When it comes to hosting extravaganzas, it’s becoming crystal clear that the folks over at Cheney Stadium are definitely in their element. The recent partnership between the Tacoma Rainiers and the Seattle Sounders finally had its debut under the bright lights on Friday, March 16, and it pretty much exceeded expectations. Of course, the fact that the Sounders S2 knocked off the Portland Timbers 2 by a score of 2-1 sealed the deal on the historic evening.
It was sunny and 54 degrees in Tacoma when the match began. We tend to get awfully wet up here in March, so the table was already set with perfect conditions.
A big crowd made their way into Cheney Stadium, and by the time it had reached its peak, the stadium was nearly packed to the rafters. The attendance was announced at 6,049, making it the largest home crowd to ever watch a Sounders S2 match. It may be difficult to maintain such lofty numbers over the next 16 home matches, but the game experience for those in attendance is sure to create a solid base for return trips to Cheney.
Before the match began, the Emerald City Supporters were already in fine form, beating their drum and filling the nippy air with a host of chants and songs. Prior to kick-off, the ECS raised a large tifo banner that had a painting of trees and the Narrows Bridge with the words “You’ll like Tacoma” underneath.
That banner really made it all hit home. We had a soccer team back in Tacoma, and it’s now the property of the City of Destiny.
One of the funnier moments also happened prior to kick-off. While we’ve all heard some questionable renditions of the Star Spangled Banner over the years, what went down at Cheney on this night was one for the books. Not that it was bad. It was just altogether strange. When the acapella group began singing near what is normally third base, their microphone immediately began to cut in and out. It quickly went out, and never returned. Meanwhile, the crowd, sensing the need for help, took up song and the stadium was filled with a sea of voices. However, the folks singing on the field were not in sync with the crowd. Suddenly, fireworks and booms filled the air at a moment in the song that didn’t really match up. While some folks may have seen it all in a negative light, this writer thought it was rather funny and awesome that the crowd took over.
Unable to hear what was going on down on the field, and seeing that the crowd had wrapped up the song, the PA announcer then thanked the acapella folks for coming out to sing. The only problem was that they were still singing out there on the field. This was certainly something that we’ve never witnessed before. Luckily, the players would take care of business on their own out on the field, with no need of microphones and cues.
Let’s talk about that field for a moment. The infield dirt had been replaced with grass and it actually looked pretty good. The pitcher’s mound was resting in the Cheney Stadium parking lot, awaiting the return of the Rainiers. By the end of the game, there looked to be a few small chunks and divots in the grass, but overall, the temporary stuff held up very well under the cleats of both teams.
It will be interesting to see how the grass holds up when the Tacoma area gets its usual extended dumping of rain. My money is on the crew at Cheney. They really know what they’re doing down there.
The match itself was a tale of two halves. All the scoring took place in the first stanza, while the two clubs battled it out in the second, without finding the back of the net. The fact that this first win was over the Sounders 2’s most bitter rival made the outcome and night so much sweeter.
However, it all began with Portland trying to crash the party.
After 30 solid minutes of action, the Timbers 2 finally found a gap in the S2’s defense. At the 30-minute mark, Jimmy Mulligan dished the ball to Augustine Williams and a quick foot put the ball into the back of the net.
It looked as though Portland was going to make it through the first half with the lead. However, with just a couple minutes remaining, S2’s Nick Hinds made a run into the box and was upended on the play. While there was a bit of acting on the part of Hinds, it did look like a legitimate takedown, giving the home side a penalty kick.
Felix Chenkam would hammer in the penalty kick to even up the score at 1-1 in the 43rd minute of play.
One difference between games at Century Link Field for the Sounders and Cheney Stadium for the Sounders S2 is the presence of blue smoke following home scores. A staple at stadiums throughout much of the world, it’s just not allowed up in Seattle. Well, it’s going to be happening in Tacoma, so folks had better prepare themselves.
Before the blue smoke had even dissipated, the S2 boys struck again. With just seconds to spare in the first half, Hinds found himself the recipient of a heel-pass from David Olsen and the left back looped the ball into the back of the net, sending the Cheney crowd into a tizzy. Of course, the goal also called for another round of blue smoke. This writer was down in the ECS section and it felt as though we were filming a scene out of “Apocolypse Now.” It was awesome.
The Sounders S2 will return to Cheney Stadium on Wednesday, March 28, to host Fresno FC at 7 p.m.
Check out the next five home dates below.