Not long before Sebastian Le Toux joined the USL Sounders in 2007, I followed two of its other key players, Roger Levesque and Josh Gardner. Their work rate up front was impressive. In fact all three, Le Toux, Levesque, and Gardner were part of the last USL Sounders who helped push the team into Major League Soccer. Le Toux became the first player signed by Sounders FC and Levesque made the squad during training. Both made significant contributions during the Sounders FC inaugural season. Their efforts in US Open Cup competition were key to the team claiming its first trophy. Levesque scored the winning goal in the US Open Cup on a cross from none other than Le Toux. One would be reasonable in saying the Sounders did not miss Gardner. Gardner stayed in the USL with Carolina during 2009.
February 3rd marked the first day of practice for the Sounders in Casa Grande, Ariz. It also marked the return of Josh Gardner. This was hardly newsworthy for US soccer fans. With three Brazilians joining the LA Galaxy, including Juninho. This was likely only news for Sounders coaches and players who already knew him. And maybe a few dedicated longtime Sounders fans. Sounders FC Assistant Coach, Brian Schmetzer was Gardner’s coach on the USL Sounders, and Sigi drafted him 13th in the 2004 SuperDraft with the LA Galaxy. So, is it fair to say that hardly more than a few warm hellos and new introductions were all that could be taken from this?
Not for this Sounders fan. Josh Gardner joining Sounders FC in training is news equal to Juninho joining LA. Unless you’re talking about obtaining a player at least the quality of Ljungberg, then club chemistry comes before player skill. Levesque proved that last year. His positive attitude and steady work rate showed critical dividends at the end of the inaugural season. In arguably the biggest regular season game at Columbus, Levesque worked himself into position for the winning goal. I believe Gardner’s joining training camp is a marquee moment. He is an affordable player acquisition. If he can get up to MLS level and make a roster spot, then he will be like having another Roger Levesque to back up the current Roger Levesque. He played a forward attacking role with the USL Sounders, but has been building up his defense. Teams will see him as a defender, and not think much of him. Then, while trying to sit on another physical draw, they will twitch furiously, looking silly and shocked when they see this no name American come off the bench, make a run down the side, and cross into the box for a headed game winner. Especially since few American soccer players are known for their ability to execute an attacking cross into danger.
It’s impressive how much depth the Sounders are bringing to camp without spending money. A lot of strange, odd pieces that would not likely make other MLS teams. Here, they are fighting intensely to be subs. Subs? LA just bought 3 Brazilians. Yes, I’m nervous about that because I see the wisdom in it, but a club that knows each other, fights for each other, and challenges to grow individually, sometimes those are the ingredients for the beautiful game success at club level. The Josh Gardners and Roger Levesques of soccer, or any professional sport are few and far between.
I’m starting to believe in the wisdom of Sigi, Schmecter, and Hanauer. SSH! Just like a striker scoring a killer goal on the road, putting his finger over his lips to hush the crowd and celebrate their silence. Our coaches and GM (SSH) could be paving the way for a season and long future of a league silenced by the awe of the Rave Green glow from our beautiful Northwest game.
The Seattle Times published this piece a week later.