Photo by ISIphotos.com
By TRAVIS CLARK
The jovial cheer in the visitor's locker room pinged through the hallways of RFK after Seattle's 2-1 triumph. Shouts erupted when Fredy Montero, the Dewar Cup slung over his shoulders, joined the fray. Next up was Sigi Schmid, mastermind behind the title-winning run. With some gentle encouragement he made his way in, with a shower of champagne to greet him. The furor and racket made it clear just how much this victory meant to Seattle.
"Anytime you're in a Cup final, whether it's in Europe or it's in the States or if it's with the National Team or whatever, winning a Cup is winning a Cup," said a champagne-soaked Kasey Keller once the celebration had tempered a bit.
A gritty effort from Seattle sealed the trophy — on the road nonetheless — in front of a feisty crowd at RFK. All the build up and anticipation lit a fire under the United fan base, who created perhaps the best atmosphere the building has seen this season. That, and they weren't about to be outdone by the two hundred or so Seattle supporters who showed up.
United bossed possession for most of the game, but the more dangerous chances fell to the visitors. Three excellent saves from Josh Wicks kept the fixture scoreless at the half. All that possession equaled very little for D.C. going forward, who lacked that extra pass or repeatedly tried to do too much in the final third. Striker Luciano Emilio struggled with his touch, and Fred was a turnover machine in the midfield.
Seattle's game plan was clear — Montero sat high up on Dejan Jakovic, the focal point in D.C.'s three-man backline, and the Sounders lumped long balls in towards the duo. The battle between the two was rather fierce for much of the first stanza.
When Ljungberg eluded Simms two-thirds of the way into the game, Seattle finally unlocked D.C.'s defense, and the breakthrough was accomplished. It brought a sense of relief to a side that had been unable to score in recent weeks.
"Obviously we have struggled a little bit in our league games and we’ve really struggled for the same things we struggled with in the first half tonight — we created chances and not scored," coach Sigi Schmid said. "So you know, we finally found the back of the net and we came through some adversity as well."
While the offense finally clicked into place for Seattle, D.C. found themselves down a man after Wicks' inexplicable stomp on goal-scorer Montero. It was another moment of madness from the goalie who has a hot temper. It's the second incident in two games — Wicks and defender Marc Burch got into a row in Chicago — that the volatile and talented keeper has found himself in. From all angles, the red card seems justified, and the decision even more inexplicable.
The loss of Wicks was tremendous because he was the lone reason D.C. wasn't down by a 2-0 or 3-0 score. Seattle's second, and ultimately game-winning goal was no fault of replacement Milos Kocic — for whatever reason no one bothered to mark Roger Levesque in the 83rd minute, and he gratefully tapped in Sebastian Le Toux's cross to seal the trophy.
An 88th minute response from a deflected free kick made it nervy for Seattle and its fans until the final whistle, but they were able to hold on and secure their first trophy.
The cup win is a testament to the fantastic first season Seattle has enjoyed in MLS. Both the fans and front office have been tremendous, and the close bond was evident by Drew Carey's celebration and locker room appearance. Keller seconded those plaudits as well.
"Our ownership group got pounded with champagne because that's the people they are — they're with us," Keller said. "We know that they're a part of it. For a first year organization or a 100 year organization we're doing it the right way."
Here are highlights from last night's game:
What did you think of last night's game? One of the better American finals you've seen? Think Seattle will use it as momentum for a run at MLS Cup? Think D.C. United is in danger of having its season go down the tubes?
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