2012 Jul 11

Sounders FC find way into fourth final with four from four

Seattle Sounders FC  4 - 1  Chivas USA

Starfire Stadium, Tukwila, WA

31' SEA: Eddie Johnson (Osvaldo Alonso)
48' SEA: Osvaldo Alonso (PK)

74' CHV: Cesar Romero
83' SEA: Brad Evans (Fredy Montero)
88' SEA: Sammy Ochoa

Seattle: Byran Meredith; Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez; Cordell Cato (Brad Evans 61'), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Alex Caskey (Alvaro Fernandez 81'); Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa 86'), Fredy Montero.
Substitutes not used: Josh Ford, Marc Burch, Jeff Parke, Mauro Rosales.

Chivas: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Jorge Villafana; Oswaldo Minda, Ben Zemanski (Ryan Smith 85'), Blair Gavin (Cesar Romero 64'), Alejandro Moreno; Paolo Cardozo, Juan Pablo Angel (Jose Correa 69').
Substitutes not used: Tim Melia, Casey Townsend, Peter Vagenas, John Valencia.

Match report from T. F. Smeeth:

The Seattle Sounders FC took their US Open Cup 'game' to another level, punishing game guests Chivas USA for their few mistakes, securing their chance at four straight Open Cup titles with a 4-1 victory at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila Wednesday night in front of a packed house of 4,500.

At the end of the evening, four different Sounders players would find the net. Seattle coach, Sigi Schmid, pronounced "It's real now, so we can talk about trying to win four in a row."

By halftime the edge in statistics pointed to Seattle, but those watching saw the most important one up on the scoreboard: 1-0, to the home team, who led on Eddie Johnson's 31st minute strike, converting a long feed from Osvaldo Alonso. In fact, Chivas USA rallied behind solid defense and found themselves penetrating the Rave Green box with plenty of opportunities throughout the half but could not convert themselves.

Things started all wrong for the visiting side coming out of the locker room after the intermission. After center back Rauwshan McKenzie tripped Fredy Montero in the penalty area one minute into the second half, Ozzie Alonzo deftly tucked the penalty kick into the back of the net. For the home side, going up 2-0 on Alonso's PK seemed to point to an easy evening under the bluest skies of Seattle in front of their lusty supporters.

In fact, the surprising fight in Chivas USA saw them set their resolve even further. There was no putting it on cruise. Five minutes after his introduction, second half substitute F Cesar Romero combined with Morena to test Sounders' GK Bryan Meredith. Meredith reacted well but Romero pounced on the rebound, putting away the goal low and to the left of Meredith in the 74th minute. From a 2-1 scoreline, the team in red kept at it with time to work a come-from-behind miracle but were chasing the game too much. For Seattle, who conceded their first tournament goal in 291 minutes, there would be no further goals allowed. Nothing to undermine their focus on closing the game and reserving their spot in the Final.

The hapless MLS visitors, despite good talent up and down the roster, came in as underdogs. With former Sounder James Riley starting on the right side, and McKenzie looking sharp in the center of defense, they relied on the quick touch build-ups through midfield on which the Sounders success has been built in their four year prominence - only one tie and no losses -- in this 99 year old tournament.

Alejandro Moreno sought to link up top with Argentine Juan Pablo Angel. But only with Romero on the field (for Jose Correa in the 69th), did Chivas present potent danger to the Sounders' aspirations.

Man of the Match Alonso found Johnson down the middle on a 30 yard pass from the right side of midfield. Johnson settled to beat GK Kennedy for the important first goal. The Sounders kept the pressure on, yielding little more than ground to their opponent's counter attacks.

Fredy Montero was industrious all night and clearly fired up from Johnson's opening goal. His foray into the opposing area led to the all-important second goal. He nearly scored twice in answer to Romero's critical goal, flashing the ball into the far corner on breaks he'd created almost alone forcing Kennedy into highlight reel saves.

When Leo Gonzalez, who reads the game so well, broke free down the left side overlap, he looked up to see Montero pressing on attack. His feed left the forward with several choices attacking the box on the diagonal. After faking a shot from the 18 which drew defender McKenzie and Dan Kennedy slightly wrong-footed, Montero slipped the ball out right to Evans who took one touch before slamming home for a 3-1 lead in the 83rd minute.

Brad Evans postgame comments on the play leading to his right footed score, "Fredy drew some guys, like he always does, acted like he was going to shoot it kind of draws the keeper out of position plays me in. I took a touch and just slammed it home."

The fast paced affair then opened up even more. This was a delight for the soccer spectator. 86th minute substitute Sammy Ochoa added a resume-building goal in the 88th minute, taking it in unassisted. GK Meredith is finding the shutout illusive. He saved three of the four on-target Chivas efforts. Of 18 Sounders' shots, his opposite number Kennedy saved five of the nine on target.

Robin Fraser, head coach for Chivas USA, expected physical play, "You are preparing for what is going to be a physical game. It was a battle for territory and neither team wanted to make a mistake in their side of the field. Certainly as the game opens up you can start playing, but for us we knew it was going to be a physical game early."

Fraser recounted how the game was going their way until the opening goal, and how difficult it was after conceding the penalty, "The biggest thing was giving up the second goal and putting ourselves in a hole. Then we were fighting an uphill battle the whole game."

Kansas City, who went into Philadelphia to defeat the Union 2-0, will host Seattle in the US Open Cup Final on August 8th. For coach Sigi Schmid, who cited the balance of winning the first of four (at DC United in 2009) and potentially the last of four (August 8 at LIVESTRONG Sporting Park) on the road, he looks to the impressive form of Sporting KC, the unique atmosphere with the closeness of fans to the pitch, and the prospect of chasing unprecedented fourth-straight Open Cup championship. (Only one other team will have played in a fourth straight final, with the St. Louis Shamrocks losing in 1936.)

"We'll be very aware when we step on the field," Schmid said after the match. "We have a chance to do something nobody's done and that should be a highly motivating factor for our club and for all the players on the team."

Playing the title game on the road, Seattle sits on an 18 game unbeaten streak.

In the end, James Riley embraced friends and former Sounders teammates, notably Steve Zakuani who made his way onto the field. The classy defender was regaled by local fan appreciation prior to and following the match that put his team out of the tournament.

"It's obviously great. A little bittersweet because it was not the result we were hoping for. We wanted to keep it a little more competitive than we did, but they are a fantastic team and we knew it was going to be a big challenge to beat them at Starfire. They proved their quality so kudos to them. All we can do is lick our wounds and train for Portland next Wednesday."

"It is great. Like I said, landing here yesterday to blue skies and green vegetation is great. When we trained at Starfire yesterday I told the guys that it was going to be fun today with the fans and how passionate they would be. I told them it would be a challenge, but a great game. We wanted to play the champions at Starfire, you can't write a better script than that, but we just couldn't get the result we wanted. The fans here are top notch, and the three years I spent here were some of the best, both on and off the field."

Now it's his old team's turn to put their sights on the spoiler guest role, seeking to undo host Kansas City while seizing the spoils in the form of an historic fourth US Open Cup on the second Wednesday in August.

          SEA   CHV
Shots:     18     4
Saves:      3     5
Corners:    6     1
Fouls:     17    15
Offsides:   5     2

42' SEA: Alonso cautioned
44' CHV: Minda cautioned
78' CHV: Califf cautioned

Referees: Chris Penso; Frank Anderson, Mike Kampmeinert; Baldomero Toledo

Attendance: 4,500