There was no doubt that the mountain the Seattle Sounders were trying to climb was steep. They managed to scale exactly two-thirds of it. The Sounders won Wednesday's second leg of the Western Conference semifinal 2-0, but it wasn't enough to overcome their 3-0 deficit they had dug in the first leg. As a result, their season is over, at the exact same point in the season it has ended each of the first two years.
This time, it at least feels different. For one, the season ended with the Sounders' first-ever MLC Cup playoff victory. As counter-intuitive as it may seem, this game goes in the books as a win.
Despite coming up short, there were undeniable positives to come out of this game. For the first time, they showed they were capable of stepping up to the challenge that is the MLS playoffs. They were facing a very good RSL team and were clearly the superior side, outshooting their opponents 26-4 and out-possessing them 61-39. It was as thoroughly a dominating performance as we've seen from the Sounders all year, possibly in their entire history.
Among the individual positives were the play of guys like Mike Fucito and Lamar Neagle, both of whom were probably playing with a bit of a chip on their shoulder. Fucito started the first leg on the bench and gave RSL fits every minute he was on the field. His biggest moment was drawing the penalty that ultimately led to Osvaldo Alonso's goal that really got the momentum swinging the Sounders' way.
Neagle was coming off a nightmare performance in the first leg in which he looked very much overwhelmed by his first playoff appearance. He started this game on the bench, but was called upon in the 14th minute when Alvaro Fernandez was taken out with an injury. It took Neagle a little while to adjust to game, but once he found his groove he was among the Sounders' most effective players. It culminated with a 61st minute goal, taking a nice feed from Fredy Montero and putting it past RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
It still wasn't enough. The Sounders were looking to do nothing less than make history, and while it was a valiant effort, it will likely be largely forgotten. The Sounders have a right to feel satisfied with the season, but it doesn't make it any less disappointing.