2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final: Philadelphia Union vs Seattle Sounders FC
The 101st edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup will come to an end Tuesday night in Chester, PA at PPL Park when the Philadelphia Union welcome Seattle Sounders FC. The match will be televised live on GolTV and The Comcast Network in the Philadelphia area. This will be the Union’s first ever final appearance in their brief five year history, while it will be Seattle’s fifth final in six years as an MLS club.
The Union have a slight advantage in this match as they are playing at home and Seattle had to make the cross county trek. This will be the third final that the Sounders have played on the road, going 1-1 in the other two. In league play Seattle is riding a four match winning streak. Those wins include a pair of 4-2 road wins over Chivas USA and the Portland Timbers. With a last second victory over Real Salt Lake, the Sounders are riding high with a chance to lift the Open Cup trophy for the fourth time.
“We want to try to make this a very special year. We have a special opportunity on Tuesday to win another Open Cup and Philly will be feeling motivated because this is their first opportunity to do that. We are going to be equally motivated, so winning always helps build confidence,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Coming and winning late helps build confidence because no matter how long it goes you have the ability to come back.”
We all know Seattle is loaded with experienced players who have had success in MLS and abroad. There are also plenty of players who have not been through the successful run of three straight Open Cup titles from 2009-2011. Only five players on Seattle’s current roster were in the 18-man lineup for the Open Cup final in 2011 when it beat the Chicago Fire for the third consecutive title – Leo Gonzalez, Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Lamar Neagle and Zach Scott.
It has been an up and down season for the Union. Mid-season they first Head Coach John Hackworth and replaced him with interim coach Jim Curtin. Since Curtin became the head man, the Union have only lost two league matches and enjoyed their run through the US Open Cup.
One of the main questions most Union fans will be asking, who starts in goal. Some will want Zac MacMath while other will want Rais M’bolhi. MacMath performance in goal in the semi-final is what got the Union this far and it would be a monumental mistake to not let MacMath finish what he started.
“I’m from the city so as a player I won that trophy two times and lost it once,” Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. “I don’t want that losing feeling. As a coach, it’s different. I don’t want to let the city down so it’s different. It’s something that is a special feeling. For a club, once you get your first trophy there’s confidence. When people talk about the Philadelphia Union, they’re champions. That changes things, just playing in a final you can tell there is a buzz about this team now. Publicly in the media, when they say over and over again, ‘Seattle vs. Philadelphia,’ these are positive things to be mentioned in the same breathe of Seattle for the past several months.”
“They are the best team in the league right now. I’m not going to sit up here and tell you they’re not. They’re flying on all cylinders. We respect them but we don’t fear them. My group is not scared. We will be ready to go on Tuesday, we’re excited for it. It was good to get this New York game past us. We would’ve liked to get three points, that was the goal but we came up a little short. It’s almost like (Saturday) didn’t happen.”
Both teams have an exceptionally deep roster and it will be key in this match as the Union are playing just three days after their match this past Saturday. Seattle has four days of rest entering the match but if you count the cross country trip it might as well be three days as well.
“We have a deep enough group – I’d even say this is probably as deep of a group we’ve had since I’ve been here that can come on the field and contribute in any manner the coaches need them to,”defender Ray Gaddis said. “We need to make sure that we stay compact and together. From a leadership standpoint, we have those vocal guys that can dictate play and control the match for us and right now everything seems to be clicking at the right time. We hope to continue that on Tuesday.”
Seattle will be seeing a familiar face when the game kickoffs of Tuesday night in Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux played for Seattle prior to being drafted in the 2010 Expansion Draft by the Union.
“Winning any sort of title is a big deal and for us we want to be the team that brings the first trophy to this franchise, so everyone is motivated,” Le Toux said. “I try to show my experience and leadership because I know what it takes to win this final and I hope I can win again with Philadelphia. Winning a trophy is such a great feeling. I hope all these guys here have that chance. We’re going to do everything we can to make it happen.”
This match will feature a highly explosive offensive minded team in Seattle and a more defensive minded team in Philadelphia. If Seattle is not careful Philadelphia will exploit them on the counter and make it an extremely long night. If right back DeAndre Yedlin ventures forward and turns the ball over, it will be up to him to get back as quickly as possible or hope somebody is there to cover the open space. You can not give Le Toux or Conor Casey free runs at the box. If Seattle allows those free runs, both those players will make them pay.
In the end I see this match going to penalties with Seattle winning their fourth US Open Cup, but it’s hard to predict a result for a game that features two solid sides.
Chris Blakely is the Lead Writer/Editor for StoppageTimeSoccer. You can follow him on Twitter@TheRealCBlakely, like him on Facebook or add him to your Google circles.