Photo by Stephen Brashear/ISIphotos.com
By JASON MITCHELL
More than the usual smattering of Rave Green gear sprinkled the streets of downtown Seattle Wednesday. A plane circled high above Lake Union in the late afternoon, trailing a 3,000 square-foot Sounders FC scarf visible from downtown to the city of Bellevue across Lake Washington. Sure signs of a soccer-crazed city celebrating another trophy.
And there was a good deal to celebrate. The first Lamar Hunt United States Open Cup three-peat since New York Greek American in 1969, sure. But more than that, a record-breaking 35,615 in attendance to watch the victory, one that qualifies the Sounders for the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League. The end of a hectic and historic two-month stretch that saw the Sounders go 12-2-2 in all competitions, winning the Cascadia and U.S. Open Cups and defeating Monterrey — in Mexico — in the process. And perhaps most importantly, the promise of more good things to come. As a champagne-soaked Kasey Keller said late Tuesday night, "We're not done yet."
Looking forward, the Sounders are in the MLS playoffs for the third time in three years. They still have a slim shot at the Supporters' Shield, trailing the Los Angeles Galaxy by seven points. The Galaxy have two games remaining, the Sounders three. Not likely, but not impossible, either. In CCL play, Seattle hosts Monterrey on Oct. 18 in its lone remaining midweek match. The Sounders have already qualified for next spring's quarterfinals and can win its group outright with a win or tie.
But that's all in the future. First, here's a look back at Seattle's historic Open Cup run:
June 28 – Seattle 2, Kitsap Pumas (PDL) 1; Starfire Sports Complex, Tukwila, Wash.
The Sounders' little brothers from just across the water held tough for most of the first-half before forward Mike Fucito banged in a volley in the 39th minute. Leading a group of reserves, Fucito added a second goal in the 62nd minute, dancing around a defender in the box before finishing strong with his right foot.
Current Sounders backup goalkeeper and 2011 draft pick Bryan Meredith started this match for Kitsap. Seattle drafted Meredith out of Monmouth in January, but released him after a trial. The Pumas picked him up, but Meredith continued to train with Seattle and the Sounders signed him to the first team after shutting down Terry Boss (concussion) for the season.
July 13 – Seattle 3, Los Angeles Galaxy 1, Starfire Sports Complex
It was a rare good night against the nemesis from California. Seattle, just 1-5-2 against the Galaxy in three seasons of league play, knocked Los Angeles out of the Open Cup for the second straight year.
Both teams fielded mixed sides, but Landon Donovan and Fredy Montero provided plenty of star power in tiny Starfire. Montero, Nate Jaqua, and the nascent Lamar Neagle all scored as the Sounders cruised out of the quarterfinals for the fifth straight year (the USL Sounders advanced in 2007 and 2008).
It wasn't necessarily enough to avenge last season's refund-inducing 4-0 thrashing. Or to get even for eliminating the Sounders from the 2010 playoffs. But a bit of redemption to be sure.
Aug. 20 – Seattle 1, FC Dallas 0, Starfire Sports Complex
The possibility of making Open Cup history seemed much more realistic after topping a tough and feisty Dallas team in the semifinals. Seattle dominated early, but Dallas played the second half with desperate abandon and repeatedly threatened late.
Fredy Montero nearly scored a first-half hat trick, but only converted once, ripping a left-footed shot past goalkeeper Kevin Hartman in the 40th minute.
Dallas would hit the frame while launching nine second-half shots, but Seattle's defenders did brilliant work neutralizing Brek Shea, who was in great form in the weeks before his breakout national team matches.
Oct. 4 – Seattle 2, Chicago Fire 0, CenturyLink Field
The rain sprinkling down from late afternoon into the early evening might have foreshadowed a Seattle kind of night. But the Fire did not cede easily in a back-and-forth tussle featuring two teams going after the game and two stingy goalkeepers denying shot after shot. Forwards for both sides consistently tracked back to their own end lines before sprinting the length of the field in attack, towing midfielders and defenders in support.
Poor passing from the Fire on the wet FieldTurf let Seattle control possession, but without Mauro Rosales (still recovering from an MCL tear) Seattle's trademark interior passing and interchanging never clicked. The Sounders did start to find space wide late, and CenturyLink Field physically rocked after Montero finally broke the tense deadlock just before the 80th minute. Momentum swung the Sounders' way, and a composed Osvaldo Alonso iced the title with a brilliant insurance goal in the last minute of stoppage time.
A great match from both sides, but a deserved win for the Sounders. A healthy Sebastian Grazzini –limited to about 10 minutes because of a hamstring injury — surely would have helped the Fire.
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