By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — After advancing in 18 straight U.S. Open Cup matches, winning three tournament titles, and having an early penalty kick shootout lead for a fourth, Sounders FC’s run finally ended Wednesday.
Seattle missed its last three penalty kicks, and Sporting Kansas City took the 99th U.S. Open Cup by following a 1-1 game with a 3-2 edge in PKs.
“Congratulations to Kansas City for winning the championship,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “… It was our third game in six days, so I thought just a little bit of sharpness was missing. And then it’s difficult: You’re playing against a team at home. … When you’re playing against the referee as well —– and I thought he made some absolutely ridiculous calls — it’s very tough to win.”
Schmid was upset about Ricardo Salazar’s handball-in-the-box call that led to Kansas City’s 1-0 lead in regulation, a shootout save by Michael Gspurning that was waved off for leaving his line too early, and a 5-0 disparity in yellow cards, including two on Patrick Ianni, which send him off in the 118th minute.
Still, Seattle inched ahead, 2-1, on PKs by Brad Evans and Marc Burch. However, the next three Sounders — Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert, and Eddie Johnson — all missed.
“You feel the pressure of it,” Burch said. “Me, I went out there and I thought, ‘You’ve done this 100 times.’ But the field was rough. It was tough to get your footing on a field like that. Unfortunately, we missed some.”
It is Kansas City’s second U.S. Open Cup title, following a tournament win in 2004.
Seattle is the third club to win three straight Cups, but failed to become the first to win four in a row.
“I’m proud of our guys,” Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “They battled continuously through obstacles, and obviously we feel like we don’t deserve to be the losers tonight. But the referee decided to some degree that was going to be the case. … We’ll all lick our wounds and focus on the rest of the season.”
The final had played out with no goals for the first 85 minutes. Then the teams swapped goals in the 84th and 86th minutes.
Kansas City broke through first, when Kei Kamara nailed a penalty kick after Scott was called for a handball in the penalty area.
However, Scott got his club even two minutes later, when he headed in a free-kick cross into the box from Mauro Rosales.
“I knew their marking wasn’t as tight as they wanted it to be, and we have so many guys who are good in the air that as long as Mauro put it into a good spot — which he always does — we’re going to have a chance,” Scott said. “Fortunately I was the guy at the right spot at the right time and got just enough on it to tuck it into the corner.”
Then, as quickly as it came, the flurry ended.
Neither teams scored through 30 minutes of added time, which sent it on to penalty kicks.
It all made for a very long game, which was delayed approximately 40 minutes due to a thunderstorm moving through the area and forcing the teams from the pitch during pregame preparations.
Once the opening whistle finally was blown, an intensely physical match played out. Nineteen fouls were called on Seattle, 16 on SKC. Sporting took 17 shots to Seattle’s seven, and put seven on goal to Seattle’s two. But nothing went in until everything broke loose in the closing minutes of regulation.
“It was a great run,” said Scott, who has been to six Open Cup semifinals with the MLS and USL Sounders. “It didn’t end like we hoped it would. But I think we’re still proud of the quality that we put into this game. We gave ourselves a chance to win. Circumstances just didn’t work in our favor. But our focus has to be quickly on the league and the game on Saturday at San Jose. That’s the most important thing at this point.”