Seattle Sounders FC found it easier to dominate the Houston Dynamos on Tuesday than to defeat them.
The Sounders controlled 90 minutes of regulation play at Starfire Sports Stadium, but needed 30 minutes of extra time before finally clawing their way to the U.S. Open Cup title game with a 2-1 semifinal win before a sellout crowd of 4,895.
Ownership of the oldest cup in United States soccer will be settled Sept. 2 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., against D.C. United. It would be the 13th major trophy for United, the first for the expansion Sounders.
“Obviously, the object it to go there and win,” said Gary Wright, Sounders vice president of business. “What a great job by (coach Sigi Schmid, general manager Adrian Hanauer, technical director Chris Henderson), the whole team side. They’ve just done a remarkable job of putting the team together. I think that’s pretty evident.”
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If the Sounders eventually hoist the Open Cup, they will think back to this sweltering night in Tukwila, when the long-delayed game-winner came on a Stephen King goal that followed a cross by Steve Zakuani and either a slight touch or a daring dummy by Sebastien Le Toux near the Houston goal.
“I’m trying to remember (the play),” King said. “I know Steve Zakuani had the ball out wide. He took his guy one-on-one, he made a good cross. I think Sebastien might have gotten a touch to it – it might have ricocheted off a defender – it was kind of a loose ball, and I just kind of shot it in.”
That was Seattle’s first lead, despite a 16-2 advantage in shots, including 12-0 in the second half.
Houston had actually jumped ahead in the 32nd minute, when the Sounders failed to clear a ball into the penalty area before forward Ade Akinbiyi could swat it past goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Thereafter, Seattle’s steady supply of chances was thwarted by Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall of Gig Harbor, the crossbar, both uprights and perhaps even a gaggle of gremlins as near-miss followed near-miss.
That continued until the 89th minute, when Nate Jaqua finished in front of the goal after passes from Roger Levesque and Le Toux.
“The last 20 minutes of the game, when we were getting chance after chance and nothing was going in, it was getting a little frustrating,” King said. “But we just tried to remain confident and keep doing what we were doing, and we tied it up”
The score was identical to the Sounders’ controversial regular-season win over Houston on July 11 at Qwest Field, and it seemed hard feelings from that game lingered into Tuesday.
The game was chippy from the start, with a total of 10 yellow cards awarded. Two went to Sounders All-Star defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. That forced the Sounders to play the final seconds one player down, and it will keep Hurtado out of the title game.
D. C. United had advanced earlier Tuesday with a 2-1 win over Rochester of USL-1.
“We try not to call ourselves an expansion team,” King said. “The year’s going really well for us. We can still reach all the goals that we set at the beginning of the year. I think we’re real confident, real positive going to the final and we think we can win it.”
The Sounders return to league play Saturday, meeting the Eastern Division-leading Chicago Fire at Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808