Seattle is the location where dreams of glory for Minnesota soccer fans become nightmares. We are talking of those moments when our heroic lads were so close to championships at the highest level of U.S. pro soccer they could taste it, and then winding up as ill as if they had been served a batch of bad razor clams.
It always has been thus:
Sorrowful in Seattle, starting with the conclusion of the Minnesota Kicks' first season in the North American Soccer League in 1976, continuing through the conclusion of Minnesota United FC's fourth season in Major League Soccer late Monday night.
Forty-four years of anticipation turned to anguish, all because of excursions to Seattle.
OK, there were those 35 seasons (1982-2016) when we didn't actually have a big-league soccer team, including 11 seasons (1985-1995) when the United States didn't actually have a major league, but work with us here … it's always Seattle where Minnesota gets the boot in footy.
Alan Merrick, a standout defender for the Kicks for 103 games from 1976 to 1979, said: "What do you mean? We had more good results than poor ones against Seattle."
Yes, good sir, but where was it that the Kicks met a final demise in that magical first season of existence on Aug. 28, 1976?
It was inside Seattle's new Kingdome for a Soccer Bowl meeting with the strangest franchise in the NASL, the Toronto Metros-Croatia.
Final: Metros-Croatia (Toronto's merger of a financially busted NASL franchise with Croatia, an ethnic team from Canada's small-time National Soccer League) 3, Kicks (instant heroes of a new NASL market) 0.
Merrick said: "That is true. We somewhat dominated much of the first half and could not put a ball in the net. Then Eusebio, the veteran star Toronto had added during the season, scored on a free kick — the ball brushed off my shoulder and went into the far corner — late in the half and that took some wind out of our sails.
"Toronto had brought in four players and had become an exceptionally good club. That sort of surprised us. We were very confident going into that match."
Much like the confidence their distant, much-younger cousins were feeling — Minnesota Loons-United — with 15 minutes left in the Western Conference final on Monday night in the Seattle football stadium that replaced the Kingdome.
Adrian Heath's upstarts led the favored Sounders 2-0 and were working on a streak of no goals allowed in 384 minutes. Then, substitute Will Bruin scored with 15 minutes left in regulation.
Merrick was watching home in the Twin Cities and already was nervous before the Bruin goal.
"There were elements required to win a match that United was not taking care of," he said. "I was shouting at the screen, 'Why aren't you doing this!' and 'Why are you not involved right there as a player?'
"I saw some writing on the wall before Seattle scored its first goal to back into things."
Merrick was particularly agitated that Raul Ruidiaz, the most dangerous of Sounders, was given room near the net to tie the game with one minute remaining in regulation.
"Why was he not being marked intensely?" Merrick said. "They were inches away from playing for the championship. It was very frustrating."
United's 2-0 lead had come on two outstanding plays by Emanuel Reynoso, the 25-year-old purchased from Boca Juniors in Argentina for $5 million. He was fabulous down the stretch, creating nearly all of the Loons' offense during the playoff drive.
"Reynoso has a skill set that is special," Merrick said. "He could make himself a player of note very quickly — and I mean notable internationally.
"He also seems to have a great relationship with Adrian Heath, which would mean that all of the growth molecules are in place for him."
Out here in prairie, we thought Merrick and the rest of the Brits that dominated Freddie Goodwin's roster when the Kicks arrived in the spring of 1976 talked funny. And 44 years later, you still can guffaw over the lingo.
"Growth molecules." Even Philip J. Fleck Jr. hadn't thought of that one.
Merrick has spent the past five years with partners developing a soccer instruction app — Motisports.com — of which he's very proud. It is intended for mobile devices and, Merrick said, will assist players as well as youth coaches wanting to provide proper instruction to their kids.
"You could coach your grandkids with the visualization and clear details available on this app," Merrick said. "We created the traction for soccer in Minnesota when we arrived in 1976, going to playgrounds, to schools, to phy-ed classes, and showing young people the basics of soccer.
"To see what the game has become here, and the technology we have to bring instruction right of their phones and tablets, is thrilling."
And what should the youth have learned watching this week's latest disappointment in Seattle?
"You cannot allow the other team's leading scorer to be free five yards from the far post," Merrick said. "I was shocked to see that."
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