Seattle Sounders 2 began a new era on Friday night, when it played its first USL regular-season match at Tacoma’s Cheney Stadium.
Beginning this season, Sounders is playing its home matches at Cheney Stadium, the primary facility of baseball’s Tacoma Rainiers (Class AAA; Pacific Coast League). Under the arrangement that is taking effect with the 2018 season, MLS’s Seattle Sounders will own the team and supply players and coaches, while the Rainiers will oversee game-day and business operations.
The club’s first regular-season game in Tacoma attracted plenty of interest, as a reported crowd of 6,049 was on hand for a 2-1 victory over Portland. Traditionally, Sounders 2 has not played in front of crowds this large, as the club previously staged its home matches at the Starfire Sports complex in Tukwila, WA (according to our 2017 USL attendance numbers, the club averaged 1,097 fans per game last year).
With the move to Tacoma and Cheney Stadium, however, the club is playing its games at a higher-profile venue that should provide an atmosphere that will better prepare Sounders 2 players for MLS. More from The News Tribune:
“We’re excited to play in front of 6,000 people. That’s everything you want,” midfielder Ray Saari, the team captain, said the other day. “Every player wants to play in front of a good crowd, and on top of that, try to mimic a little bit of what we do at CenturyLink Field with the first team. All those things are important for our team.
“It’s an adjustment. As you go higher and higher in the system, you obviously play in front more and more people. There’s a difference from playing at CenturyLink in front of 50,000 people, and playing in front of 500.”
The crowd for the opener offered what veteran Sounders forward David Estrada calls “a bridge to play at CenturyLink.
“For these young guys who haven’t played with the first team — or even trained with them — to get an atmosphere like this really helps with their development and the intensity of their play,” Estrada said Wednesday. “If it’s a packed house and the fans are loud, that aspect of the game helps kids mature.”
Part of the plan for Tacoma calls for Sounders 2 to eventually receive a new soccer-specific venue adjacent to Cheney Stadium, which will serve as the club’s home until a new facility opens. Cheney Stadium originally opened in 1960 and underwent an extensive renovation in 2011, with that overhaul capturing a Renovation of the Year from our sister site, Ballpark Digest.
Image courtesy Seattle Sounders FC 2.
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