US Open Cup

Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: Detox

Another pivotal chapter was written in the Cascadian Book of Hate after a 3-1 extra time victory by the Portland Timbers over your Seattle Sounders. I decided to hold off on my live USWNT recap due to the wild crazy events that took place Tuesday night at Starfire.

Every Sounders-Timbers match is potentially the stuff of legend. This last one sure didn’t disappoint. That is unless, you are a Sounders fan. Losing to the Timbers sucks. Hard. I hate them, and we sure didn’t need another reason to pile on the hate. However.

It was only the Open Cup. Being knocked out early sinks, but it could be a blessing. The Sounders are no longer dependent on the Open Cup as the opportunity to find quality minutes for the young guns. Not with S2 fully operational. So losing only really keeps us from… winning another Open Cup?

I don’t want to treat “our” trophy lightly, but we’ve won that silverware so many times. I’m still #hellagreedy, it’s just the Sounders have other goals this season. With CCL and the dog days of the MLS season approaching, missing the USOC eases fixture congestion. If losing to the Timbers helps us stay sharp and keep our focus on winning two previously unsummited tournaments, the MLS Cup Playoffs and CCL, then I’ll gladly suffer the loss. But then again we said something similar to this back in 2013 after the Tampa Bar Rowdies roughed us up, and that season fell apart. At least we can point to the boondoggle that was two MLS clubs facing off so early and take solace in not getting shellacked by a JV team.

Speaking of the JV, Sigi started quite the mixed lineup on Tuesday. Perkins, Kovar and Fisher in the back five; Azira, Rose, Roldan AND Leo in the midfield? It doesn’t hurt too bad to lose when you know started a B- lineup. Especially because Seattle’s motley crew lost to a full strength Timbers squad. And Portland needed a 4-man advantage to ice it. C’est la vie. Clearly Sigi wasn’t all out like Caleb Porter. I’m sure those in Stumptown are feeling warm and fuzzy inside but, c’mon guys, you barely beat S1.5. As Sigi said, our boys “fought like lions.”

The only downside to their grit was the amount of minutes logged. Sigi was clearly looking at rationing minutes and keeping guys fresh for the upcoming stretch of key league games. But with the madness of the game, key players like Dempsey, Marshall, and Neagle all clocked serious minutes. And then Oba. Oh lord, Oba. Martins was stretchered off the field after untimely collision with the overrated Darlington Nagbe. Oba underwent an MRI yesterday and the results should be revealed sometime today. Prognosticators predict a bad result (sports hernia, broken rib?). Starting a weak team to save the big boys only works if you don’t end up throwing said big boys into a meat grinder.

And then there is the curious case of Clint Dempsey. Dempsey gets heated. In a game like Tuesday’s, Dempsey got heated. Then he… ripped the logbook from the ref’s pocket and proceeded to shred it. That got him a straight red and possibly a huge suspension. MLS and USSF will need to decide how to discipline his actions, but it could be pretty darn serious.

That said, I’m glad Deuce stood up for Azira. These two Sounders come from a very different pedigree. Azira has played in the USL and Deuce the World Cup. The Sounders all share a tight bond. Upon Azira’s bogus red card, Deuce got heated. He got mad for Azira, mad for Seattle. Dempsey was standing up for Seattle. That was great to see. Not only does it highlight a real esprit de corps within the Rave Green, but also that Dempsey takes being a Sounder very, very seriously. Sure, some people will write it off as Deuce being a punk, but I loved it.

 

Historic Se4ttle Sounders Win Fourth US Open Cup Trophy

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Your Seattle Sounders are the 2014 US Open Cup Champions! Damn it feels good to type that. Damn it feels good to be a Sounder.

Last night’s game was a doozy (and I’m not just talking about the Kloudtv stream*). The final 3-1 score line doesn’t do the match justice. Hats off to the Philadelphia Union, they played their hearts out. Philly was gritty and focused and played pretty soccer. This was not the team we cruised past in early May. Interim coach Jim Curtin has them playing with pride and flair. Maidana, Wenger and Nogueira gave us fits all night. Hell, in the final minutes of regulation my heart was in my throat. We were wilting faster than dollar store roses and Philly kept attacking. Those two shots, nearly back-to-back, when the Union had open looks at our goal?! Sometimes you just get that rub of the green.

