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Nyassi’s brace leads Sounders to U.S. Open Cup repeat

SeattleOpenCupWinners (ISIphotos.com) 

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By JOSE M. ROMERO

A year ago at this time, Sanna Nyassi wasn't even activated for Seattle Sounders games, his observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan affecting his match fitness and costing him an opportunity to play down the stretch of the MLS regular season. 

What a difference a year makes. 

Nyassi, the slight midfielder from Gambia who was the third player signed in Sounders' history, scored both goals for the home team as Seattle rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in Tuesday night's U.S. Open Cup final at Qwest Field.

The Sounders, playing before an Open Cup record crowd of 31,311 on their home turf, became the first MLS team to win back-to-back Open Cup championships and first club at any level to repeat as winners since 1983, when the New York Pancyprian Freedoms accomplished the feat.

Seattle won the 2009 U.S. Open Cup in the Sounders' inaugural season. But this one was perhaps even sweeter, as the team got to celebrate in front of its own fans, almost all who stayed through the medal and trophy presentation.

"I know there's teams out there that say they don't take the Open Cup seriously, but if you're not going to take something seriously, then don't enter," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "For us, we're in the competition and we're in the competition to do our best and to win it and we've been able to do that. It does stand us out, but we've worked hard to get there."

The Sounders controlled the run of play throughout the match, but a defensive breakdown led to the Crew grabbing the early lead. Veteran Frankie Hejduk made a strong run in the 24th minute, taking a pinpoint pass from Guillermo Barros Schelotto and dribbling past the Sounders' Steve Zakuani. Hejduk passed back to Steven Lenhart, who centered to Kevin Burns, who calmly finished his chance past Kasey Keller.

The Sounders didn't wilt under the pressure to win at home. In the 37th minute, after Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum came out of the goal for a long ball from Tyson Wahl, Nyassi collected Nathan Sturgis' touch in front and shot the ball past two defenders and Gruenebaum to tie it at 1.

"We went down a goal but we still kept our heads up," Nyassi said. He was expected to leave the club for duty with the Gambian national team later Wednesday.

The game-winner came in the 66th minute. Seattle's Fredy Montero lofted a ball that took one bounce and landed on Zakuani's head for a shot that hit the crossbar. Nyassi was there again to clean up the rebound and send in his second goal.

The Sounders were strong on the attack with Blaise N'Kufo clearing space up front and the quickness of Zakuani and Nyassi on the wings.

"They have a tremendous amount of speed on the wings," Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. "Steve Zakuani is a fast guy and we don't have someone who can keep up. We had to bring someone on over and double-team him."

The Sounders went with three players in their starting lineup who were rarely used last season, and all contributed – Wahl, Sturgis and Nyassi. Seattle also opted for N'kufo over Nate Jaqua, who had five goals in Open Cup play this year but didn't enter the game until the closing minutes.

Columbus had one good opportunity to draw even in the 85th minute. Substitute Robbie Rogers, fresh from knee surgery, blasted a shot off the crossbar for the Crew's best chance of the second half.

"You've always got to dodge a few bullets," Schmid said, his voice cracking after the game. 

"Anytime you have a championship match on your own pitch, the odds are going to be against you," Gruenebaum said. "We knew we had to defend and take advantage of any opportunity. We came out and scored the first goal and they were able to capitalize on two weird bounces."

Schmid won his third U.S. Open Cup title as a head coach, including one with the L.A. Galaxy in 2001. The Sounders won their third straight match at home and fourth overall.

"We've really got a good confidence level in ourselves," Schmid said, "and this team believes we're going to win every time we step on the field, at home or away." 

The Sounders picked up $100,000 in prize money as champs, and will also return to CONCACAF Champions League play in 2011-2012 as winners of the Open Cup. 

Comments

  1. Fun game to watch last night. Congrats to Seattle.

    Already planning my first trip to Qwest next season to see Dynamo at Sounders.

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  2. I sat close to a pocket of about 12 Columbus fans and it was the biggest group of yellow I saw. Two were kicked out/arrested? in an altercation at about the 80th minute.

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  3. Wahl was definitely the weakest link on the pitch, and Riley’s always shaky, in my opinion.

    I’ve also been an STH since day one, and I’d still argue that point. Not to take anything away from last night, though. That was an incredible match from beginning to end.

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  4. I’ve been a season ticket holder since Day One, and I think that was the loudest Qwest has ever been for a Sounders game. It was a great atmosphere, and it was awesome being a part of it.

    As far as the game goes, it was a really good game. Wahl and Riley were a bit shaky at the back, and truth be told, Columbus had a couple of chances that were mere inches from going in, but Zakuani and Nyassi were speed demons on the wings and proved to be the difference.

    I think the Sounders and the Seattle fans just gave the U.S. Open Cup a real boost in credibility. If last night doesn’t raise the bar for this tournament, nothing will.

