KANSAS CITY, Kansas – In four years and 18 matches, the Sounders FC had never tasted defeat in the US Open Cup.
That all changed in controversial fashion on Wednesday night at Livestrong Sporting Park as Seattle fell 3-2 on penalties to Sporting Kansas City, ending the Sounders FC's run of three consecutive US Open Cup titles.
"Our backs were against the wall the whole tournament," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "It was as difficult a road as it could be and I'm very proud of what our team did."
After the teams traded goals in the 84th and 88th minutes, the match went to overtime. Neither team could find another goal though and the match went to penalties, marking the the first time since 1997 that the cup had been awarded after a shootout, when the Dallas Burn topped DC United 5-3 on penalties in Indianapolis, Indiana.
There, the Sounders took a 2-1 lead through two attempts, but couldn't capitalize in their next two attempts, as one shot missed high and another was saved by Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. Going into the fifth attempt, it was even at 2-2 and Paulo Nagamura's effort low and to the right was saved by Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, who had six saves in the match and already saved a PK by Roger Espinoza in the shootout.
However, referee Ricardo Salazar signaled for a retake, calling Gspurning off his line when the ball was struck.
Nagamura converted his second attempt, leaving Eddie Johnson to tie it up. Johnson, who had seven goals in his last nine MLS matches, missed high and Kansas City lifted their first Open Cup title since 2004.
"Even when we went down 1-0 we came back right away and got the equalizer and that was the character of the team," Schmid said. "I'm very proud of what we accomplished. I thought we had a very good chance to get four in a row. We missed our last three PKs, so that's something that doesn't help. But if he doesn't call the one back, we're still taking PKs maybe right now."
The match was a back-and-forth affair from the opening whistle. The first big scoring chance came in the 24th minute when Kei Kamara saw Gspurning off his line, but caught the crossbar with his shot from 40 yards out.
In the 30th minute, Johnson nearly put Seattle in front with a header off a Mauro Rosales corner kick, but Nielsen made the dive to his left to clear it at the post.
In the 82nd minute, Kansas City was awarded a penalty when Zach Scott was ruled to have handled the ball in the box on a cross from the left side.
Kamara converted the penalty in the 84th minute and KC took the 1-0 lead.
Scott found quick redemption though, in the 88th minute. Rosales sent a free kick in from the right side and Scott rose above the crowd to whip a header inside the far post for the equalizer.
"I knew even though we went down 1-0 that we would get one back," Schmid said. "Zach did well coming in and it was a good free kick from Mauro. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it stand up."
The Sounders will return to MLS play on Saturday with a road match against the San Jose Earthquakes.
KC - Kei Kamara (PK) 84'
SEA - Zach Scott (Mauro Rosales) 86'
Seattle Sounders FC: Michael Gspurning, Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales, Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose (Christian Tiffert 69), Alex Caskey (Brad Evans 69), Fredy Montero (Marc Burch 106), Eddie Johnson.
Substitutes Not Used: Andrew Weber, Jeff Parke, Steve Zakuani, Sammy Ochoa.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Johnson 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Johnson, Scott 1); FOULS: 19 (Alonso 5); OFFSIDE: 2 (Montero 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Rosales 3); SAVES: 5 (Gspurning 5).
Sporting Kansas City: Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Lawrence Olum, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic (Michael Harrington 100), Paulo Nagamura, Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar, Roger Espinoza, Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 88).
Substitutes Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Soony Saad, Neven Markovic, Jacob Peterson, Michael Thomas.
TOTAL SHOTS: 18 (Kamara 6); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Kamara 2); FOULS: 16 (Sinovic 4); OFFSIDE: 0; CORNER KICKS: 4 (Zusi 4); SAVES: 1 (Nielsen 1).
SEA - Osvaldo Alonso (caution) 4'
SEA - Mauro Rosales (caution) 57'
SEA - Patrick Ianni (caution) 73'
SEA - Zach Scott (caution) 93'
SEA - Patrick Ianni (caution) 119'
SEA - Patrick Ianni (ejection) 119'
Referee: Ricardo Salazar
Referee's Assistants: Corey Rockwell, Peter Manikowski
4th Official: Michael Kennedy
Time of Game: 2:48