Luck wasn’t with us earlier in the contest, as multiple gimme chances went wanting. Clint Dempsey missed an easy tap-in in the 10th minute, multiple shots tickled the outside of the posts. I was afraid we’d rue all our missed chances when Philly was taking the game to us. But Seattle weathered the siege of the Union and came out in extra time resolute. We pushed the tempo and Obafemi Martins was the difference. He truly is the catalyst of the Sounders’ attack. He worked so well with Clint Dempsey and Marco Pappa and that finally allowed Seattle to unlock a surprisingly stingy Philly backline. The Sounders took their lumps (ask Zach Scott and Brad Evans) and went the championship distance.

Seattle has played so well for so long this season, that you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. It didn’t last Friday when we could’ve settled for a draw against RSL. And it didn’t last night when we came back from a goal down to win our fourth Lamar Hunt in six seasons. This win meant a lot to the Sounders.

It is so refreshing to see how giddy men like Clint Dempsey and Marco Pappa were after the game. These are men who’ve played soccer for a long time in many leagues. They’ve been celebrated, they’ve been humbled, but they’ve never won a cup. Both were like kids at Christmas in the beer-soaked, postgame locker room. There is no cynicism or apathy in either.

One trophy down. Three to go (yes, I am greedy. I want Cascadia too).

#Se4ttle

* My wife and I tried our damndest to find a bootleg stream (that’s how we watch the NBCSN and ESPN broadcasts), but ended up having to pay the nine bucks for the GolTV stream. Wow. It was janky as hell (though GolTV was impressive with their prompt and polite refund for the poor quality stream). We tried running Ross’s audio simultaneously to compensate for the start-and-stop, but even good ol’ Soundersfc.com was having technical difficulties. Dammit America. This tournament matters. The US Open Cup is august and storied and ought be respected. It is insane to think that in marketing-crazed America, no one wants to sponsor a national broadcast of the US Open Cup championship other than, sorry GolTV, a two-bit cable channel? We can do better. Soccer deserves better.

SE4TTLE!!

What a win! Thanks boys, you played like champs!

The Once and Future Champs

The Seattle Sounders have their eyes on some serious silverware this season, like the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup. Seattle is a successful, decorated franchise but these awards elude them. The one cup Seattle has won, and won in buckets, is the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. Tonight that cup is at stake, as Seattle plays the Philadelphia Union in the USOC Final.

The Sounders won three straight Open Cups and were knocking on the door of history coming thisclose to a fourth in a 2012 before completely flaming out last season. This season, the Sounders have had a helluva Open Cup run. I was chanting at Starfire for the drubbing of PSA Elite. I was there for the nerve-wracking shootout with San Jose. I watched overtime against Portland and the slaughter of Chicago. But tonight’s match is for all the glory.

I want this game. I want this win. This is Seattle’s first crack at the Lamar Hunt since… oh, a certain game in Kansas City officiated by a certain Ricardo Salazar. That loss hurt. The crap penalty awarded to Kansas City that looked to be the go-ahead. Ianni getting sent off at the death, and then the crap call that Gspurning left his line on the final pk’s. Tonight the Sounders seek vindication.

I know the Philadelphia Union looks like an easy opponent (I said as much earlier), but game day is always different. Union coach Kevin Curtin said it, “Yeah, finals are unique, they’re always crazy. You play in them and sometimes the teams don’t look like they do in the build up to a final.” The Sounders should not take this opponent lightly. The Union have never competed for a trophy, so will be hell-bent for leather. They are a team on the rise, losing just once in their last ten games. And they can score, having the best offense in the Eastern Conference with 45 goals. Philly started a b-team against New York on Saturday, resting Conor Casey and limiting Sebastian Le Toux, Cristian Maidana and Vincent Nogueria. Tonight Seattle must field a top-flight lineup determined to win.

