By: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – It was a night for the record books as the Seattle Sounders bagged their second U.S. Open Cup in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew, making them the first ever expansion team to reach the final in each of its first two seasons and also the only MLS team to win the cup consecutively.
Intense pre-match build provided by Seattle’s now legendary fan base was carried on a green tide into Qwest Field, creating the charged atmosphere unique to the Emerald City. The music of hometown guitar god Jimi Hendrix set the mood before kick off as the supporters club unveiled a “The Boys From Seattle Are Back” banner. Then the cheering volley began, leaving the Columbus Crew players looking on in awe as “C’mon Seattle, fight and win” rolled over the crowd from the Brougham to the North End. The 31,311 chanting fans also set an attendance record for largest crowd ever at a U.S. Open Cup final.
Seattle were able to play wide most of the game, with Steve Zakuani and Sanni Nyassi taking the ball down pitch on the wings and providing good service for forwards Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo. Montero racked up three good scoring chances within the first six minutes, one a shot from 30 yards that just grazed the cross bar.[picappgallerysingle id=”8677479″]
The Sounders were forced to play catch up after Columbus earned the lead in the 24’ when forward Steven Lenhart sent a back pass between the Seattle defense to midfielder Kevin Burns, who managed to beat Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller and send the ball into the back corner of the net.
Seattle didn’t let the Crew have the lead for long though, tying things up in the 38’ on a beautiful Sanni Nyassi goal, only his second for the Sounders and earning both inside the last four days. Picking up on a pass from Nate Sturgis, Nyassi aimed a fired from the edge of the box into the open net.
After the break Columbus put on the pressure, looking for the winner and another trophy to even up their collection of five. But most of the Crew’s best opportunities came off set pieces which Seattle did a steady job of defending. Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller wasn’t seriously tested again until the 85’ when Robbie Rogers drilled a shot off the cross bar, undoubtedly leaving Keller breathing a sigh of relief considering he didn’t even have time to move off his line.
Nyassi earned a place in Open Cup history with his winning goal in the 66’ off a rebounded Zakuani header, making him the first player to score two goals in the final. The Gambian international and Seattle hero celebrated by jumping into the arms of his teammates who were warming up on the sidelines.
At the final whistle the crowd exploded into cheers, and began chanting Washington native Kasey Keller’s name. After the presentation ceremony Coach Sigi Schmid recognized the fans for their support saying, “We’re a team with a lot of character and we get that from your support. We want to deliver trophies and work hard for you. Thank you for being the best fans in soccer.”