Sounders FC claimed a piece of United States soccer history Tuesday night with its 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup final.
The result marked the third straight season that the club has won what is the U.S. Soccer Federation’s national championship. No Major League Soccer team had ever done that. No team of any kind had done it since the New York Greek-Americans’ run from 1967-69. And no team of any kind has ever won more consecutively.
The game was played in front of a U.S. Open Cup record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field.
“To win three in a row is something very special and very unique and hasn’t been done in a long time,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Like we said: Every time we enter a competition, we want to win it. So, we’ll enter it next year, and we’ll want to win it next year as well.”
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Seattle won in 2009 over D.C. United, and in 2010 against the Columbus Crew.
Their three-peat against the Fire came after controlling the match everywhere but on the scoreboard.
Finally, Fredy Montero sent in a goal in the 78th minute. Osvaldo Alonso provided insurance in the sixth minute of stoppage time.
“We were a little unlucky with a couple off the post,” Schmid said. “ We were more dangerous on chances. I thought we really pretty much for the most part limited them on chances, although they had some good possession at midfield.”
Seattle outshot Chicago 24-6 – 14-1 in the second half. However, that didn’t pay off until a sequence around the 77th minute, when the Sounders unleashed an offensive flurry with several good chances. That led to the corner kick that started the game-winner.
Eric Friberg – who came on at halftime for the injured Alvaro Fernandez – sent the ball into the middle of the box, where defender Jeff Parke headed it on goal. Chicago keeper Sean Johnson got a piece of the ball but couldn’t control the rebound. The ball made its way to the foot of Montero, who sent it into the back of the net.
“Our expectations were always high, and we were very positive,” Montero said through a translator. “And we kept trying and trying again until that first goal arrived.”
Alonso settled it in the final seconds, working his way across the penalty area before finding an opening through Chicago defenders.
Moments later, the whistle blew and the victory was assured.
The Sounders remained on the pitch for a post-game celebration. They were handed T-shirts marking their three-peat. Then they were awarded their third Open Cup trophy. They held it up to their supporters. They posed for pictures.
After heading to the locker room, they interrupted Schmid’s post-game news conference by dousing him with champagne.
“I think the biggest motivation of all – for me – at the end of that game, was all the players gathered on the field and just looking up at the stands and everybody was still there,” Schmid said. “ I think that’s a reflection of what we play for every day and what gets us motivated every day. I think the fans were superb.”
Along with their Open Cup title, the Sounders once again have earned a spot in the preliminary round of the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League. Seattle could earn direct entry into that tournament by winning the MLS Supporters Shield or making it to the MLS Cup championship game.
And the Sounders made it clear that they are aiming for future champagne showers.
The quest starts Saturday, when they return to MLS regular-season play and host the Philadelphia Union.
“Whenever you get a chance to lift a cup, you know it’s a special occasion,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “ I said earlier out on the field: We’re not done yet. We still have one very, very important competition left (MLS Cup) and we’re all looking forward to that.”