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  5. As a huge Mariner’s/Seahawk’s and Sounder’s fan, there are a lot of us there already.

    My guess is it is probably the biggest difference between Seattle and other cities.

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  6. Be fair, Steve, that lineup against PDX was only half reserve and now at least two of those reserves have become starters (Sturgis and Nyassi). That match came right before the Sounders turned things around.

    And I have to take issue with what you posted last night on the other thread: the atmosphere last night was electric, but I’d still have to put it second to the 2009 opener. Nothing will ever top that.

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  7. I don’t think we need to worry about it becoming mainstream. What needs to be done is to continue to work on getting those that love soccer to attend matches. If they can get to a bar early in the morning to watch the world cup then we need to get those people to MLS games.

    It will happen, but it is going to be strange when Seattle loses an Open Cup match. In the last 3 years it has been Semis and of course the two cups.

    As for taking it seriously the Sounders threw out a mostly reserve squad in Portland and barely won. I think that is the way it has to be because you have to give the main players a break the key is to escape those games with a win. I would be willing to be that was the first game that the Sounders threw out a mainly A line up for a cup game.

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  8. Fair enough. Thanks for the first-hand account. As a bostonian, sometimes I wish I lived in Seattle, for soccer reasons. And I also love rain.

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  9. Normally I sit on the West side at Qwest, but last night was on the North end. Part of the reason it’s hard to follow the chants over there is the Marching Band. I like the idea of the band, esp. for the march to the match, but during the game I’d rather hear the chants. Any way you slice it, though, it was a great environment last night–better than regular season games, and even those are amazing at Qwest… This franchise has done pretty much everything right so far–kudos.

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  10. I’ve been to all manner of American sports events–NFL playoffs, NCAA Tourneys, A couple of World Series games–the environment last night at Qwest (I was there) was in the same league and in some ways better. IF you could get NFL or baseball fans to go to one game at Qwest, you could get them interested in the sport. I went with an Italian friend who regularly attended Roma games most of his life–he had never been because he assumed that MLS would be small potatoes. AFter the game he said it reminded him of Italian crowds for BIG games (Lazio, Inter), and that he’d be going regularly from now on… Don’t know how you create that environment elsewhere in the league (maybe Toronto and Philly have it some), but I left the game feeling like MLS has a real shot of entering the sports mainstream in the US someday…

    Seattle…Sounders!

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  11. As a NY fan who was at a USOC final with 2,000 fans, gotta give props to Seattle fans.

    Not sure about “taking it seriously.” When teams don’t take it seriously, it gives marginal players a chance to perform. I like being able to see players like Irving Garcia, who rarely get a run for the first team.

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  12. As a fan that sits on the oppostie side of the stadium our participation with ECS is getting better, because after almost 2 seasons we are finally able to understand what they are singing and chanting. The clap and chant to when the players walk in is great and everyone is now doing it. We as a fan base are still learning to follow some of what they are doing

    I am not going to sing and chant the whole game. If I wanted to I would stand in the ECS section.

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  13. Echoing what other people have already said, that was a great game. Legit skill and free-flowing soccer that would embarrass the likes of West Ham. Good on the Sounders. The “seattle … … sounders” chant is class. I think they could come up with a couple songs though. There were long stretches where it was just the general cacophony of something like a baseball game. Not bad, just doesn’t quite fit a Cup final match in a home (non-neutral) site.

    Nit-picking though. Sweet game and good for the Sounders.

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  14. It’s a shame that the USOC isn’t taken very seriously by the MLS teams, mostly because when an MLS team playing its reserves loses to a USSF-2 team, it brings down the perceived quality of the league. Upsets are gonna happen, but I would love to see a full-sided knockout tourney with the MLS teams actually going for the win. I think we’d find that the games would be similar quality to what we saw last night…

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  15. A terrific game, pulsating from beginning to end, easily one of the best games ever involving MLS teams. I totally agree that this was quality soccer and the atmosphere was tremendous, the Sounders are blessed to have a fan base like that.

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  16. Good job Seattle….this pains me to say as a Quakes fan. In one respect I’m glad the Sounders won it because I think the team and fans give this Open Cup the respect it deserves. I think coach Schmidt said it best after the game.

    “I know there are teams out there that say they don’t take the Open Cup seriously,” Schmid said. “If you’re not going to take something seriously, then don’t enter it. Just stay away. For us we’re in the competition, we’re in it to do our best and win it and we’ve been able to do that.”

    Gee sounds like he was talking about my Quakes and coach Yallop who treat it like a preseason game. Any other Quakes fans out there wish San Jose took it more seriously??

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  17. You should tell that to LA, DC, HOU, etc… but yes, Seattle did do very well last night, much better than C-Bus, who’s offense outside of the one goal looked atrocious.