Unfortunately, Seattle’s has question marks in the lineup.. Marco Pappa, a stalwart for the entire USOC run, is just returning from the Copa Centroamericana. The rest of Seattle’s ideal eleven just clocked 90 grueling minutes in an epic slugfest with RSL on Friday. It seems coach Sigi Schmid must make some curious calls with his starting eleven. The Sounders chose Kenny Cooper, not Clint Dempsey, not DeAndre Yedlin, not Obafemi Martins, to accompany the coach to the pre-game press conference Monday. No offense to Cooper, but he is not a star or a face representative of the franchise. Sure, he has been on an Open Cup tear, but would Sigi start him over Martins or Dempsey? I understand the nod to Cooper’s USOC scoring streak, but tonight it’s do or die.

Tonight in Chester, PA, Seattle gets its first chance at a trophy in 2014. It is only the US Open Cup, a trophy they’ve won three times. A trophy their supporters aren’t satisfied with. A trophy they were robbed of in 2012. A trophy that doesn’t have a televised tournament. Our trophy. Tonight let’s reclaim what is rightfully ours.

Bold Prediction: These games are never easy. The Union want it badly and we’re not going to field a “starting” lineup. Dempsey won’t be in the eleven and neither will Pappa. I bet Andy Rose starts over Gonzalo Pineda. Our depth is quality and our 1A is still better than Philly’s best. We should win this game. I see both teams trading goals and then holding on the draw for a long time before a late go-ahead by… Chad Marshall. Sounders 2-1.

The History of the US Open Cup

Still basking in the Seattle Sounders’ annihilation of the Chicago Fire in Wednesday’s US Open Cup Semifinal, I came across this brilliant article by Graham Parker. Parker wrote it for Al Jazeera America last year before D.C. United beat Real Salt Lake in the USOC Final. The article details the history, appeal and adversity of America’s oldest soccer tournament.

Josh Hakala proposes an image most American sports fans could conceive seeing only in movies.

“Imagine a tournament,” he said, “where the New York Yankees are forced to play a minor league baseball team in a game that really matters — and they lose.”

His respect for the competition goes beyond the desire to win a trophy to a recognition that the continuity of the Open Cup in some ways stands for all the unsung players, coaches, fans and administrators who somehow kept the idea of soccer alive in America, even during the dark times. When he became a coach, many of his new coaching colleagues were old enough to have been players when soccer’s top-level prospects in the United States looked remote.

“My peers, so to speak, are part of that so-called lost generation who played on that indoor circuit, who took that bus to Albany, who took that bus down to Florida, sleeping on the bus, eating at Denny’s,” he recalled. “I hear that from the coaches I interact with day to day, and I respect that and realize how fortunate we are for all the steps, leagues and players that have helped us get where we are with MLS. I’m excited about our cup run, and as a coach, I put out my best team for it, and I’ve always had a tremendous amount of respect for this tournament.”

Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis said he sees room for improvement in how the tournament is “formatted, treated and viewed” but is a fan of the cup.

“I think the idea of the U.S. Open Cup is a great one. I love that it’s all levels of the game, starting from the amateurs to the semipros,” he said at a press conference Monday. “I love that we have that trophy, and I think it’s a great one.”

The question of how to follow the tournament is a vexing one: The final will be broadcast on the cable channel Gol TV, but most earlier rounds can be found only by watching local online streams of wildly varying quality or following on Twitter.

Still, “even the worst streams are better than it was 10 years ago when I started the site. We’d literally be calling clubs up two days later to ask, ‘What was the score?’ because there was so little coverage,” Hakala said. “But it would be great if someone had the vision to see what’s unique about this tournament and could step up with a TV deal. In time, it really has the potential to capture the nation’s imagination like a March Madness or something like that. It’s an amazing tournament. It’s survived every attempt to kill it, and it’s still going after 100 years.”

Looking ahead to the next century of tradition, Salt Lake’s Kreis hopes to see the tournament take a more prominent position in American soccer.

