Photo by Steve Bisig/USA Today Sports Images
By JASON MITCHELL
And then there were two.
The 2014 U.S. Open Cup began last November, with 80 teams. Only the Seattle Sounders and Philadelphia Union remain. And only one will be left standing after the two face off at PPL Park just outside Philadelphia on Tuesday night.
The Sounders have all but made the competition a personal plaything, hoisting the trophy three times since joining MLS in 2009 and reaching the final five times in six seasons. Seattle did lose the 2012 final to Sporting KC on penalties and was eliminated in early-round play last season.
“We’re just happy to be in the Open Cup final again,” head coach Sigi Schmid said at a press conference on Monday. “It’s a tournament that as a club we take very seriously. If you look at our past history, I think that reflects that. We were disappointed last year by getting knocked out early.”
For the Union, the match is a chance to lift the first trophy in club history and to cap an often nerve-shattering route to the final. When MLS teams joined the tournament in mid-June, the Union seemed a long shot to make much noise in either the tournament or league play. But Jim Curtin, named interim head coach in early June after the club sacked John Hackworth, has turned Philadelphia’s season around.
“We’ve had the mantra,” said Curtin on Monday, “that we respect everyone, but we don’t fear anyone. So as dangerous as they are in attack, our guys will be ready to go.”
The match starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcast by Comcast in the Philadelphia area and by GolTV nationally. Here’s a round-by-round look at how each team reached the 101st Open Cup final:
Union. Now potentially 90 minutes away from lifting the tournament trophy, the Union were mere seconds from elimination in just their first match of the competition.
Trailing the USL Pro’s Harrisburg City Islanders in the 89th minute, the Union reached overtime thanks only to an equalizer from Designated Player Maurice Edu. Philadelphia then scored two overtime goals to earn a 3-1 win.
Islanders midfielder Jason Pelletier opened the scoring in the 38th minute, converting off a rebound to put his side up 1-0. It looked like the third-tier side would pull off the upset until Edu’s last-gasp goal, but after equalizing the Union took control of the match and rode two Andrew Wenger goals to victory in Curtin’s head coaching debut.
It was the first of three occasions the Union would need at least extra time to advance.
Sounders. The journey to the final started easily for the Sounders, as they cruised to an insouciant 5-0 win over PSA Elite, a fifth-tier amateur side representing the United States Adult Soccer Association.
Aaron Kovar, a 20-year-old Homegrown Player, earned a penalty in the 23rd minute that Brad Evans converted. Kovar then picked up an assist seven minutes later, sending in a corner that veteran defender Zach Scott headed into the far netting. Before the visitors from Irvine, Calif., could catch their breath, Kenny Cooper headed in a cross from David Estrada for the 3-0 lead.
Cooper added his second goal of the night off a 57th-minute corner kick, finishing with an over-the-head goal after the ball ping-ponged around the penalty area.
Homegrown rookie Sean Okoli added a fifth goal in the 85th minute.
Union. It wouldn’t be a proper Open Cup if Sebastian Le Toux didn’t take at least one turn playing hero, and the Frenchman didn’t disappoint against the NASL’s New York Cosmos.
Le Toux scored twice, once from the penalty spot and once from the run-of-play, rallying his team from a 1-0 deficit to advance to the quarterfinals.
The Union once again fell behind, and were once again pushed to overtime by a lower-tier opponent. At least they didn’t wait until the last moment to draw even.
The Cosmos went up 1-0 in the 56th minute, but Le Toux equalized off a Wenger cross just a minute later. Neither team found the winning goal in regulation, but in overtime Edu earned a penalty kick that Le Toux converted for the 2-1 win and his 13th career goal in the tournament.
Sounders. Eighteen corner kicks, 31 shots, and extra time couldn’t get the job done, but the Sounders made quick business of the San Jose Earthquakes on penalty kicks.
Alan Gordon hit the post on San Jose’s second attempt before goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann snuffed out rookie J.J. Koval’s shot on the Earthquakes’ next turn.
Evans, Gonzalo Pineda, Lamar Neagle, and Marco Pappa all converted for Seattle, lifting the Sounders to victory after overtime ended with the match tied 1-1.
San Jose opened the scoring against the run of play in the 24th minute through Steven Lenhart, who chested down a lobbed ball, turned on Scott, and buried a 19-yard shot past Hahnemann.
Seattle responded just two minutes later when Cooper stepped into a short pass from Neagle and easily beat goalkeeper David Bingham with a one-touch finish from 12 yards out.
Union. Le Toux scored once again for the Union, claiming the Open Cup scoring record in a comparatively easy victory over the New England Revolution at PPL Park.
Conor Casey opened the scoring in the first half, rounding Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton and easily scoring into an empty net for the 1-0 lead.
Le Toux provided the insurance goal in the 48th minute, scoring off a free kick for his 14th career Open Cup goal, the modern-era record.
The match was postponed in the 61st minute due to a thunderstorm, only resuming after a delay of more than an hour.
Sounders. Another edition of perhaps the league’s fiercest rivalry once again delivered drama in spades. The Sounders survived a late Timbers’ equalizer, scoring twice in extra time for the 3-1 victory.
With the score tied 1-1 in the 111th minute and Portland down to 10 men shortly after losing Diego Chara to a red card, Cooper got on the end of a Pineda cross and sent a header past Donovan Ricketts for the 2-1 lead and his fourth goal of the 2014 tournament.
Pappa sealed the victory less than five minutes later, getting free on the counter and burying a 19-yard shot past Ricketts for the 3-1 win.
Seattle’s overtime strikes wouldn’t have been necessary but for some late magic from the Timbers. With just seconds left in regulation stoppage time and the Timbers trailing 1-0, Darlington Nagbe worked a quick one-two combination with Steve Zakuani before equalizing past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Osvaldo Alonso opened the scoring in the 69th minute, sending a Neagle cross off both Ricketts and the crossbar to put the Sounders up 1-0.
Union. Even 120 minutes wasn’t enough this round, as the Union topped FC Dallas on penalty kicks to advance to the final.
Goalkeeper Zach MacMath delivered shootout-round saves against both Victor Ulloa and Blaz Perez to help deny Dallas a chance at its second Open Cup trophy.
Sheanon Williams, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana, and Edu all converted for the Union.
Amobi Okugo put the Union up 1-0 in the 47th minute, stepping into a LeToux pass and beating Raul Fernandez.
Fabian Castillo equalized for Dallas in the 81st minute, beating MacMath as the goalkeeper charged off his line and finishing into an empty net.
Sounders. It was supposed to be a battle between two Open Cup heavyweights, with both the Sounders and Fire searching for a modern-era record fourth tournament title.
Turned out the Fire offered less opposition than fifth-tier PSA Elite, falling 6-0 to the Sounders in a match that could have been even more lopsided.
Chad Barrett opened the scoring in just the sixth minute, sneaking behind Chicago’s central defenders to scoop a Cooper through-ball into the net from just two yards out.
Andy Rose then added a pair of goals to put the match out of reach.
Late substitute Obafemi Martins added the fourth goal on a 79th-minute counter. After forcing a turnover near midfield, Martins then received a backheel from Cooper, rounded Johnson, and finished into an empty net from 8 yards out.
Cooper finally ended the scoring with a pair of late goals as the Sounders coasted into their fifth Open Cup final. Cooper also enters the final with 13 goals, just one behind Le Toux for the tournament record.
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