Although the Seattle Sounders FC could only muster a 0-0 tie against the Houston Dynamo on Thursday, the atmosphere at Qwest Field didn't disappoint in Seattle's inaugural appearance in the MLS playoffs: 35,807 fans packed into the stadium for the largest ever crowd at an MLS conference semifinal game.
The passion spilled over to outlying hotbeds of support. Doyle's Pub in Tacoma, for example, was packed as patrons waited for a chartered bus to head north to the stadium. Tony Huff of Puyallup said that attending Sounders games was part of his retirement plan. "I like the universality of it," said Huff, who served in the Air Force from 1960 to 1980. "When I was in the military, I watched people play soccer in every place, from Libya to Germany to Thailand."
As per tradition, Sounders enthusiasts waved scarves and signs during the pregame March to the Match from Pioneer Square. A delegation of Emerald City Supporters, a fan group with more than 1,000 members, bellowed songs and followed a marching band. ECS members spent eight hours preparing Section 122, behind the goal, with 600 flags. Fans reveled in the celebration. "This is the rowdy section, where the beer-drinking, pogo-jumping, swearing and singing fans are," Eagle Bear Morgan of Seattle Morgan beamed. "A first-year expansion franchise going into the playoffs? The atmosphere is going to be epic," Morgan said, steam pouring off his shaved head.