A December to Savor

There is more than one way to reach the top, and 2016 was a glorious example of just that. Within a span of seven December days, Western Washington and Seattle Sounders FC won championships in distinctly different fashion.

Culminating a season-long march, Western confirmed its No. 1 billing by ending the reign of a three-time champion. Conversely, for much of the season the Sounders scarcely considered to have postseason potential, let alone become a championship contender.

Seattle's quest for its first MLS Cup was not without its casualties. Sigi Schmid, who had guided the franchise from its infancy to seven straight playoff appearances, not to mention five major trophies, was removed as head coach after 20 games. The Sounders had slumped six games below .500 for the first time and stood ninth out of 10 teams in the West.

Replacing Schmid, initially on an interim basis, was his top assistant, Brian Schmetzer. In the USL era, Schmetzer's Sounders won two championships. Still, it would be a huge task to reach the postseason.

Coinciding with Schmetzer's ascension was the arrival of Nicolas Lodeiro, an inventive and industrious export from Boca Juniors and Uruguayan international. Lodeiro proved to the a catalytic ingredient in midfield, scoring four times and assisting on eight goals in the final 13 matches. His connection to Clint Dempsey was prosperous but unfortunately short-lived. Dempsey, after a hat trick at Orlando and brace versus Portland, experienced an irregular heartbeat and pulled from the lineup with 10 games to go.

Shouldering the offensive load down the stretch would be veteran Paraguayan Nelson Valdez and homegrown rookie sensation Jordan Morris. During four straight wins Morris scored three goals, including two during a vital road victory at L.A. that put Seattle squarely in the playoff race.

After clinching a postseason berth on the final day of the regular season Valdez and Lodeiro figured prominently in wins over Kansas City and Supporters' Shield winner FC Dallas. In the Western Conference finals versus No. 2 overall seed Colorado, Morris struck twice in the 3-1 aggregate series.

Finally, in the MLS Cup Final, played in sub-freezing temperatures against a red-hot, high-powered Toronto FC, defense won the day. Stefan Frei stopped all seven shots on frame, most notably an outstretched leaping save off Jozy Altidore in extra time. Frei saved another try during the penalty phase and centerback Roman Torres struck the decisive blow to earn the trophy (0-0, 5-4). Under Schmetzer and facing seemingly a slew of must-win matches, the Sounders won 12 and drew five of their final 20 games, including postseason.

“They’ve been resilient for a very long time,” Schmetzer said of his team. “But I think at the beginning of this year, when we started off in preseason, we knew we had a good team, a veteran team. The reasons for the slow start we can pick apart. But I think the base was always there. They found a way to win and persevere in tough situations.”

A week earlier in Kansas City, the Western Washington women applied the finishing touches to a near-perfect masterpiece. Following a one-goal, losing decision in the 2015 national final, the Vikings had spent 12 months focused on getting back to that point–and then reaching the summit.

After an opening day draw, Western won out the rest of the way. Twenty-four consecutive victories, 16 of them by multiple goals, 16 by shutout. By mid-October, the Vikings earned the No. 1 ranking in NCAA Division II. They would not relinquish it.

Once in the NCAA tournament, rather than become conservative they were explosive, scoring 15 goals via 10 different players. In their long-awaited rematch with Michigan's Grand Valley State, Western struck from long-range three times – two from Caitlyn Jobanek and the 76th-minute winner from Emily Webster – to oust the Lakers from their D2 throne, 3-2.

"They have so much belief in themselves and the person next to them, and it showed up many times this season," coach Travis Connell said. "That's inside, that's who you are as a person and that's what showed up. The players just said, `we're going to go and win this thing no matter what gets in our way.'"

Western completed its quest by winning 24 straight following an opening day draw. The Vikings joined Seattle Pacific as the only two NCAA women's championship programs in the state. Pacific Lutheran won three NAIA crowns.

