Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sounders become the first team in 42 years to win three straight U.S. Open Cup titles

By Money Mike

Three Years, Three trophies. The Seattle Sounders have done what no MLS team has done before, win three U.S. Open Cup titles in a row, and they have become the first team since the New York Greek-Americans in from 1967-1969 to win three in a row. The Sounders defeated the Chicago Fire by a score of 2-0 after two second half goals by Fredy Montero and Ozzie Alonso and with yet another Cup title, the Sounders have qualified for the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League. The Chicago Fire failed in their bid to join Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles as the only five-time Champions in U.S. Open Cup history. In last years cup final, Seattle broke the attendance record with 31,111 fans. This year, they broke their own record with 35,615 fans in attendance.

Chicago had an early opportunity off a free kick about 30 seconds into the match. Pavel Pardo's delivery found its way to Cory Gibbs who directed his header well wide of Kasey Keller's right hand side.

Seattle began to press immediately after. In the 2nd minute, Mike Fucito's free kick was intended for Jhon Kennedy Hurtado at the far post, but the delivery was just over his head. A minute later, Seattle won a corner. Lamar Neagle took the corner from the left hash mark and found Jeff Parke who's header was blocked by a Chicago defender, may have been Cory Gibbs with the block but Pavel Pardo was also defending on the play. The ball bounced right back to Parke who had another chance at it, but all he could do was get a toe poke on it and the ball was easily gathered by Sean Johnson.

Sounders weren't done yet. In the 5th minute, after some great ball movement, Alvaro Fernandez made a good run against Marco Pappa who was back defending after Gonzalo Segares was caught out of position and whipped in a good ball to Mike Fucito in the penalty area, but the opportunity in the end came to nothing.

In the 7th minute, Lamar Neagle out jumped Dan Gargan and nodded it into the penalty area for Fucito who caught it on the volley with his left foot and forced a terrific kick save from Johnson after Josip Mikulic got caught not paying any attention to the third year man out of Harvard University.

In the 10th minute, the Fire nearly snatched an early goal. Daniel Paladini got it free to Marco Pappa while Ozzie Alonso was applying pressure. Pappa, who scored a hattrick away at Real Salt Lake in one of last weeks midweek matches, unloaded off his left foot which took a deflection and just sailed wide to the left of Keller.

Things got a little quiet since that opportunity until the 39th minute when Marco Pappa made a cut into the middle and unloaded with his left foot again which was deflected as well and almost got caught wrong footed by the deflection but he was able recover and make the save.

In the 44th minute, Gonzalo Segares gave the ball away to Mike Fucito in a dangerous area. Fucito was forced wide by Josip Mikulic and couldn't get a shot away, instead, be back healed the ball to Alvaro Fernandez for a first timed shot and Sean Johnson was forced to make another save. The Sounders nearly broke through just before the break. Fredy Montero after dribbling away from Pavel Pardo made a cut to the middle and got off what looked like a weak right footed effort, but the shot somehow nearly went in as it hit the post (the goalkeepers best friend). The ball bounced off Mike Fucito but he couldn't get anything on it and it went out of play. Montero beat four Chicago players by the look of things. Dribbling away from Pardo Pardo, Patrick Nyarko couldn't get back in time to break up the opportunity and both Logan Pause and Josip Mikulic just stood around and left a gap for Montero to shoot at. Both teams went into the locker room scoreless at halftime, but it could've been 4-0 Sounders after all of that.

In the Second half, the Sounders took out Alvaro Fernandez after he suffered a head injury and that's the last thing you want to hear this late in the season. He was replaced by Erik Friberg and I was quite surprised by the move and didn't know why because I was in the stands, but turned out to be a good sub, Friberg did very well in the second half. In the 53rd minute, Seattle once again was denied by the goalpost. Leo Gonzalez's long throw found Lamar Neagle just outside the box. Neagle directed his header brilliantly to the path of Mike Fucito and the little guy jumps up and lobs it over Sean Johnson at the far post, but the post yet again keeps Chicago from falling behind in the early stages of the second half. And this has happened a lot, especially big clubs, that even if you have 10, 20 or even 30 opportunities and you're unable to capitalize on them, it could come back to haunt you and with an hour gone and another half hour to go in the match, we were sort of at the point where something like that could happen.

Chicago struggled mightily to create any opportunity in the second half and they had to make a change defensively in the 61st minute. Rookie Jalil Anibaba came in to replace Josip Mikulic and my guess the reason for this switch was that he may picked up an injury after an attempted sliding challenge to dispossess one of the Sounder players. He made the challenge and I don't remember if there was a foul called or the referee signaled for a throw in. But Mikulic stayed down on the turf and I don't know what the hell the Emerald City Supporters were chanting. The stadium was too loud, but from what I heard, it sounded like they were chanting "LET HIM DIE". Again, I couldn't hear what they actually said, but it was somewhere at that line.

