Sounders Women draw big crowd in first exhibition
Paced by four members of the U.S. Women's National Team, the Sounders shut out Seattle Pacific 5-0 before a packed house at Starfire Stadium.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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TUKWILA — A drum banged loudly, the Emerald City Supporters chanted in unison, and an impressive crowd "ooh'd" and "aah'd" as the skillful players in Rave green put on an entertaining display.
Just another Sounders game, right?
This time the excitement was for the star-studded Sounders Women, who kicked off preseason with a 5-0 exhibition win Monday against Seattle Pacific. With a core of national team players that nine months ago were playing in the FIFA Women's World Cup, the Sounders delighted and dazzled at a near-capacity Starfire Stadium.
Energized fans on this invitingly warm night had to squeeze into whatever space they could find to watch Seattle's USWNT stars — goalkeeper Hope Solo, forwards Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux, and defender Stephanie Cox — whether it was along a crowded fence or on a grassy hill beside the packed bleachers.
Coach Michelle French called the atmosphere "absolutely incredible."
"I had heard how many people were going to come, but it's like one of those things where you invite people to a party — you never who's going to actually show up," French said. "I think every seat was filled. It exceeded my expectations. The chanting, the way they created an environment just like the men's game was awesome."
The attendance wasn't announced, but was estimated at about 4,000. To put that in perspective, the top-tier Women's Professional Soccer league averaged about 3,500 last season — and this was an exhibition.
The WPS has suspended operations for the 2012 season due to a legal dispute with a former owner, which is the reason why many of the league's top stars are available for smaller clubs like the W-League Sounders.
"With the WPS, we were lucky getting a crowd like this," said Morgan, who had a goal and assist. "This was maybe a crowd we'd get directly after the World Cup."
Uncertainty surrounding the state of women's soccer gave way to excitement for a few hours Monday. Crowd-pleasing goals were added by Lyndsey Patterson, Veronica Perez, Kara Kuttler and Victoria Frederick, but the players were more excited about the support, and less about the score.
"That was very cool," said Perez, who scored a beautiful 74th-minute goal from 20 yards. "I've been to the MLS games with Sounders and (saw the fans chanting) at their game. To have them here for us, for the women's team, it's awesome."
Added French: "I think the evolution of women's soccer has now brought (support) to a new level. There are kids buying the jerseys. ... Seattle is, I think, one of the best places to actually have that happen."
• The Sounders Women host Seattle University in another exhibition at Starfire Stadium at 7:30 p.m. Friday. The W-League season starts May 27 in Vancouver, with the home opener on May 31 against the Colorado Rush.
• Midfielder Megan Rapinoe, the Sounders Women's fifth USWNT player, wasn't with the team Saturday and isn't expected to be available Friday.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @joshuamayers