Season Record
14-14-6, MLS Cup Champion
Coach
Sigi Schmid/Brian Schmetzer
Top Scorer
Jordan Morris (12 goals)
Men's Collegiate Postseason
Washington (D1, 3rd rnd), Eastern Wash. (D1, 1st rnd), Western Wash. (D2, 2nd rnd), Whitworth (D3, 1st rnd)
Women's Collegiate Postseason
Seattle U. (D1, 1st rnd), Western Wash. (D2, champion), Central Wash. (D2, 2nd rnd), Seattle Pacific (D2, 1st rnd), Pacific Lutheran (D3, 1st rnd)
NWAC Men's Champion
Tacoma
NWAC Women's Champion
Peninsula
Boys Regional Champion
Seattle United 98 Copa (U17)
Girls Regional Champion
Eastside 98 Red (U17)
WIAA Boys Champion
Wenatchee, Interlake, Abp. Murphy, Seattle Ac., St. George
WIAA Girls Champion
Camas, Seattle Prep, Columbia Rvr., Overlake Chr., St. George
President
Daren Mancini
Member Associations
41
Largest Attendance
53,302, Sounders v Portland, CenturyLink Field

2016: A December to Savor

Western Washington brings home an NCAA championship, and a week later the Sounders culminate the most unlikely of title-winning tales by lifting the MLS Cup.

Morris Wins MLS Rookie of Year
November 10, 2016

After setting an American rookie record for goals (12), Seattle Sounders homegrown forward Jordan Morris is named MLS Rookie of the Year.

Morris Clinches MLS Cup Berth
November 27, 2016

Behind Stefan Frei's shutout and second-half strike from Jordan Morris, Sounders clinch berth in MLS Cup final with 1-0 win in Colorado (3-1 aggregate).

Uruguayn Orchestrator Arrives
July 27, 2016

Sounders FC signs Uruguay international and Boca Juniors star midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro, 27, to a DP contract. He helped Boca reach the Copa Libertadores semifinal earlier in the year.

Stars Make Playoffs
February 26, 2016

Joey Gjertsen scores twice and Michael Ramos nails the deciding goal as Stars clinch a MASL playoff berth in their first full season by beating Ontario, 5-4, before 3,500 at ShoWare Center. Tacoma's finishes 13-7 and goes on to play San Diego in the first round.

Vikings Win NCAA D2 Women's Title
December 3, 2016

Three long-range blasts lift Western Washington to a 3-2 victory over three-time defending champion Grand Valley State (Mich.) at Kansas City. Caitlyn Jobanek scores twice for the Vikings, who finished the season with 24 consecutive wins. But it's Emily Webster's 76th-minute free kick that proved the difference. Western becomes the state's second NCAA women's champion Seattle Pacific won in 2008.

Martins Exits to Asia
February 25, 2016

Obafemi Martins is sold to Shanghai Shenhua for a reported $2M. Martins had scored 40 goals in 72 MLS games since joining Seattle in 2013. He was 2014 league MVP runner-up.

Lodeiro's Instant Impact Recognized
November 21, 2016

Catalyst to a Seattle resurgence down the stretch, midfielder Nico Lodeiro wins MLS Newcomer of the Year. Lodeiro scored four goals and assisted on eight in 13 games and the Sounders went 7-2-4.

Dempsey Shut Down
August 26, 2016

Detection of an irregular heartbeat ends Clint Dempsey's season. Dempsey had scored eight goals in 17 games for the Sounders, including a hat trick at Orlando City three weeks earlier.

Morris Brace Impacts Road Win
September 25, 2016

Jordan Morris scored twice in the second half to bring Seattle from behind for a 4-2 road win over the LA Galaxy. It's the third of four straight wins which put the Sounders firmly back in the playoff hunt.

Dempsey Secures Passage in Copa America
June 11, 2016

Clint Dempsey's first-half goal allows the USMNT to survive DeAndre Yedlin's red card to score a 1-0 win over Paraguay in Philadelphia and reach the quarterfinal of Copa America Centenario.

Seattle United '00s Win Again
February 21, 2016

Seattle United boys 00 Copa win their third straight Washington State Youth Championship, this time at the U15 level, beating Eastside FC 00 Red, 1-0, at Starfire.

Seattle's Barnes Named Defender of the Year
October 5, 2016

Seattle Reign center back Lauren Barnes, marshal of a defense that led the league with eight shutouts, is voted NWSL Defender of the Year. Barnes has been a fixture in the backline since the reign's 2013 inaugural season.

