BY: Karen Watson
SEATTLE – The Sounders seemed intent on securing their third straight Open Cup victory in dramatic fashion, not scoring until the 78th minute, in their 2-0 defeat of the Chicago Fire. They are the first team to win three in a row since New York Greek American did it in 1969.
After sending two earlier shots off of the post, Seattle forward Fredy Montero secured the lead when he pounced on a rebounded ball from Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The scoring opportunity was originally set up off a Sounders corner taken by Erik Friberg that defender Jeff Parke headed towards goal. Montero now has sixteen goals on the season in all competitions.
Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso sealed the deal during the second half stoppage time by expertly sidestepping the Chicago defense and sweeping the ball behind Johnson into the back of the net, almost as if in slow motion.
“Our depth has been good all year; different guys have stepped up at different times. We have a lot of stars on this team but the real star is the team and they know that,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid summed up after the game. Post match celebrations weren’t kept strictly to on field confetti cannons and fireworks, Kasey Keller lead a group of his teammates in showering Schmid with champagne and Gatorade during the post game press conference.
Again Seattle proved that it is a great soccer town, breaking last year’s Open Cup Final attendance record by over 3,500 fans with a total crowd of 35, 615 at tonight’s match. Keller commented on the fan support after the game, “To be able to win a cup at any time is a tremendous feeling. Any chance you get to win a trophy you know it is a special occasion. We were so disappointed that first year that we didn’t get to host the Cup final, we felt we deserved it. So last year we wanted to win it in front of the home fans and we set all kinds of records for Open Cup attendance. This year we were able to even break that.”
Both teams missed scoring chances throughout the game and as the clocked ticked down, the play started to get more physical with a total of thirty fouls and four yellow cards in total. Seattle forward Mike Fucito had a fantastic opportunity in the 53’ when he just got a touch on the ball and sent it towards the empty Chicago net, where it bounced off the far post and three Fire defenders crowded around in an attempt to protect the goal.
Fire midfielder Marco Pappa was responsible for five out of the six Chicago shots during the game but Keller continued to come up with big saves, shutting out the visitors.
Seattle midfielder Alvaro Fernandez was forced to leave the game at the break with a head injury sustained early on in the first half. Schmid confirmed that team doctors ruled it a mild concussion but didn’t provide details of when he would return to the line up.
With their third Open Cup win, their recent Cascadia Cup victory, and progression in CONCACAF Champions League play the Sounders are assembling an impressive trophy case. They are also in the running for the MLS Supporters Shield for best regular season record and have clinched a spot in the MLS play offs.
But team captain Keller stressed that they aren’t done yet. “We still have one very, very important competition left and we are going to focus on that. I would still like to win a league cup with this team.” The Sounders have three more regular season games to play and next face the Philadelphia Union at home on October 8.