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.

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