In the 77th minute, the Chicago back line had so many difficulties clearing the ball way. James Riley's cross towards Fredy Montero was headed away by Jalil Anibaba. The ball however fell to Erik Friberg who fed Riley with a nice lead pass. Riley's cross found Montero for a header that was cleared off the line by Anibaba. Ozzie Alonso out jumped Daniel Paladini and got a head to it, directing to Lamar Neagle, who nodded it down for Mike Fucito who had a go from about 18-yards away, but it was Anibaba getting the way again. Jeff Parke stepped in to the Chicago half and touched it on to James Riley who chipped it back in. Fredy Montero did very well to use his strength and chest it down to Brad Evans for a left footer, but doing all the work to deny the Sounders again was Jalil Anibaba and Seattle won a corner. And usually in these circumstances, it's the goalkeeper that yells at his defenders for not clearing the ball away, but Anibaba was the guy yelling at his teammates and he had every right to be angry because he was doing all the dirty work for goalkeeper Sean Johnson while the other defenders were just standing around being lazy.

After all that, I sensed a goal coming for the Sounders, and I told few people that it's coming and guess what? 30 seconds later, straight from a set play, the Sounders got their goal. Erik Friberg's outswinger from the near hash mark found Jeff Parke who directed his header towards the far post and forced another Sean Johnson as he went down and got his right hand to it and right there at the door step was Fredy Montero to knock it into the back of the net and the Sounders finally broke through with just over 12 minutes to go and the stadium erupted as Fredy Montero knocked home his 16th goal in all compititions this season.

Chicago made to attack minded substitutions, bringing in Diego Chaves in the 80th minute and Sebastien Grazzini in the 85th, but that didn't help at all. In stoppage time, Seattle switched to the possession game to kill time off the clock. Fredy Montero took it to the end line and with 3 red shirts around him, he did very well to keep it in play and Lamar Neagle fed it to Ozzie Alonso who had other ideas besides keeping the ball away from Chicago, he made sure Chicago had no chance of getting back into the game at all. Alonso made a brilliant cut to force Marco Pappa to slip and fall. He then dribbled around Sean Johnson who collided with teammate Patrick Nyarko while trying to recover and slotted the ball into an empty net to put this game beyond reach and cap off an Emerald City 3-peat for the Seattle Sounders.

The Sounders have had quite a history of playing big matches and winning trophies. Back in the NASL days they made it to the Championship and fell short, most notabally to the New York Cosmos who had Pele at the time and then the NASL folded and the Sounders are out of business for a few years. They got back on the field in 1994 after the USL was formed and they won 4 USL titles. Them USL team folded in 2008 after an MLS team a bought in Seattle to begin play at the start of the 2009 season. And the week when we had to vote for a name, which was just before the start of our final USL season in April of 08', there were three candidates and the Sounders were not one of the three. Instead, the three were Seattle FC, Seattle Republic and Seattle Alliance, and I can tell a lot of us were unhappy with that. Then about a day later, they decided to add a write in, which was fair enough for me, but the concern was that what the folks, who never heard of the Sounders that time, would write in. The name, Seattle Sounders, had to be name of the MLS team, otherwise the history of Soccer in Seattle, in my opinion, is ruined. So I chose the write in and voted Seattle Sounders. And right off the back, Seattle has had an MLS team for three years now, they've made the playoffs all three of those years and they already have three trophies.

The game I went to earlier this season was also against the Chicago Fire which ended with the Sounders coming out on top 2-1 and getting their first game of the season. I also mentioned that it was the best match I've seen. SCREW THAT!! The U.S. Open Cup final was the best match that I've seen with my own eyes now. Prior to this match, I was at home, waiting for a while before we left for the match and I was shaking a bit, and my heart was pounding off and on because this was a huge match. We parked about a couple miles from Safeco Field at about 6:25 and a lot of fans were still making their way to the stadium. I was following the crowd who were on the streets or the sidewalks. When you're following a crowd, there's an easy chance you could end of getting lost for a little bit. There was a rediculus fan running to the match like he was gonna be late for kickoff and he ended up losing his energy and he didn't even make it to Safeco Field. For people that didn't attend, because the game was on FOX Soccer, I wonder what the result was between people watching the game and people heading to SeaTac because of the fact that Amanda Knox landed in Seattle somewhere at the time of kickoff for the final. After the game and the trophy presentation, the team shops in Seattle were still open and they were already selling the 3-peat t-shirts. The first shop we went to, all they had left was a Double XL. Sure I'll buy one, lol. We tried another shop and all they had was small. So no luck on buying a shirt, but then later I looked online to see if they had it available and they were available to pre-order for $20 so maybe I will get a shirt soon. But I enjoyed every single minute of the game.

Scoring summary:

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (unassisted) 77'

Seattle Sounders FC - Osvaldo Alonso (Lamar Neagle) 96'+

Misconduct summary:

Chicago Fire - Patrick Nyarko (caution) 27'

Chicago Fire - Daniel Paladini (caution) 37'

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (caution) 90'

Chicago Fire - Jalil Anibaba (caution) 90'

Seattle Sounders FC - Fredy Montero (caution) 90'


Chicago Fire - Sean Johnson; Dan Gargan (Sebastian Grazzini 85'), Josip Mikulic (Jalil Anibaba 61'), Cory Gibbs, Gonzalo Segares; Marco Pappa, Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Daniel Paladini (Diego Chaves 80'), Patrick Nyarko; Dominic Oduro

Seattle Sounders FC - Kasey Keller; James Riley, Jeff Parke, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Leonardo Gonzalez; Alvaro Fernandez (Erik Friberg 46'), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle; Mike Fucito (Roger Levesque 91'+), Fredy Montero

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