“When you look at the FA Cup and the history that it has over in England — I think we should be doing everything to emulate that trophy and impart importance to the tournament,” he said. “But we need the leadership to do that. We need the people that put on the tournament from Round 1 to the final (to do it) because, honestly, it feels to me that it’s just now that we’re in the final, now it’s a real game.”

Check out the rest of the article, it is a fine read. Al Jazeera also has a nifty slide show about the history of the Open Cup that features the Sounders. Hopefully Seattle makes makes Open Cup history next month in Philadlephia.

DeAndre Yedlin Transfers and the Sounders Near Ascension

The Seattle Sounders rolled to an emphatic victory against the Chicago Fire last night in the semifinals of the US Open Cup. In winning, Seattle clinched their fifth berth in the USOC finals in 6 years. The Sounders will meet the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park in Chester, PA on September 16th for the Open Cup Championship.

I am starting to get cocky. Yes Seattle lost the “coin flip” and must travel for the final. I don’t want to get overly confident more than a month from the match, but this is a very winnable game. Philly in 2014 is not SKC in 2012. Yes sometimes the lesser team wins (see D.C. United vs. RSL, 2013), and yes travel means we won’t benefit from the Tukwila hoodoo, and yes, Ricardo Salazar may even referee the match (it’s a possibility), but the Sounders look like a strong bet to be hoisting the Lamar Hunt Cup in mid-September.

Seattle would be joining some lofty company if they win their fourth USOC title in sixyears. Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles are the only teams in the 100+ years of the tournament to win more than 4 titles (both have 5), and only the just beat Chicago Fire plus the Fall River Marksmen, Greek American AA, and the Philadelphia Ukrainians have won 4. But no team has been an Open Cup powerhouse like Seattle since the dawn of the competition when the aforementioned Bethlehem Steel made five finals appearances in five years, winning four titles. Maccabi Los Angeles’s accumulated their titles over a decade much like Chicago did. Seattle is quickly becoming a legend in this tournament, especially after so thoroughly dousing the Fire, the only other MLS team that can claim such Open Cup accolades.

***

All my prognosticating about lineups went mostly for naught and my bold prediction was overly conservative. We pissed on them! Seattle started a solid lineup and scored a boatload of goals. Seriously, look at how may players had a multiple point game:

Kenny Cooper: 2 goals, 2 assists

Obafemi Martins: 1 goal, 1 assist

Andy Rose: 2 goals

Marco Pappa: 2 assist

And Chad Barrett and DeAndre Yedlin also contributed to the scoring.

Bonanza.

***

We can continue to play line-up Nostradamus. Given minutes played, injuries sustained and cards accumulated, projecting the Sounders lineup is a little like Sudoku. Chad Marshall should start in the big six-pointer Saturday against RSL on normal rest, as should Clint Dempsey and a getting-fit Leo Gonzalez. Obafemi Martins cannot play due to his red card suspension.

Hopefully none of this comes back to bite the Sounders as they continue sussing their way through this very congested schedule, but Oba’s suspension begs the question, why only give him 17 minutes against the Fire? Sigi will need to pair someone up top with Dempsey. Both Cooper and Barrett got extensive minutes last night. The only other striker option is Lamar Neagle. I am nervous about Neagle’s availability. He got roughed up a bit by the Fire and I wonder if he can start or even contribute Saturday. On the other hand, Sigi never seems to question Pappa’s fitness. Is he as much an Energizer Bunny as Ozzie? He just keeps going and going and going.

Gonzalo Pineda should join Ozzie in the middle on normal rest, but Andy Rose looked absolutely solid last night. Solid. Hell I have been a big Pineda supporter all season, but if Rose keeps playing like he did against Chicago… I’d like to see his name permanently affixed to the starting lineup.

