[U.S. OPEN CUP] Seattle's history in the U.S. Open Cup pre-dates its admission to Major League Soccer, but it is three-for-three in the competition under the MLS banner. On Tuesday, the Sounders rewarded a record Open Cup crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field by beating Chicago, 2-0, to win its third straight cup with goals by Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso.
Frustrated by resolute defending by Chicago and two shots off the woodwork, Seattle had to labor for more than an hour before Montero pounced on a rebound to score the winner in the 79th minute. Workhorse midfielder Osvaldo Alonso capped off a magnificent performance by adding a second goal in the final seconds.
Injuries kept playmakers Mauro Rosales (sprained MCL) and Sebastian Grazzini. (hamstring) out of the starting lineup, and without those players to regulate tempo, the pace of the game seldom ebbed. Seattle eventually piled up a 24-8 edge in shots and if not for eight saves by Chicago Fire keeper Sean Johnson, it would have scored well before the 78th minute.
The Fire’s possession game seldom surfaced in a frenetically played first half blighted by numerous turnovers, yet it did occasionally slice into the attacking third. Its shots, though, came from distance, with Marco Pappa launching three efforts from outside the penalty area that goalie Kasey Keller handled easily. Seattle’s back line, led by centerback Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and left back Leo Gonzalez, squeezed the channels and pinched balls directed toward Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko.
Seattle’s direct play, spearheaded by forward Mike Fucito, carried most of the momentum. He forced a brave save by Johnson on a ball headed into the goalmouth by Brad Evans and nailed a first-time shot Johnson charged out to block with his leg. Around the half-hour the Fire fought off a series of corners, the last of which presented a chance that defender Hurtado headed wide.
Fucito’s relentless pressing yielded another chance just before halftime. He ran down an errant back pass to drop a back-heel for Fernandez, who blasted a first-time shot from a tight angle that Johnson batted away and Fucito steered wide on the rebound. Montero threatened again in stoppage time when he cut inside Pavel Pardo and fired a low shot from about 25 yards that caromed off the base of the post.
Erik Friberg replaced Fernandez, bothered by a head injury, at halftime and took his spot on the right side of midfield. Seattle resumed attacking down both wings and hit the post again with another ball clipped behind the back line, this time by Lamar Neagle, down the left side. Fucito flicked a shot from a bad angle that bounced off the far post.
After an hour of play, Fire centerback Josip Mikulic went down with cramp and Jalil Anibaba joined Cory Gibbs in the middle. Seattle attacked again, but a Montero shot was blocked and Alonso shot wide. Later in the half, clearances and blocks and Gibbs and Anbiba fended off another wave of attacks, until another corner kick finally paid off.
Parke overpowered his marker to drive a header that Johnson’s lunge stopped but left on the doorstep, and Montero banged it in. A U.S. Open Cup record crowd of 35,615, decked mostly in green with dots of Fire red here and there, erupted at the breakthrough.
Fucito broke clear on the left in the 80th minute on a great through ball from Montero and instead of centering it for Evans, took the shot himself and sent it wide of the far post. Chicago struggled to get the ball past the center line and from a turnover, Friberg’s long low shot forced Johnson to the ground for the save.
Grazzini finally got onto the field in the 85th minute to join a previous substitute Diego Chaves, who had entered the game in the aftermath of Montero’s goal. A rough tackle by Anibaba on Fucito triggered a skirmish during which Alonso had to be restrained by his teammates. Referee Alex Prus cautioned by Anibaba and Alonso.
In the final seconds of regulation, Oduro got a header on frame from point-blank range, but a) the flag was up for offside, and b) Keller snared it anyway. Gonzalez shut off his last run, and the Fire’s last opportunity, deep into stoppage time, and with the last seconds ticking away Neagle played a ball inside to Alonso, who glided past three opponents on the dribble and calmly tucked the ball past Johnson.
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Final
Seattle 1, Chicago 0.
Goals: Montero 79, Alonso 96+.
Seattle – Keller, Riley, Hurtado, Parke, Gonzalez, Alonso, Evans, Fernandez (Friberg, 46), Neagle, Montero, Fucito (Levesque, 92+).
Chicago – Johnson, Gargan (Grazzini, 85), Gibbs, Mikulic (Anibaba, 61), Segares, Pardo, Pause, Paladini Chaves (80), Pappa, Nyarko, Oduro.
Referee: Alex Prus.