KANSAS CITY, KAN. – Four things to keep in mind as Seattle Sounders FC goes for its unprecedented fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup title tonight at Livestrong Sporting Park.
• It really is unprecedented. And that’s no small thing in a tournament that has been played for 99 years, making it the oldest annual team tournament in the United States.
“This is a great opportunity for us (tonight) to do something very special,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “As I said to the players: ‘You can bring your grandkids here and say, ‘That’s me up there. Those are our four Open Cup trophies that we won in a row.’”
What Seattle already has accomplished is rare enough. Last season, it became the first club to win three Open Cup titles in a row in 42 years – since the New York Greek-Americans made a run from 1967-69.
The only other three-peaters: The Fall River (Mass.) Marksmen won in 1930 and ’31 before moving to nearby New Bedford and winning again in 1932 as the Whalers. And the same St. Louis club won three consecutive from 1933-35 under different names: St. Louis Stix, Baer & Fuller, and St. Louis Central Breweries.
Such runs are rare because this is a single-elimination tournament. One bad game, one hot goalkeeper, one missed call can knock you out. And yet, the Sounders have walked the wire without a net for 18 matches.
But in this unforgiving tournament, no 19th straight win means no fourth straight title.
“It’s a testament to the players, but for sure the coaches: getting guys ready, motivated and believing in winning these one-off games,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “ It’s something I’m really proud of as an organization.
• Seven Sounders will be part of their fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup final. One will be in his fifth.
All-Star midfielder Osvaldo Alonso played for the Charleston Battery when it lost to D.C. United in the 2008 final. He will become the first player in the tournament’s modern era to appear in five consecutive finals.
“He absolutely hates to lose – maybe more than anyone in our organization,” Hanauer said. “Those are the types of guys that help you win championships. I don’t think it’s ever a coincidence when one or a group of players end up playing on championship teams. The players make the teams championship teams.”
This season, Alonso was named player of the Open Cup semifinal round. Last season, he was selected player of the final.
He has four goals and two assists in this tournament.
• It won’t be easy.
Kansas City is one of the top teams in Major League Soccer, and it’s at home.
SKC got here by beating Orlando City, Colorado, the Dayton Dutch Lions and Philadelphia by a combined score of 10-4. It shut out both MLS opponents.
In MLS, Sporting is 12-7-4 and tied with Houston for the top of the Eastern Conference.
Midfielder Roger Espinoza has returned to the club after playing with the Honduran Olympic team. However, central defender Aurélien Collin is ineligible due to yellow-card accumulation, while wingers Bobby Convey (hamstring) and Jacob Peterson (shoulder) are listed as doubtful.
Kansas City’s home-pitch advantage came from winning a secret coin toss after making a closed bid that U.S. Soccer considered equal to the Sounders’ bid.
Seattle hosted the final in 2009-10, drawing 31,311 and 35,615, respectively.
Capacity of Livestrong Sporting Park is listed at 18,467. Tickets remained available as of Tuesday.
Kansas City won the Open Cup in 2004, when the club was known as the Wizards.
• There must be a result.
If the match is tied at the end of regulation, there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score remains even, the champion will be determined by penalty kicks.
Other basics: Teams are limited to five foreign players on their 18-man game-day roster.
The tournament winner traditionally qualifies for the following season’s CONCACAF Champions League.
U.S. Soccer awarded the broadcast rights to GolTV. Because of the lack of general accessibility to that cable channel, the Sounders have arranged several viewing parties around the area.
SOUNDERS FC AT SPORTING KANSAS CITY
6 p.m., Livestrong Sporting Park, Kansas City, Kan.
TV: GolTV. RADIO: 97.3-FM.
HEAD TO HEAD: The teams played to a 1-1 draw in an MLS regular-season match in June at CenturyLink Field. In Open Cup, Seattle knocked Kansas City – then known as the Wizards – out of the 2009 quarterfinals. The USL Sounders beat them in 2008 on penalty kicks.
NOTES: This is the final match of the 99th U.S. Open Cup, open to all amateur and professional clubs affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The Sounders have won the past three Open Cup titles. No club has won four in a row. Seattle has never lost in 18 Open Cup matches, outscoring opponents by a combined 43-10. Seattle advanced with wins over Atlanta, Cal FC, San Jose and Chivas USA. SKC advanced by beating Orlando City, Colorado, the Dayton Dutch Lions and Philadelphia. In MLS play, Kansas City is 6-3-2 at home. SKC leads the league with a 0.91 goals-against average – 0.64 at home. The Kansas City forecast calls of a high temperature today of 95 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms. The referee is Ricardo Salazar.
QUOTABLE: “We have a chance to make some pretty big history. We’re looking forward to it. We know we’ve got a lot of traveling fans coming out. And this is what you dream of: playing for championships.” – Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer.
NEXT: The Sounders return to MLS play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at San Jose.email@example.com 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer firstname.lastname@example.org