Schmid Fired Mid-Season
July 26, 2016

Sigi Schmid's 8-year tenure as the only coach in Sounders FC history comes to an end with his dismissal. Seattle's 6-12-2 and has won just once in seven league games. In the club’s first 7-plus seasons Schmid had gone 115-79-56 and won four U.S Open Cups and a Supporters’ Shield. He was runner-up for 2014 MLS Coach of the Year. Brian Schmetzer is named interim head coach. It's the first time any Seattle pro club has fired a coach during the season.

Empowering Players, Serving Community
December 16, 2016

Woodinville's Joe Matthews is named 2016 USYSA Girls Recreational Coach of the Year. Matthews stresses player safety, having fun and developing soccer skills while empowering players to make decisions and communicate among themselves during a match. In addition, Matthews and his team volunteer at the local community kitchen.

Schmetzer Made Permanent
November 2, 2016

Brian Schmetzer is named head coach on a permanent basis after guiding the team to an 8-2-4 record down the stretch to clinch a playoff berth and reaching the Western Conference semifinals. Schmetzer had coached the USL Sounders from 2002-08 and served as Sigi Schmid's top assistant since 2009. Initially he named interim successor to Schmid.

Western's Shugarts Is Player of Year
December 7, 2016

Western Washington's Sierra Shugarts, a junior from Federal Way, is named NSCAA National Player of the Year, becoming only the second defender to claim the award.

Legends Screen Bo66y
October 25, 2016

Washington State Legends of Soccer hosts community leaders for a screening of the documentary entitled Bo66y, featuring former Sounders star and England 1966 World Cup captain Bobby Moore at The NINETY.

US Beats Ecuador at CLink
June 16, 2016

Scoring the opener and setting-up the winner, Clint Dempsey stars in America's 2-1 quarterfinal win over Ecuador before 47,322 at CenturyLink Field. Brad Guzan makes two stops, notably a kick-save in first-half stoppage time. The U.S. goes on to take fourth place in Copa America Centenario.

Reign's Winters Retires
September 10, 2016

Reign captain and midfield stalwart Keelin Winters announces her retirement, effective at the end of the season. Winters, 27, has anchored Seattle's defensive midfield for four seasons and, before that, the Sounders Women.

Sounders Win MLS Cup in Shocker
December 10, 2016

Stefan Frei pulls off the save of the season in extra time and Roman Torres applies the finishing touch in penalty kicks for Sounders FC to cap the unlikeliest of comebacks to claim a first MLS Cup in sub-freezing temperatures in Toronto. Frei's extends his frame to bat away Jozy Altidore's header in 108th minute of a 0-0 draw. Seattle was out-shot 19-3 with Frei saving seven, plus another in the shootout. After Justin Morrow hit the crossbar, Torres rammed his decisive penalty down the middle for a 5-4 margin.

Yedlin Moves to Newcastle
August 24, 2016

Seattle's DeAndre Yedlin is transferred from Tottenham to Newcastle of the Championship for £5 million and a five-year contract. Yedlin had spent the previous season on loan to Sunderland in the Premiership.

Seattle United First in Line
February 11, 2016

Seattle United becomes the first youth club to partner with both the Seattle Reign and Sounders academies.

Little Leaves for Arsenal
October 17, 2016

Former NWSL MVP Kim Little announces she's leaving the Seattle Reign after three seasons to join Arsenal Ladies. Little, a Scottish international, scored 33 times for Seattle including a club record 17 in 2014 regular season and playoffs.

Morris Stays Home, Signs Deal
January 21, 2016

Mercer Island's Jordan Morris spurns an opportunity at Werder Bremen to sign a record MLS Homegrown Player contract with the Sounders. Morris, 21, is coming off 23 goals and 16 assists in three seasons with Stanford, winning an NCAA championship and the Hermann Trophy as a junior. He already has seven caps for the USMNT.