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  18. Isn’t ’83 also the year the Pancyprian-Freedoms were also Concacaf Champions League finalists?

    Seattle still has a long way to go.

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  19. End of the highlights and Nyassi is bouncing around with the trophy on his head before giving it up to Adrian… Keller looks like he wants more metal music… Oh man, that was fun…

    And major props to the Columbus fans who made the trip. Decent group at the stadium, and gracious fans in the bar after the game…

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  20. Had a great time at the game yelling and singing with 31,000 of my best friends, you can’t beat a night like that. First team with the 3peat, I said it first.

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  21. Agreed. They may have been bounces, but they were definitely earned and deserved. Congrats to the Sounders and their organization.

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  22. Really, and I’m not from there or even a fan of the team, but can we ever say enough about 31,000 fans turning out for this game (or pretty much every Sounders game)? That’s better than the Mariners averaged this year. That’s better than the average attendance for half the EPL teams. To anyone who still claims that “Americans don’t like soccer,” or that “MLS will always be a second class league in the US,” please ask them to tune in to a Sounders game and consider readjusting their opinion. Well done, Seattle.

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  23. With their committed ownership group, it is only a matter of time, and the season isnt over yet. They are possibly the hottest team in the MLS right now. And we know how that worked out for the .500 RSL team entering the playoffs last year. Their confidence is way high. And two Open Cup wins in two years of existence aint bad. Beats four years of no playoffs in four years like TFC. Oh wait, my bad, they won that Nutralite Canadian Open, with like three teams in the Comp.

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  24. BTW, my mom did not have an MLS team before. Now she does. AS I am an LAG fan, things could get interseting when watching games at the local sports bar. I love her, but i am not afraid to throw down with her. LOL! joking…sort of.

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  25. Im not a Sounders fan, but that was a ‘Debbie-downer’ move. Lame.

    Congrats to Seattle, they looked really good last nite and kept their composure down the stretch when things got chippy.

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  26. AMAZING GAME! A few things I took away from the game.

    1. MLS quality is stepping WAY up. Not every game, but last night was some awesome free flowing football. Good passing with speed and purpose. Good attacking on both sides. Way better than just a few years ago.

    2. US Open Cup NEEDS MORE RESPECT! Great tournament! I wish all teams in America (D1, D2, and lower) took it as serious as the Sounders. Sigi is right, take it serious or don’t enter the tournament. Play your best players and play to win. I hope this tournament stays this good. Maybe they should be in Seattle every year for finals until another city can get at least 25K. Maybe Portland next year?

    3. MLS need only three comps. Regular season, CCL, and US Open Cup. Make them meaningful( money, slots for CCL). Give the teams money/player rosters to compete. Get rid of the novelty games. Superliga could be a decent tournament for the teams that just missed the cut for CCL, sort of like Europa League. But in general, i am not a fan of Superliga.

    4. Only loyalty to my team stops me from being a Sounders fan. My mom watches soccer with me. I take her to live games in Austin to see the Aztex, and sometimes watch games on TV with her. She is awesome, I know. She told me last week that she is now a Sounders fan. She was born in Switzerland, and after seeing Blaise scored a hat-trick on Columbus a few weeks ago she was sold. Also, she likes Seattle the city, was impresseed by their fans, and she digs their colors. LOL!

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  27. Is Eddie Gaven the slowest man in MLS. He runs like he has a piano on his back and stops to play it occasionally.

    This was a tough game to watch. Seattle fans think they invented soccer & Crew fans think their team is “massive.”

    As such, the exhausting fan bases cancelled each other out & I just hoped for a good game.

    Nice win for seattle.

    Wait….Eddie Gaven is juuuuuussssssst making his way into the box now.

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  28. “they were able to capitalize on two weird bounces.”

    Come on.

    You were the second best team on the pitch. Don’t try to marginalize the sounders victory and talk about weird bounces.

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  29. Got back home from the match not too long ago.

    What. A. Night. Packed house. Raucous. Delirious. I’m going to be fairly hoarse tomorrow.

    My real hope is that casual soccer fans in other MLS cities with weaker attendance flipped by FSC tonight and realized that this is a tournament and (indirectly) a league worth supporting.

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  30. Today, I was IMPRESSED! Top class! Okay someone has to say it….Seattle actually looked and played like a decent club and this is coming from a quakes fan. You could even say they displayed more skill, technique and tactics than clubs like West Ham, Wolves and Everton has shown all season so far. I do not want to face them in the playoffs if they keep this consistent.

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  31. So proud of our boys. 2009 was amazing for us, but 2010 is on another level. I’ll never forget Keller climbing the goal posts and flipping himself into the net, tearing it down in the process.

    Looking forward to playoff qualification and Champions League again next year!

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