US Open Cup Final

by Michael Orr

In the 98th US Open Cup final, a tournament record crowd of 35,615 were on hand for Seattle Sounders’ third consecutive title, a 2-0 victory over Chicago Fire. Fredy Montero scored the game’s first goal in the 77th minute on a rebounded poke after Jeff Parke’s header was saved by Chicago keeper Sean Johnson. Osvaldo Alonso ended the game when he scored in the 96th minute. Playing at home in the final for the second straight year, Seattle became only the third club to win the Open Cup three times in a row and the first since New York Greek-Americans from 1967-69.

A thrilling first half saw Seattle hit the post in injury time, from Montero, while forcing Johnson into several fine saves. An Álvaro Fernández shot, in particular, showed the promise of the 22-year old goalkeeper as his diving stop kept the Uruguayan international out of the goal after a neat back heel from Mike Fucito. Both sides attacked at a frenetic pace, each taking turns as the momentum shifted back and forth. Chicago’s trio of Marco Pappa, Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko kept Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller busy with Pappa coming closest to scoring. For their part, Seattle countered with Fucito and Lamar Neagle, each of whom contributed to a busy half.

The fast-paced first half gave way to much more reserved start to the second half. Both sides seemed to realize the risk of all-out attack and Chicago, in particular, slowed their movements considerably. Rather than seeking long through balls for Nyarko and Oduro, the Fire built sustained possession. Yet that approach took away the quick-strike possibilities that have served them well in their recent run of form. The Sounders simply waited for Chicago and started to build dangerous spells of their own around the hour with Montero leading the charge. A feed to Neagle almost led to a goal in the 72nd minute before a furious challenge saw a half-dozen shots from the Sounders go begging. Fucito hit the post with a flicked shot as the crowd groaned with the thought of extra time. Finally, in the 78th minute, Parke got a clean header from a Fucito corner. That header was expertly saved by Johnson but Montero was lurking and needed only to poke in for the dramatic opener.

Chicago sent everything forward over the final dozen minutes but were unable to get anything clean on goal. Oduro had a sharp header saved by Keller, but he was ruled offside, while Pappa kept the pressure on the Seattle defense. Five minutes of injury time followed the 90th minute as two Chicago players had been taken off due to injury during the half. Despite the abundance of time, the Fire never did trouble the Sounders. Instead, after replacing Fucito with Roger Levesque, Seattle got the goal that added style to the historic victory. Taking a pass from Neagle, Alonso slalomed his way through the Chicago defense, avoided Johnson and casually clipped in the second goal. With that, the Fire were vanquished and the Sounders awarded their third straight trophy.

The US Open Cup could hardly have asked for a better match for its championship round. Beyond the massive crowd, the two in-form sides gave quite a performance and was surely a good advertisement for a tournament that is often downplayed or ignored. Both sides used most of their top players and two of Seattle’s stars scored the goals that gave them a third consecutive Open Cup. Chicago came from the qualifying rounds to reach the final and Seattle, a third-year club in MLS, proved that even young clubs can take the tournament seriously and excel.

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