Thousands lined the downtown streets Tuesday morning well before any Seattle Sounders coach or player arrived to board the brigade of trolleys.
Many more followed the parade later to Seattle Center — where another 8,000-10,000 fans waited in a grassy infield for the team to arrive amid chilly temperatures.
It was certainly a day to celebrate: The Sounders were MLS Cup champions for the first time, courtesy of their scoreless victory Saturday night at Toronto FC won on penalty kicks, 5-4.
But it was also a day to peek into the future.
“One (MLS Cup) is not good enough,” Sounders defender Brad Evans excitedly told the crowd from the stage where the team convened. “We’ll go after two (titles).”
Added Sounders majority owner Adrian Hanauer: “We are just getting started.”
The club arrived to the Seattle Center shortly after noon. Coach Brian Schmetzer was the first to emerge from closed quarters to sign autographs and pose for photographs with excited fans.
“There were a lot of people out in the streets of Seattle celebrating those guys (players),” Schmetzer said. “I was overwhelmed. I was impressed. I was very thankful to be a Sounder fan today.”
At 12:30 p.m., players climbed up on stage to listen to remarks from Hanauer, part owner Joe Roth, general manager Garth Lagerwey and local officials, which included Seattle mayor Ed Murray and King County executive Dow Constantine.
After that, it was the players’ turn. Many spoke. Some danced or yelled familiar game-day chants.
“It is so surreal,” said Sounders rookie forward Jordan Morris, a Mercer Island High School graduate. “To grow up being such an avid sports fan of the Seahawks, Mariners, Sonics and, when they got an (MLS) team, a big, big Sounders fan.
“From that time until now, it’s been a crazy whirlwind.”
Schmetzer looked relieved and almost confused that his team wasn’t in line to play any more MLS matches this season.
“I don’t have to get up for work tomorrow,” Schmetzer said. “We have to do some player stuff. But there is no game until March.”
The celebration came a day after the club made a flurry of moves to get its roster down to 16 players.
Veterans Erik Friberg, Herculez Gomez, Andreas Ivanschitz, Tyrone Mears and Nelson Valdez, all of whom were with the team at the parade, had their contracts expire.
Also, the team got a bit of good news Tuesday after leaving midfielder Alvaro Fernandez and defender Oniel Fisher unprotected for the MLS Expansion Draft. Neither player was selected, meaning both remained with the squad.
“That is the craziness of this league and our sport,” Schmetzer said. “We are trying to do the best job we can to keep the team intact. We know there will be some turnover. I am just happy today — today — for the guys who were part of the 2016 team. That is what we are celebrating today.”
The Sounders’ preseason camp will start up in February. As for the weeks the team has off, Schmetzer noted that a few guys will get call-ups for the U.S. men’s national team (Morris, Clint Dempsey and possibly Cristian Roldan). Others will take vacations. As far as training on their own, the players leave for the offseason with specific workout plans in hand from David Tenney, the team’s director of performance and sports science.
Morris said he will take a few weeks off to get “the body feeling right.” Then he will start looking toward next season.
“You’ve got to enjoy this for a little bit, and it’s obviously awesome we got one (MLS title),” Morris said. “But when next year gets going, we’ve got to push for two. This one will then be in the past.
“We’ve got to try and catch the (LA) Galaxy with five (MLS titles).”