***

Congratulation to DeAndre Yedlin for getting the ink on the paper. Yedlin has officially signed a transfer to join Tottenham Hotspur for a reported $4 million fee. The North London club expects to have Yedlin for the 2015 EPL season meaning Yedlin is here for at least the rest of this year and possibly part of next (unless Spurs decides to loan him to a club closer to White Hart Lane). You were too good so soon Yedlin, I wish you the best of luck as you chase challenges and your dream overseas. But first, let’s get that treble!

Seattle Sounders vs. The Chicago Fire in USOC Semifinal

The Seattle Sounders face the Chicago Fire today in the semifinals of the US Open Cup. This game should be a doozy and many questions abound regarding this tilt: the hierarchy of silverware, the importance of the US Open Cup, and line-up potentialities.

Seattle is in the midst of three games in seven days. Tonight’s game comes smack in the middle of the tight stretch, and is a one-off elimination game. Coach Sigi Schmid must decide how important this Open Cup semifinal against Chicago is compared to the MLS regular season.

Silverware (and legacies and legends) is what the Sounders are after. MLS Cup is king, followed by the Supporters’ Shield and then the US Open Cup. All of these trophies guarantee a berth in CONCACAF Champions League. Success in the CCL is key to the growth of the Sounders into a world-class organization. Seattle had been slowly improving in CCL play and in 2013 beating Tigres UANL before acquitting themselves well in a loss to Santos Laguna. But the Sounders’ CCL momentum came to a grinding halt as Seattle failed to qualify in 2013. Seattle must qualify this season.

Taken within the context of maximizing your chances to win games that increase the likelihood of silverware and CCL entry, last week’s game against Houston was mighty irrelevant. Sure Seattle wanted to clip their two-game skid and Sigi did start a first-choice line-up. But the game was otherwise just another chance at points for a team in a strong position table-wise.

Saturday’s game at Salt Lake is a big one. RSL sits just behind Seattle in the West, and that contest will be a six-pointer. There is no mailing in that one, as Schmid must start a strong squad in Sandy, UT. This is the crunch that complicates tonight’s game.

Winning or losing against the Fire doesn’t mean crap for the MLS table or Cup. But this is Seattle’s surest way to clinching a CCL berth. The Sounders are only two wins away from doing so for the first time since the 2012 season. How can Seattle start a strong enough squad to contend tonight while resting key players from Sunday’s game for Saturday’s?

The presence (or lack thereof) of the teams’ star strikers could decide tonight’s game. Last month in Chicago’s USOC quarterfinal victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks, Mike Magee picked up a red. Thus he will be unavailable for selection by Fire coach Frank Yallop. Obafemi Martins has yet to play in any of Seattle’s Open Cup games so far but will gobble up minutes tonight. Coach Sigi Schmid said as much, as Martins was red carded against Houston and cannot play Saturday at Salt Lake.

The rest of the starting lineup for Seattle is unknown outside the coach’s office. Like Martins, DP striker Clint Dempsey has yet to play in an Open Cup game this season. Considering the tight turnaround and travel, we may see this trend continue. Chad Marshall, Djimi Traore and Lamar Neagle both made their first starts after injures last Sunday and should be rested. Taking all this into consideration here is my proposed lineup for tonight’s Thrilla in Tukwila:

Frei

Gonzalez

Scott

Marshall

Yedlin

Pappa

Ozzie

Rose

Evans

Martins

Cooper

I am sticking with Frei over Hahnemann. I know Sigi said it was Marcus’s tournament, but he doesn’t look 100% match fit in warm-ups and Frei has been solid. Marshall is returning form his freak injury, but has otherwise been an iron man. His leadership and aerial presence will be vital in the cozy confines of Starfire. Ozzie is a rock capable of stockpiling minutes, but Pineda ain’t getting any younger, that is why I am excited to see Andy Rose in his first extensive action since the Montreal game wayyy back in March. He is a solid ball-winner and better than Pineda in the air.

Lastly, I am pairing Kenny Copper with Martins up top. I thought about Neagle, as he has quite the chemistry with Martins, but Cooper has been an Open Cup scoring machine. Matching him with a talented, attention-grabbing striker like Martins could mean a bonanza for the tall Texan.

