Champs Once Again

The Sounders FC became the first team in MLS history to successfully defend the US Open Cup crown, topping the Columbus Crew 2-1 in front of 31,311 at Qwest Field.

SEATTLE - It was “champagne football” at Qwest Field on Tuesday night.

The Sounders FC made history with their 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup final, becoming the first team in Major League Soccer history to repeat as champions and the first team to accomplish the feat since 1983 when the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms did it.

“The good news is that I've stayed dry until now,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said, moments before the team busted through the conference room door and doused him with champagne.

“I lied,” he laughed.

While last year’s win came in front of hundreds of Sounders FC supporters that traveled across the country to Washington, DC, this win came in front of an Open Cup record crowd of 31,311.

“It feels great.  It feels tremendous.  An amazing night,” Sounders FC owner/general manager Adrian Hanauer said.  “The weather, the fans, just the atmosphere and then to get the win … it’s a great feeling.”

Added Steve Zakuani, “It’s better … to repeat is much tougher.  And winning at home is amazing.  It’s a great night.”

Sanna Nyassi scored both goals to become the first player in modern history to score multiple goals in the Cup final, capped by a 66th minute goal to finish off the come-from-behind victory.

Seattle controlled possession throughout the early-going, but Columbus got on the board first.  Frankie Hejduk got the ball into the box on the right side, then dropped it back to Steven Lenhart near the top of the box.  Lenhart centered a pass to Kevin Burns who one-timed it inside the far post for the 1-0 lead in the 24th minute.

The Sounders kept their poise though and equalized in the 38th minute.

Tyson Wahl crossed a ball into the box, but goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum punched it away, colliding with Nyassi in the process.  Nathan Sturgis recovered the ball and touched it off to Nyassi, who turned and blasted it past Gruenebaum for the equalizer.

As the second half wore on it became clear that a game-winner wasn’t far away and Nyassi provided the dramatics.  Just three days after he netted the game-winning goal in a 3-2 win over Toronto FC, Nyassi set Qwest Field abuzz when he scored in the 66th minute.

Fredy Montero crossed the ball to Zakuani for a far-post header, but it clanged off the crossbar.  Gruenebaum tried to swat the shot away, but found himself turned around inside the goal when the rebound caromed out to Nyassi for a left-footed blast into the open net to put Seattle up 2-1.

The Crew - two-time defending Supporters’ Shield winners in MLS - weren’t about to lie down for the home side though.

Robbie Rogers entered the match in the 81st minute and nearly equalized in the 86th with a thundering shot that bounced off the bottom side of the crossbar and out, leaving Seattle to clear away the ball and the Crew’s chances to push the game to extra time.

For Schmid the win was extra special.

“I'm very, very proud of these guys.  I thought it was a good game throughout with two good teams playing against each other.  What we accomplished tonight is super.  It sets us apart and makes us unique and this is the kind of franchise when Adrian, Joe (Roth), Drew (Carey) and Tod Leiweke and the rest of the internal ownership group and everyone else who works at this organization wanted us to be something unique, something special, something different,” he said.

As the team celebrated on the field and raised the Open Cup trophy for the second straight year, nearly all of the 31,311 in attendance stayed at Qwest Field for the trophy presentation and celebrated with the team in full voice.

“The fans were fantastic.  That's the loudest I've heard this place,” Schmid said.  “A lot of times you see celebrations at the end of the game where the stadium is half empty, everyone was there for the cup presentation.  I can't say enough about our fans.  They’re just fantastic.”

The Sounders have three matches remaining on the MLS schedule, beginning with Saturday’s road match against the Kansas City Wizards.

Summary
Sounders FC -
Sanna Nyassi 38; Nyassi (Steve Zakuani 66).
Crew - Kevin Burns (Steven Lenhart) 24.

Lineups
Sounders FC -
Kasey Keller, James Riley, Patrick Ianni, Jeff Parke, Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi (Alvaro Fernandez 79), Osvaldo Alonso, Nathan Sturgis, Steve Zakuani (Roger Levesque 89), Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua 89), Blaise Nkufo.
Crew - Andy Gruenebaum, Frankie Hejduk, Chad Marshall, Andy Iro, Shaun Francis, Eddie Gaven (Robbie Rogers 81), Brian Carroll, Emmanuel Ekpo, Kevin Burns (Emilio Renteria 78), Steven Lenhart (Andres Mendoza 78), Guillermo Barros Schelotto.