For the first time in 16 years, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will be back in a Seattle Sounders starting lineup tonight.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a special moment because he gets the opportunity to play for the Sounders, which is something that he’s always wanted to do as a guy who grew up here, and played his college ball here and got big with the old USL Sounders,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said in announcing the decision Tuesday. “I think it’s going to be a special occasion for Marcus. It will be great for our fans to be able to come and see that.”
Relatively few fans seem likely to turn out. As of Tuesday, the club had sold about 5,100 tickets for this 7 p.m. CONCACAF Champions League match against Marathon of Honduras. The smallest crowd ever to watch a Sounders match at CenturyLink Field is 7,767, which turned out for the CCL match against Caledonia in August.
However, Schmid was correct that the appearance will be special for Hahnemann, who was born in Seattle, played at Kentridge High School and Seattle Pacific University before getting his professional start in 1994 with the second-division Sounders.
From there, he went on to Major League Soccer and the English Premier League before retiring and then coming out of retirement to conclude his career back where it began.
“It (will) be unbelievable because for that while there I thought it wasn’t going to happen, and all of a sudden you kind of get that little lifeline to maybe come back and be in Seattle,” Hahnemann said. “When you step on the field, it becomes real.
“Most of the fans would give their right arm – their first born – to step on that field. I’m one of them. I never take anything for granted. Just to go out one more time, it would all be worth it.”
At 40, Hahnemann assumed he was retired earlier this year when his contract ran out with Everton of the English Premier League. However, the Sounders acquired his MLS rights and signed him Sept. 17.
He admitted he had already switched to a retired man’s lifestyle – and that it showed early in training. However, the Sounders allowed him to work his way back into shape, treating his late-season practices as his training camp.
In the home game against Real Salt Lake last week he was included on the 18-man game-day roster for the first time. This week he declared himself ready for the CCL match, which could affect only seeding for a Seattle team that has already clinched advancement to the quarterfinal round.
“These last couple weeks I’ve been training really hard,” Hahnemann said. “Finally, everything is starting to click. I think every day I’m getting sharper. Today I felt really good again. Yesterday, we warmed up with the team and I’ve been on the bench the last two games. It’s been great being a part of the team and being a part of the crowd. I can’t wait.”
MARTINEZ HAS FUTURE
Schmid met with Mario Martinez this week after the Honduran midfielder tweeted dissatisfaction with his lack of playing time Sunday after sitting out the Sounders’ win over FC Dallas.
Martinez had tweeted that he might like to go to another club where he could see more action. However, Schmid implied that won’t be necessary because there are still big plans for him in Seattle.
“We had a good conversation (Monday),” Schmid said. “I think he understands. He knows exactly what our feelings are about him as a player, and how we cherish him as a player because we think he’s a player with great abilities, and his future is not only this year for this team, but his future is next year as well.”
Schmid took some blame for a lack of communication with Martinez, who speaks only Spanish.
MARATHON (HONDURAS) AT SOUNDERS FC
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: Fox Soccer. RADIO: 97.3-FM,, 99.3-FM (Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: Seattle won the Sept. 19 meeting in Honduras, 3-2. The clubs split two meetings in 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League.
NOTES: This is the final match of CCL Group 4. Seattle (3-0-0) has clinched the group, and Marathon (1-1-1) cannot advance. Caledonia AIA went 0-3-1. ... Seattle is one of four teams going into the final match with a chance at a perfect record in its group. Quarterfinal seeding will be established according to group records. ... Marathon is based in San Pedra Sula, Honduras, the hometown of Sounders midfielder Mario Martinez. ... Goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, who played for Kentridge High and Seattle Pacific University, is expected to make his Sounders FC debut. ... Marathon is led by Honduran international defender Jerry Palacios, and veteran defenders Mario Beata and Mauricio Sabillon. However, there is uncertainty about what kind of roster Marathon will field. ... Marathon qualified as the non-champion with the best aggregate record in the 2011-12 Honduran season. This is Marathon’s fourth consecutive CCL appearance.
QUOTABLE: “They know that they are not going to advance, so they might come a little bit with a younger team. But they’re also a team that has nothing to lose, so they can play very free for them. If you give them a lot of possession and they’re spirits get lifted, then it can be a very difficult game.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on Marathon
NEXT: In CCL, the Sounders advance to the quarterfinals in the spring. In MLS, the club concludes its fourth regular season at 6 p.m. Sunday at Los Angeles.firstname.lastname@example.org Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 email@example.com @donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer