courtesy SoundersFC.com - Matt Gaschk
Starfire plays host to the W-League Championship, with the Sounders women facing the Ottawa Fury on Friday.
Earlier this month the US Women’s National Team captivated the country with their run in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They exuded perseverance to reach the championship match even while battling back from deficits throughout the tournament and coming up big in a shootout win over Brazil in the quarterfinals.
Virtually coinciding with the start of the World Cup, the Sounders Women started a six-match unbeaten streak to close out their W-League schedule, putting them in prime position to come from deep in the trenches to shock the league in the National Championship this weekend at Starfire in Tukwila, Washington.
It wouldn’t be merely coming back from a slow start though – although Seattle would likely want back their 1-4-1 start to the season. The Sounders have had five players end their season early with ACL injuries.
“We’ve been kind of cursed out here,” said midfielder Tafara Pulse. “It’s been a long road, getting people on the field and those players have stepped up and done well. They’ve come into the game and energized us and made their mark on the field. So we’ve come back from that pretty well.”
While some teams would fold when their top scorer goes down with a season-ending injury, as forward Sophie Reiser did after 11 matches and seven goals, the Sounders just dug deeper and found a way to maintain momentum going into the final weeks of the season.
It helps, too, that they added Puyallup-native and WPS veteran Lyndsey Patterson to the mix. In just three matches, she has a goal and three assists to help the Sounders go 2-0-1 with her in the lineup.
Mix in Patterson, who is in her third stint with the Sounders, to the existing cohesion that Seattle had and the results have been great over a 3-0-3 stretch dating back to June 19.
“We have a lot of heart on this team - we never give up,” goalkeeper Liz Ruiz said. “I think we just connected more as a team. We came out rocky at the start of the season.”
Added Patterson, “I stepped in and saw right away the dedication and how much they want this and how much they work as a team.”
They hope that a growing interest in women’s soccer from the Women’s World Cup can carry over for them the way that it did for Women’s Professional Soccer, where a post-World Cup match between the Western New York Flash and the Florida-based magicJack drew a crowd of 15,404.
“We’re getting recognition from the World Cup team and how well they did. I think it’s going to carry over into the US and especially into Washington,” Patterson said. “It’s going to boost attendance and I hope we can put on a good show.”
Pulse agreed, “We know we’re going to have a great crowd out here and that they’re going to be behind us. It means a lot to be out here and to be hosting and to prove that we deserve to be here.”
Through all the trials and tribulations, the Sounders hope to have a storybook ending at this weekend’s championships. They open the semifinals on Friday against the Ottawa Fury, which is no small task as the Fury have gone a perfect 14-0-0 this season.
The Sounders are in no ways daunted by the task ahead of them, though.
“We kind of got a gift handed to us to get into the Final Four. Shoot, if we can win, that’d be awesome,” Ruiz said. “It’s giving me chills just thinking about it.”
The Sounders-Fury match will be the nightcap of a double-header in the semifinals on Friday, kicking off at 7 pm. On the other side of the semifinal bracket, the Vancouver Whitecaps will take on the Atlanta Silverbacks at 4 pm. The final and consolation matches will be Sunday at 4 pm and 12:30 pm, respectively, on Sunday.