Seattle United, Eastside U17s Win Regionals
June 24, 2016

Seattle United 98 Copa beats LA Premier FC, 2-0, on goals by Brannon Jong and Vincente Aquino Contreras in Boise. Meanwhile, JoJo Harber and Alex Kirton tally for Eastside 98 Red in 2-0 win over Utah's Celtic 99 Premier. Seattle United goes on to take fourth place in U17 USYSA Nationals in Frisco, Texas.

Interlake Repeats in 3A Boys
May 28, 2016

Bellevue's Saints become the first repeat state 3A titleist in 17 years behind Sam Dawson's seven saves and an early goal from Austin Bell to pip Mercer Island, 1-0, at Puyallup's Sparks Stadium. Interlake went 10-2 in its final 12 games. The Islanders had beaten Interlake two times and out-shot Interlake, 19-3 in the final.

Seattle Soccer Icon Denzil Dies
October 26, 2016

For generations his name was synonymous with deals on soccer gear in Seattle, but on this day came news of the untimely passing of Denzil Miskell. For 33 years Denzil was proprietor of Sports Specialties, Puget Sound's original soccer shop, located in Belltown. But he was much, much more than that, sharing stories and sound advice to parents and players alike. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the shop was the hub, the barbershop of the local soccer community.

Gala Launches Youth Foundation
September 9, 2016

Washington Youth Soccer Celebrates its 50th anniversary with a Bellevue gala and auction to support the launch of its foundation. The Soccer for Success program after-school program strives to make the game more accessible to children.

Scott Honored for Service
October 23, 2016

Prior to his final regular season game, retiring Sounders defender Zach Scott, 36, is presented the Golden Scarf. Scott, who will go onto make 353 appearances in all competitions since 2002, is also depicted in 20,000 bobbleheads distributed to fans.

Solo Suspended for Olympic Outburst
August 24, 2016

Hope Solo is suspended by U.S. Soccer for six months following her calling Sweden a "bunch of cowards" in the wake of an Olympic Games quarterfinal loss. Three days later Solo, 35, takes indefinite leave from Seattle Reign. Seattle finishes 8-6-6 and misses the playoffs for the first time in three seasons.

Lodeiro Leads Way in Upset
October 30, 2016

Nico Lodeiro scores two of the Sounders' three goals in an 8-minute outburst and Seattle takes command of the West semifinal playoff series by beating Supporters Shield winner FC Dallas, 3-0, in the first leg.

That's the best save I've ever seen in person. It was unbelievable.
Chad Marshall, Sounders defender, of Stefan Frei's MLS Cup final save on Jozy Altidore
It's more than just a player signing. It's someone who has grown up in the Sounders family.
Adrian Hanauer, Sounders majority owner, on the signing of Jordan Morris
They showed a ton of character, performed well, and every time a very good Grand Valley State team got back into the game, we had an answer. And it's because of the character of this team.
Travis Connell, Western Washington women's coach, after his team won the NCAA title
I want to be a club idol. At every club I've been to, I've been a champion. I want to be a champion with Seattle.
Nicolas Lodeiro, newly-signed Sounders midfielder
Sounders FC Roster
1 Kasey KellerGK
2 Brad EvansM
4 Tyson WahlD
6 Osvaldo AlonsoM
SPU Win Streak
4 at San Diego 1
1 Pacific Lutheran 0
3 George Fox 0
8 Tampa 4
6 Western Wash. 1
4 at Simon Fraser 0
6 Portland 2 ot
1 Washington 0
State Cup Champions
Boys U13 Roadrunners/SYSA
Boys U14 Highline Dirty Dozen/HSA
Girls U16 LeSac Steeler/SYSA
Girls U19 Newport Huskies/EYSA
WIAA Championship Games
Boys 4A Snohomish 5S. Kitsap 1
Boys 3A Garfield 2Roosevelt 1
Boys 2A Issaquah 2Central Valley 1
Boys 1A Seattle Christian 2Charles Wright 0
Boys 1B Bush 0Seattle Academy 0 (3-2 tb)
Girls 4A Snohomish 5S. Kitsap 1
Girls 3A Garfield 2Roosevelt 1
Girls 2A Issaquah 2Central Valley 1
How Seattle Embraced Soccer

VIDEO: How Seattle Embraced Soccer

On this Day in History