Bold Prediction: I nailed last week’s 2-0 win over Houston, so hopefully my hot hand stays ablaze. The Magee-less Fire are no match for any Sounders squad. Seattle 2-1.

Seattle Beat Portland!

Your Seattle Sounders beat the insufferable Portland Timbers 3-1 in extra time last night near the banks of the Green River.

You already know this because I am posting late. I apologize for not giving you a prompt and thorough Raving perspective on the action. It’s been a busy week at the homestead. Luckily, we’ll see the rivalry renewed on Sunday. Let’s do it again.

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Seattle Sounders vs. Portland Timbers: The Thrilla in Tukwila

Tonight the Seattle Sounders face the hated Portland Timbers down in Tukwila in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup.

This week is going to be intense. Two Portland games in one week and both count. Faced with such circumstances, I often find myself as a fan making these bargains with the devil:

I can’t imagine losing either game, so hopefully at worst we just draw both.
We can’t tie the Open Cup game.
Okay… We win the Open Cup, but tie the league game.
Are you saying that the Open Cup means more than the Cascadia Cup and the MLS table?
Maybe?
Ok. We win the Open Cup game on penalties and barely scrap by Sunday night as well.
Cool. Two wins I like it.
Don’t you think we’re being greedy?

My dual personalities aside, both games are going to be wild. The Timbers finally want to get their season rolling and the Sounders want to continue their march to glory. Coach Sigi Schmid has shown a complete willingness to start veterans in midweek Open Cup games, but this game might be different considering we face Portland again on short rest. “It’s obviously a little bit different because you’re playing two games back-to back,” Schmid said yesterday. “We’re going to put the best team that makes sense with a little bit of an eye towards Saturday [Sunday].” I think Sigi may be blowing smoke on a red herring here. Both Seattle and Portland want a punched ticket to the CONCACAF Champions League and the associated allocation money. Winning the USOC is a surefire to achieve that. And besides, no team wants to lose to their rival under any circumstance, preseason friendly or the playoffs (ugh. don’t mention the playoffs). I expect full-strength squads from both sides.

But Seattle won’t have Clint Dempsey tonight, who’d rather chat up ‘ol Dave Letterman than play at Starfire. I’m kidding here. I do not begrudge Dempsey a slow, confetti-filled return to the lineup. First of all, it is great publicity for the league. Only us diehards are clued in to the match of epic proportions brewing down by the Green River. Dempsey on the Late Show will get many more Americans thinking about soccer (and the Seattle Sounders!). Also the man got the crap kicked out of him in Brazil, so take your time and come back strong Clint.

Seattle will field a much stronger lineup than they sent to BC, as we will have Ozzie Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda back manning the middle. But I doubt DeAndre Yedlin plays. If he does Starfire will go bananas. Unfortunately my wife and I won’t be there for this historic spectacle. After watching the last two Open Cup games live, the rout of PSA Elite and the dramatic slugfest with San Jose, we had to bow out on this one. I teach Wednesday nights and so had to be a “responsible adult” and go to work and not a soccer game. Man, I wanted to yell mean things at Will Johnson. I wanted to give Diego Chara the stink eye so hard he crapped his pants. And of course I want to hear Starfire explode when we fell the Timbers.

Seattle Sounders Dispatch Pesky San Jose Earthquakes

The Seattle Sounders rocking their Pitch Black kits prevailed over the obstinate San Jose Earthquakes in a penalty shootout in the US Open Cup. Though the culminating shootout was decisive, the 120 minutes of the game were a doozy. San Jose played well. Lenhart flopped often. But through it all neither the Sounders nor their supporters flagged.

It was a privilege to be at Starfire for this game. From applauding the once (and hopefully) future Sounder Fredy Montero to when the crowd went dead silent for every penalty a Sounder took, I look forward to saying I was there when. Starfire is a magical pitch.

The Sounders advance to face the Portland Timbers July 9th in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. Seattle welcomes Portland to the Tukwila Slaughterhouse. I cannot wait.

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