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Originally published December 16, 2009 at 10:53 AM | Page modified March 20, 2009 at 12:50 AM

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Notebook | Sounders FC off to a rousing start

The dream comes true — big-time soccer returns to Seattle.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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Fred and Linda Mendoza casually strolled up Occidental Avenue, joining the bright green-clad Sounders FC fans on their way to witness Seattle sports history.

For the Mendozas and the rest of the Qwest Field crowd of 32,523, the night could hardly have gone better. Sounders FC's inaugural game was a rousing success, a 3-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls.

Fredy Montero scored two goals and Brad Evans scored once for Sounders FC.

For most, last night's game was just a brand-new team making its Major League Soccer debut, many fans not old enough to remember big-time soccer in the city since the North American Soccer League days with the original Sounders.

For the Mendozas, especially Fred, Thursday night was the culmination of a dream that began "15 years, two months and six days," ago, Mendoza said.

That would be January 1994, when Mendoza was part of a group of pioneers trying to bring major professional soccer to Seattle.

Mendoza, now a Sounders FC season-ticket holder, went on to become one of seven members of the Washington State Public Stadium Authority board, and he continued the fight. Qwest Field was built with soccer in mind, thanks in part to Mendoza's efforts, and after years of a few United Soccer Leagues Sounders games and high-profile international friendlies, MLS finally arrived in Seattle.

"We kept saying it's never a question of if, it's a question of when MLS will come," said a beaming Mendoza, decked out in scarf and a team shirt. "There were some down days. ... Timing is everything, and this ownership group has done it right and they have created this buzz. They made this dream everything that all of us in the beginning wanted it to be and expected it to be, and Seattle deserves no less."

Is Portland next?

Vancouver, B.C., was announced as a new MLS franchise to start play in 2011 and an announcement that Portland is to become the league's 18th franchise is expected Friday.

MLS commissioner Don Garber was at the game and said he'll be in Portland on Friday. An announcement will be televised at 10 a.m. on FSN.

"It should be an exciting day," he said, stopping short of confirming the news.

Pomp and pageantry

The various Sounders FC supporters groups were already whipped into a frenzy an hour before kickoff, after a march from Pioneer Square to Qwest Field led by Mayor Greg Nickels and team owner Joe Roth. Designated player Freddie Ljungberg, who didn't play, received a loud roar from fans as he walked toward the bench in street clothes.

Pregame ceremonies began just after 6 p.m. with a procession of flags from around the world, and then Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire, Garber, Roth and minority partners Drew Carey and Adrian Hanauer took a stage to speak to the crowd.

"You proved Seattle is the capital of soccer in this country," Roth said. Then he pronounced that the mission wouldn't be complete until Sounders FC made the playoffs, brings the MLS Cup (the league championship) to Seattle and when youth players from the state make the Sounders FC roster.

"We should make one thing very clear," Roth said. "There will be no midnight exodus out of this city. We're here to stay."

The starters — Kasey Keller, Montero, Nate Jaqua, Evans, Osvaldo Alonso, Sanna Nyassi, Sebastien Le Toux, Zach Scott, Tyrone Marshall, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and James Riley — walked out to the field holding children's hands, a soccer tradition. Glitter ticker tape rained down on the stands and field.

The fans in the south end zone unfurled a giant banner that read "Tonight our history becomes legend."

"Spectacular," Garber said at halftime.

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

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