2011 Club by Club
New England Revolution
New York Red Bulls
Real Salt Lake
San Jose Earthquakes
Sporting Kansas City
When Sigi Schmid took over as head coach of the Columbus Crew in 2006, the team went on to a league-worst 8-15-9 record. Three seasons later, Schmid had piloted the Crew to their first MLS Cup.
Entering his third campaign with the Seattle Sounders in 2011, that chronology was not lost on the Rave Green-clad denizens of the Emerald City, and with two postseason appearances already under their belt, there was plenty of reason to believe that the young franchise could make it to the promised land.
Seattle made a big splash in the offseason by signing their young phenom Fredy Montero to a Designated Player contract, and veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller announced that 2011 would be his last season. The Green Machine was prepped for another magical year, particularly with the Portland Timbers and Vancouver Whitecaps entering the league to renew the Cascadia Cup rivalry.
Like their season-opening slump in 2010, Seattle started the campaign with a 1-0 loss to the LA Galaxy, then quickly followed that performance up with a 1-0 loss away to the New York Red Bulls. Even more distressing than the run of form, however, was losing Steve Zakuani for the season after a challenge from Brian Mullan in an April 22 game against the Colorado Rapids.
The funk wouldn’t last long for the Rave Green, however. By the Fourth of July, Seattle had compiled an 8-4-8 record with signature wins over Sporting Kansas City and Real Salt Lake, eventual Eastern and Western Conference Finalists, respectively.
It would only get better from there. On July 10, the Sounders travelled down to Portland to play in a highly anticipated Cascadia Cup matchup with the Timbers, and the denizens of JELD-WEN Field were more than prepared to give their rivals an unpleasant welcome to the Rose City. Despite facing a sell-out, raucous, hostile crowd, the Sounders battled back from a goal down – twice – to eventually take a 3-2 win.
After their dramatic victory over the Timbers, Seattle finished the season on a 9-3-1 run, inspired by strong performances by Montero - who scored the game winning goal in Portland - and MLS newcomer Mauro Rosales. Among their wins in that stretch was a Lamar Neagle hat trick-inspired 6-2 rout of the Columbus Crew, a scoreline that overshadowed Jeff Cunningham’s 59th-minute penalty kick to become Major League Soccer’s all-time leading goalscorer.
But history would continue to be made. With a 2-0 victory over the Chicago Fire at CenturyLink Field, the Sounders completed a threepeat in the US Open Cup and simultaneously broke the attendance record for a Cup match with 35,615 fans on hand. Seattle would break another attendance record – their own – when 64,140 fans showed up to see Kasey Keller’s last MLS regular season home game, and fittingly the home team won in a comeback 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes.
With a second-place finish in Group D, Seattle even booked a place in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals for the first time in their history. But as magical as their season had been up to then, the Sounders’ playoff fate would remain unchanged. Traveling for their first leg matchup against RSL in the Western Conference Semifinals, Seattle came out on the wrong side of a 3-0 result. Though they battled back with two goals in the reverse leg, it was too little, too late. Yet again, the Rave Green was bounced in the first round, leaving a club that had done so much right in their first three years in the top flight still without a title on their list of accomplishments.