Seattle Sounders WIn Fourth Lamar US Open Cup Title
courtesy MLS Twitter/@MLS
A cup final is always a tense, dramatic affair and the 101st edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup was no different. In an exciting affair, the red-hot Seattle Sounders won their fourth title in six years, defeating the host Philadelphia Union 3-1 in extra time. The hard fought match saw both teams have chances to win in regulation but Stefan Frei and Zac MacMath both made big saves to keep the match even.
The big question coming into the match was who the Union’s starting goalkeeper would be. Most would have said MacMath, who was named player of the round for the semifinals for saving two penalties to get the Union to the final. However, the return of Algerian Rais M’Bolhi from national team duty had many believing that interim manager Jim Curtin would choose him over MacMath as he was brought in to replace MacMath. Curtin made the right decision and played MacMath. After a lot of even lay with each side enjoying periods of dominance the deadlock was broken when Union captain Maurice Edu headed home a Cristian Maidana free kick in the 38th minute. The half ended with the Union just 45 minutes from their first ever trophy in just their fifth year of existence.
That all changed just two minutes into the second half when Chad Barrett knocked home a rebound after a botched defensive effort by the Union. The Union kept pushing however and would have several chances late to win. Seattle chose to leave Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins on the bench to start the match. He replaced Barrett in the 60th minute and began changing the complexion of the match with his pace, size and skill. Jim Curtin curiously waited until the 78th minute to make a sub when he brought on rookie Pedro Ribeiro for Conor Casey. A few minutes later he would remove the influential Andrew Wenger for Danny Cruz. Ribeiro and Vincent Nogueira would have golden opportunities to win for the Union late in the half but Ribeiro missed an open net by shooting the ball right to Frei. Nogueira hit the post a few minutes later.
The class of Seattle began to show in the second half and that became more evident in extra time as the Union began to wear down. Clint Dempsey scored in the 101st minute to give the Sounders the lead and Martins finished off the game in the 114 minute after he raced past Ray Gaddis, something very few players can do. The final whistle blew and Seattle celebrated while Philadelphia left feeling disappointed. It was a great game with a great atmosphere and though the crowd was only just over 15,000 this tournament is still a tough sell in America. The Union can be proud of the effort but it was evident there are many holes in this team. They still need a quality goal scorer and much better depth. Seattle was able to bring on Martins and Marco Pappa while leaving Kenny Cooper on the bench. Philly had Ribeiro, Cruz and 34-year old Fred. It was only a matter of time before Seattle’s talent would win out. In a match like this you simply cannot squander the amount of quality chances the Union had and still find a way to win. Seattle is now the first entrant into the 2015-16 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League.
Adam Stefanik is a writer for Stoppage Time Soccer. Follow him on Twitter @AdamSGT36.