matches (nine) on the road, and that resolve is also evident elsewhere on the continent. Seattle claims seven of a possible nine points in CONCACAF Champions League group stage play, most notably a victory at holders Monterrey while resting several key starters. That secures passage to the knockout rounds in the spring.
Still, the Sounders are unable to mount a playoff run. They lose their opener, 3-0, at Real Salt Lake and are unable to compensate in the home leg, despite earning their first win, 2-0. That clean sheet comes courtesy of a homegrown American legend. Kasey Keller ends his career at age 41. After roaming Europe for 16 years, the Sounders’ emergence allowed him to experience the game at home for the final three seasons. More than 64,000 witness a signature performance by Keller against San Jose, punctuated by an award-winning quadruple save and comeback win.
While a championship proves elusive for Seattle, the Kitsap Pumas are not to be denied. Under Peter Fewing, the Pumas not only win their division, they win three of their postseason matches by shutout, becoming the state’s first PDL champions.