By JASON MITCHELL
SEATTLE, WA - New York Greek American in the late 1960s. A St. Louis brewery side in the 1930s. The Seattle Sounders. After the Sounders topped the Chicago Fire 2-0 Tuesday night before a raucous, record-breaking crowd, those are the lone teams to three-peat in the 98-year history of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
As has been the case so often lately, Fredy Montero made the difference for the Sounders, breaking a tense scoreless deadlock with a goal from close-range in the 78th minute. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made a diving save on a Jeff Parke header off a corner kick, but Montero was lurking in front of the goal to finish off the deflection. The goal was Montero’s third in the Open Cup and comes off back-to-back braces in league play.
When Osvaldo Alonso provided the insurance goal in stoppage time with a beautiful dribble and shot, the celebration officially began as Sounders fans rejoiced at the making of history.
“I think our depth and being able to balance playing in so many competitions is a tribute to what the club has been able to build up over three years,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who has now won trophies in each of the past four years (having coached Columbus to the 2008 MLS Cup title).
“We have a lot of stars on this team, but the star of the team is the team.”
The Sounders, still missing Mauro Rosales thanks to a knee injury but otherwise at full-strength, controlled possession in the first half and created numerous chances. Solid work from Johnson in the goal paired with two shots off the frame kept the Sounders scoreless.
The Fire battled well until giving up the goal to Montero, countering Seattle’s assault with solid defending and the occasional counter attack. But poor passing doomed Chicago’s offense, with countless buildups fizzling as passes rolled out of bounds on the wet FieldTurf.
Alonso capped the scoring with an insurance goal off a beautiful run late in stoppage time, dribbling around two defenders and Johnson before scooting a shot into the net.
The trophy comes in the midst of what just might be a historic run for the Sounders. Seattle has already advanced to the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals next spring, won the Cascadia Cup with a victory in Vancouver two weeks ago, has qualified for the playoffs, and still has a slim shot at the Supporters’ Shield.
Not only did Seattle become the first MLS side to three-peat, the Sounders drew 35,615 fans to break the Open Cup attendance record it set last year.
The loss means Chicago will have to wait at least one more year to win its fifth Open Cup, a feat achieved by only two other squads in tournament history. Nonetheless, the Fire showed well in a tough environment, continuing to give their fans reason for optimism after a rough start to the 2011 campaign. The loss was their first in an official match since Sept. 10.