The Sounders win a hyper-chippy game with Houston, 2-1, before a sellout crowd of 4,895 at Starfire in Tukwila. (Here's my game story.)
Their reward is the right to play for the first trophy in franchise history: the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest such trophy in the United States, which will be determined Sept. 2 at RFK Stadium against homestanding/high-bidding U.C. United. United advanced with a 2-1 win over USL-1 Rochester earlier tonight.
It would be the 13th major title for United, the first for the expansion Sounders.
"Obviously, the object it to go there and win," said Gary Wright, Sounders vice president of business. "What a great job by (coach Sigi Schmid, general manager Adrian Hanauer, technical director Christ Henderson), the whole team side. They've just done a remarkable job of putting the team together. I think that's pretty evident."
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If the Sounders eventually hoist the Open Cup, they will think back to this sweltering night in Tukwila, when they outplayed the long-delayed game-winner came on a Stephen King goal that followed a cross by Steve Zakuani and either a slight touch or a daring dummy by Sebastien Le Toux near the Houston goal.
"I'm trying to remember (the play)," King said. "I know Steve Zakuani had the ball out wide. He took his guy one-on-one, he made a good cross. I think Sebastien might have gotten a touch to it – it might have ricocheted off a defender -- it was kind of a loose ball, and I just kind of shot it in."
That was Seattle's first lead, despite a 16-2 advantage in shots, including 12-0 in the second half.
The Sounders outshot Houston, 26-7, including 12-0 in the second 45 minutes and even 7-3 in the final 15 minutes of extra time, when they were defending their lead.
"The last 20 minutes of (regulation) when we were getting chance after chance and nothing was going in it was getting a little frustrating," King said. "But we just tried to remain confident and keep doing what we were doing and we tied it up"
The score was identical to the Sounders controversial regular-season win over Houston on July 11 at Qwest Field, and it seemed that hard feelings from that game lingered into Tuesday.
The game was chippy from the start as 10 yellow cards were awarded. Two went to Sounders All-Star defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado. That forced the Sounders to play the final seconds one player down, and it will keep Hurtado out of the title game.
"I think if some of the things would have (been called) early on, the guy who scored the equalizer (Jaqua) would have been off the field," Houston coach Dominic Kinnear said. "The guy who is throwing elbows deserves more than a talking to."
That wasn't Kinnear's only complaint.
"(Open Cup home games should be given) to the team which has a grass field," he said. "We played three turf games in 10 days in (Qwest), Toronto and now here. It has gone from the better of the three to worst to worst. We have a guy (Brian Mullan) who has a possible fractured ankle because he gets it caught in the turf."
(Everybody who has played at Starfire has hated the turf. If the Sounders are going use this place next season, they need to do something about it."
Jaqua, meanwhile had staples put into his scalp at halftime.
"In the first 5-10 minutes, a guy came over my back. I don't know exactly what the collision was. I was a little bit angry -- anytime you get hit in the head, you get a little bit angry. It was just a real physical game. So, stuff like that happens."
"I know there are rivalries that are based on proximity like us and Portland, but I think what you're going to see is that there are going to be pretty intense battles when Seattle plays Houston," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "I think that's something you're going to see from here on out."
The Sounders visit Houston Aug. 23. First, they return to league play Saturday, meeting the Eastern Division-leading Chicago Fire at Qwest Field.
P.S.: Quality and quantity in the comments tonight gents. Nice job.
Reminder: all of my new blog posts are now also available on Twitter under the name donruiztnt.
Final: Sounders 2, Dynamo 1. Seattle plays in the U.S. Open Cup final Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C.
Extra time: Fifth minute. Sounders up 2-1. Zakuani cross, Le Toux dummy, King finish.
Overtime: 1-1 at the end of regulation.
Thirty minutes of extra time coming up. No golden goal. PKs if still even.
Scoresheet shows Seattle has outshot Houston, 16-2, and 12-0 in the second half.
88th minute: Nate Jaqua sends the ball into the goal after a wild scramble in front of it. Assists to Le Toux and Levesque.
80th minute: Game remains rough and moving to the verge of getting out of hand. I've lost track of the yellows.
Halftime: It's a rough game, and Houston has picked up three yellow cards. But the Dynamo also has the only goal.
Seattle had the edge in possession and chances, and that's reflected in the stats: four shots to two, two shots on goal to one. But the one that went in was Houston's.
I'm sure it's still hot down there, but the field is now fully in shade.
32nd minute: Houston 1-0 in 32nd minute on Ade Akinbiyi goal when Seattle couldn't clear from in front of own goal.
Seattle probably has had the better chances.
Very chippy game.
Kickoff: We've begun. Houston in same orange/white they wore July 11 at Qwest. Sounders in home green/blue.
I'll report in with goals and major news, but I'll be giving more regular updates on twitter (donruiztnt).
DC United wins: D.C. United just beat Rochester, 2-1. That means to Sounders-Dynamo winner will head to RFK for the Cup final on Sept. 2.
Lineups: Just received the starting lineups:
Sounders: GK Keller, D Riley, Hurtado, Marshall, Wahl; M Nyassi, Vagenas, King, Le Toux; Montero, Jaqua. Subs: Alonso, Zakuani, Sturgis, Scott, Levesque, Neagle, Boss. (That's three of the Sounders four All-Stars starting: everyone but Ljungberg.)
Houston: GK Hall; D Hainault, Boswell, James, Crus' M Ustruck, Hayden, David, Ashe; F Akinbiyi, Oduro. Subs; Mullan, Kamara, Weaver, Waiel, Chabala, Onstad. Barrett.
Pregame at Starfire: The TNT weather page says its 86 degress, and it feels every bit of that here in Tukwila.
Also, the scoreboard clock has begun counting down to what now projects as a 7:20 kickoff. Late, in keeping with what seems to have become an Open Cup tradition.
Houston has just come out on the pitch to warm up. The only Sounder out right now is reserve keeper Terry Boss, who is taking shots from the keeper coach. Read into that what you will
Gameday:Another gameday, and a big one as the Sounders are just two victories away from the franchise's first trophy: the U.S. Open Cup.
The game is sold out, and Sounders officials are recommending that ticket-holders get to Starfire early ... partly because all seating is general-admission, partly for traffic and other considerations. As an incentive, some pregame food and drink will be available at a discount.
Here's my game preview, which concentrates mostly on former Gig Harbor star Tally Hall, who will likely be in goal tonight for Houston.
As for the Sounders, Sigi Schmid wasn't tipping his hand much regarding his lineup. My hunch will be that it will be a majority of regulars, but probably with Ljungberg out. As for keeper, it sounds like Kasey Keller would rather play than watch.
Here's a Keller quote that didn't make it into the paper today: "I think most players want to play. I'd be surprised if many guys said they didn't want to play. If you're banged up, maybe it's an opportunity to try to get fit, but at the same time, a semifinal is a semifinal."
Here's the Houston Chronicle's Dynamo coverage, with a short story on tonight's game.
I'll open our usual running blog from the stadium this evening. I'm not expecting any Sounders news before then, but I'll pop in if that changes.
Meanwhile, here's a Wikipedia history of the Houston franchise, including -- if you haven't heard it -- the story of why they are the Dynamo rather than the 1836.