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Tom Shillue

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Here’s why that Sounders win was so crucial

Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey leaps and celebrates in front of fans after he scored a goal against the New York Red Bulls during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, March 19, 2017, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

In front of over 45,000 fans at Century Link, the Seattle Sounders FC provided a decisive 3-1 win against the New York Red Bulls. It may be the most important victory of the 2017 season. Not because it means anything grand: they get three points in a long season and it was hardly a “must-win” as it relates to the post-season. It was important because this was the first home game after an MLS Cup win in a city that loves to jump on bandwagons of winning teams.

Photos: Sounders earn huge win at CenturyLink

The Sounders face an interesting challenge. How do you continue to grow when you’re one of the most successful teams in the MLS? They’re already known for their huge, dedicated crowds. The answer is rather obvious: you still need to expand the fan base and show that they can regularly do more than 45,000 in attendance. That’s not an easy task but on the home opener, there were many in the crowd attending their first game. I spoke to a few of them. They were checking out soccer for the first time in a meaningful way.

Sounders – like any organization – need to engage the bandwagon fans who are just here because of the MLS Cup win. You show them a good game and they come back for a second. They’ll experience the CenturyLink atmosphere, they’ll notice the March to the Match, and they’ll see some great goal and, before you know it, they’re bandwagon fans no more. Now, they’re dedicated.

WATCH: Harry Shipp and Will Bruin reflect on their trades to Seattle

This weekend’s home opener easily delivered for the bandwagon fans. Perhaps they wouldn’t have properly appreciated the difficulty of the Clint Dempsey penalty kick, but they certainly saw Joevin Jones nutmeg a defender before letting Nico Lodeiro provide a limping Jordan Morris the perfect cross for his goal. They most definitely left in awe of that brilliant Harry Shipp redirected goal. And they certainly felt the electricity at CenturyLink for the day’s championship celebration.

The Sounders just provided new fans – in person, on the radio, or on TV – the chance to experience what we all love about soccer. In the growth of this team, that may provide to be one of the most important results of the season.

LISTEN: Sounders FC Weekly with Jason Rantz every Thursday night at 9pm on KIRO Radio

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