Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid was exactly 13 words into his postgame press conference Tuesday when his team rushed into the conference room and soaked him with champagne.
Interestingly enough, those 13 words had been: “The good news is I stayed dry until now. That’s the good news.”
Once the players left – with Fredy Montero sending the final stream of bubbly at his coach – Schmid seemed about as happy drenched as he had been dry.
That was in keeping with the moment. Nothing but good spirits seemed to be running up and down the organization after the Sounders defended their U.S. Open Cup title with a 2-1 come-from-behind win over the Columbus Crew.
And they did it in some ways that had never before been accomplished in the 97-year history of the country’s oldest soccer tournament.
Seattle became the first MLS club to defend its Open Cup title, and the first overall club to do so since 1983.
And the Sounders did so before a record crowd of 31,311 at Qwest Field.
“It feels great; it feels tremendous,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said after the on-field trophy presentation. “Obviously, an amazing night of weather, of fans, just the atmosphere, and obviously to get the win is a great feeling. Our fans deserve it. They stick with us 32,000 strong. They’re still here, and we felt like we owed it to them.”
The Sounders controlled most of the way. However, it was Columbus that put a temporary hush to the celebration by scoring first on a Kevin Burns goal in the 24th minute.
“You’re bummed, but you know you’ve still got 60 minutes, and we’ve got a lot of attacking players on our team,” Sounders defender Patrick Ianni said. “I knew that we’d get one, and when we got one I knew it would come again.”
Ianni was right about that. And both the equalizing and winning goals came from second-year midfielder Sanna Nyassi, who had scored his first MLS goal Saturday in Seattle’s league win against Toronto.
The first came in the 38th minute, as Nathan Sturgis laid back a pass that Nyassi one-touched home from just outside the top of the penalty area.
The next started with a cross into the area by Fredy Montero. Steve Zakuani headed it into the crossbar, but Nyassi beat everyone to the rebound and swept it in.
“Great feeling tonight,” Nyassi said. “After breaking the deadlock the other day, the chances came tonight and I made sure I finished both of them. My confidence keeps growing. Scoring two goals tonight, I’ve continued to work hard and make sure I do a lot of finishing in training. Whenever the chances come, I’ll make sure to take them.”
The crowd was roaring again.
But there was still one bullet to dodge, as Crew substitute Robbie Rogers banged one last chance off the crossbar in the 86th minute.
A few minutes after that close call was averted, referee Michael Kennedy blew his whistle setting off a celebration on the pitch and in the stands.
Captain Kasey Keller accepted the Sounders’ second major trophy in their two-season history. And the club and crowd saluted each other before the players headed to the locker room to douse each other with champagne before setting off to find their coach.
“Obviously, I’m very, very proud of these guys,” Schmid said. “ This is what we wanted to be: something unique, something special, something different. The fans – I know I’m rambling right now – the fans were fantastic. That’s the loudest I’ve heard the place, for sure. Nobody left.
“A lot of times you see celebrations at the end of the game and the stadium’s half empty. Nobody left, and everybody was there for the cup presentation. I can’t say enough about our fans. They’re just fantastic.”
The Sounders return to the MLS regular season on Saturday at Kansas City. A win or draw would clinch a playoff spot for Seattle.