Seattle Sounders 2012
2012 record: 15-8-11 (56 points); 51 GF / 33 GA (+18 GD)
From the 7-1-1 start to the season to the to nine-game winless run that immediately followed; to a fourth consecutive trip to the US Open Cup to the gut-wrenching loss in a penalty shootout; to the first-ever trip to the Conference Championship to the 3-0 loss in the first leg of that series; the Seattle Sounders endured a roller-coaster ride quite unlike any of their previous three MLS seasons.
In the end, the Sounders were forced to settle for their first trophy-less season. But to call it a total disappointment would be unfair. The Sounders were two points shy of the third-highest point total in the league, had the second-best defense, fifth-best offense and advanced further in the playoffs than they ever had before.
Those achievements still weren’t enough to satisfy the largest fanbase in MLS or one of its most ambitious front offices. Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer hinted at some significant changes this offseason, which could see the breaking up of what has so far been a relatively stable core.
Best Moment of the Year
True life-affirming inspiration does not often emanate from the soccer field, but seeing Steve Zakuani swap jerseys with Brian Mullan on July 7 was pretty special. The moment not only marked Zakuani’s first MLS appearance in more than 14 months, but it also was a clear sign that Zakuani had forgiven the man who broke his leg with a brutal tackle. There may not have been a single dry eye in the stadium that night.
2012 Club by Club
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
Worst Moment of the Year
Losing any match 3-0 is bound to feel awful. Doing so in a playoff game is obviously much worse. But to have it happen for a second straight year when no team in league history had ever lost the first leg of a playoff series by more than two goals? It’s almost impossible to believe. But that's exactly what happened at the Home Depot Center when the Sounders were blitzed by the eventual champion LA Galaxy. That it came just three days after the Sounders had experienced their playoff breakthrough only served to make the pain even more visceral.
As impressive as Patrick Ianni’s strike against Sporting Kansas City was and as unbelieve as the 35-yard bomb Fredy Montero scored against the Galaxy, the Sounders’ most important goal was Mario Martínez’s game-winner against Real Salt Lake in the Western Conference semifinals. Not only does Martínez receive points for importance, but the degree of difficulty was impressive as well. Striking it first time from a pass from Fredy Montero, the Honduran beat RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando from a sharp angle to send the Sounders through.
Considering Michael Gspurning posted the third-lowest goals-against average in league history, you might assume he came up with some spectacular saves. Truth be told, Gspurning was more about positioning and coming off his line to keep shots from ever happening. As a result, he made many of his saves look easy. The most impressive save, then, belongs to Bryan Meredith, whose acrobatic stop of a Scott Sealy header back on May 9 helped preserve a 2-0 win.
It’s difficult to quantify, but no player has been or continues to be more important to the Sounders’ success than Osvaldo Alonso. The defensive midfielder started to get more involved in the attack this year, while maintaining his status as the elite ball-winner in MLS. As much as any of the backline players, he was responsible for the team allowing the second fewest goals in the league. He was also the Sounders’ most reliable player, leading the team with 30 regular-season starts and 2,688 minutes.
Scoring 14 goals and winning Comeback Player of the Year would seem to make Eddie Johnson the easy pick here, but for our money the most important addition to the team was Gspurning. Stepping into the rather enormous hole left by Kasey Keller’s retirement, Gspurning was the league’s best goalkeeper when healthy. His .73 goals-against average was the best in the league and the Sounders went 12-4-5 in matches he started. He’s also just 31, which means he could be in Seattle for a very long time.
— This season recap by Jeremiah Oshan was originally featured on MLSsoccer.com on December 14, 2012.