MLSsoccer.com polled 20 of our editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists to bring you the Best of 2012, running Dec. 17 through Jan. 2. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS and US international players, including Biggest Controversy, Breakout Player of the Year and, via fan vote revealed on Dec. 31, the Moment of the Year.
Seattle Sounders beat writer Jeremiah Oshan introduces us to a new category in 2012: Supporters’Tifo of the Year. The winner – by a healthy margin, it should be noted – is the Emerald City Supporters’ ode to head coach Sigi Schmid, which also took the obligatory jab at the Timbers Army down the road. Love and hate at the same time – a perfect moment in supporters’ culture.
Whether it’s his fiery locker room rants, expletive laced sideline outbursts or occasional postgame diatribes, Sigi Schmid has been known to wear his emotions on his sleeve.
But rarely do we see the side he showed on Oct. 7.
Talking about the Seattle Sounders’ resounding win over the rival Portland Timbers, the longtime coach was forced to choke back tears when the subject turned to the pregame display fans unveiled. The 13,700-square-foot, 14-section Emerald City Supporters’ creation featured Schmid’s likeness as a royal-flush holding poker player along with the phrase “Tonight, we go all in.”
“I felt very honored that the fans would do that,” Schmid said at the time. “It was a little emotional for me. I was really proud of that. This club has been the best thing to happen to me in soccer. I’m thankful every day that I’m here. This is just absolutely phenomenal. Our fans are the best and there’s nothing better than a Seattle Sounder fan.”
The MLSsoccer.com panel tended to agree, at least when it came to naming the Best Supporters’ Tifo of the Year.
Even in a year in which MLS supporters’ groups really outdid themselves with their displays, this stood out. While “All In” was certainly huge, it wasn’t just the size that won over voters. Embedded in the image was a not so subtle jab at Timbers Army’s “King of Clubs” display from last year.
“A big display is not in and of itself a good display,” said ECS tifo director Rob Scott, who credited fellow member Steve Collins with the artistic vision. “Like the ‘All In’ display, it hits them where it hurts. It hit on so many levels. It’s against something they’ve done repeatedly; it’s illustrating the importance of that match. If we had lost that match, there’s no way we could have retained the Cascadia Cup.”
ECS usually does five or six big tifos in any given year, but has reserved their biggest and most elaborate for home games against the Timbers. Scott estimated that 10-15 ECS members spent time working on the display over the course of about a week-and-a-half. All told, nearly 650 man hours and 75 gallons of paint went into its construction.
Although the Sounders ultimately failed to retain the Cascadia Cup, winning the game and, apparently, Schmid’s heart was a satisfying reward.
“I don’t ever expect people to necessarily get emotional over these things,” Scott said. “That was really, really cool. That’s not something you’d expect. It really makes you think about how much these things mean, not just to players, but coaches. It was a very sincere on his part and brought a lot of pride to what ECS does.”
2. Portland’s Clive Charles tribute
Could this category really be complete without the Timbers Army? The crew in Portland brought the noise when the Sounders came to town in June, and went old school for a tribute to Portland great Clive Charles. The numbers: 20,000-plus square feet, 1500-plus pounds, 66 riggers on 22 ropes.
3. San Jose’s Star Wars homage
Once upon a time in a galaxy not so far away, the 1906 Ultras paid tribute to their heroes for the Quakes’ season finale in October. No kidding, Steven Lenhart is almost a dead-ringer for Luke Skywalker.