It’s never easy stealing attention from football in the Fall, especially after a dramatic Seahawks win and the Huskies in the middle of a 8-0 run with national championship hopes.
But dare I distract you for a couple moments with playoff football of the other kind – the soccer version, that is – with the Sounders and OL Reign.
Tomorrow night at Lumen Field, the Sounders begin a best-of-three playoff series against FC Dallas – at a fairly perfect time, given Seattle is undefeated in nine straight matches. And a week from tonight, OL Reign plays in the NWSL Semifinals, now just two wins from their first league championship in franchise history.
But it’s more than just postseason runs and trophies with these two teams. It’s also about an appreciation for a couple legendary local athletes, one of whom we’ll be seeing for the last time.
I know we’ve already given a hero’s goodbye to Megan Rapinoe, between honoring her at her final regular season home match, and getting a bonus home match in the playoffs last week. But there would be something even more special to see her go out on top, leading Reign to its very first title. She’s acknowledged that some of the best athletes have been unable to go out on their own terms, but it’s even more rare for legends to actually win their final game.
And then there’s Stefan Frei, quite possibly the most consistently overlooked player in MLS History, yet a stalwart of the Sounders franchise that hopefully has many years left.
And yet, Frei, who set a franchise record with 14 shutouts this season, leading the league in clean sheets, was once again left off the list of finalists for MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. And I don’t care whether he’s had fewer shots against him this season, or if it’s just a reflection of the team around him, the fact that he has the best Goals Against Average in the entire league and was still left off that list of finalists is absolutely criminal.
Earlier this year, Frei broke the record for most career MLS matches in franchise history. He’s the most tenured Sounders player, and rarely gets the credit he’s due on a national level.
Which is why it’s worth the shoutout tonight. When the Sounders take the home pitch tomorrow night, Frei and company deserve our attention, especially making it back to the playoffs after missing them last year for the first time ever. And Rapinoe and Reign, just two wins from a title and a championship sendoff for quite possibly the best women’s soccer player this country has ever produced? Yeah, I’d say worthy of our attention as well.
So best of luck to Sounders and Reign. A big thank you to Megan. And a similar nod to Frie, although I’d ask he stick around a bit longer too.
The hardware is there for the taking. And our support is fully behind both, as they make their championship runs.