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Top 10 stories of 2014: Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

Sounders FC had dominated the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since entering MLS, winning three straight titles and reaching all four finals from 2009-12. After an early exit last season, the Open Cup trophy was returned to its rightful owner in 2014.

The road to this year’s final went through Starfire Stadium until a coin flip gave the Philadelphia Union home-field advantage over Seattle in the final. For the Sounders, the journey started with a fourth-round matchup on June 18 against PSA Elite, an amateur team from California. Seattle took care of business with a 5-0 victory in front of 3,718 fans at Starfire. It was the club’s 13th Open Cup win in 13 matches at the Tukwila stadium.

In the round of 16 against the San Jose Earthquakes, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann came up huge for Sounders FC in the final appearance of his career.

The match was tied 1-1 after regulation and extra time. With his team’s Open Cup fate on the line in the penalty shootout, Hahnemann stopped two of three San Jose shots while Seattle converted on four straight attempts. When Lamar Neagle’s clinching penalty struck the back of the net, the fans at Starfire went berserk and the Rave Green were off to the quarterfinals.

“It’s awesome. I remember in ’95 I got tackled by Todd Stauber when we won the shootout and he wasn’t even on the team,” Hahnemann said after the match. “It’s great and the crowd here is awesome.”

Starfire would play host to the quarterfinals three weeks later, when Sounders FC left it until overtime once again. Kenny Cooper and Marco Pappa scored in extra time as Seattle defeated rival Portland Timbers 3-1.

After a one-month break from Open Cup play, the Sounders put on a show in the semifinals.

Six minutes into the match against the Chicago Fire on August 13, Cooper found Chad Barrett for the first of a half dozen Seattle goals. Cooper would finish with a pair of goals and assists in Sounders FC’s emphatic 6-0 victory. Two headers by Andy Rose led to a three-goal margin that would hold for most of the second half, but the Rave Green scored a trio of goals in the final 11 minutes to ignite the fans at Starfire for the last time in 2014.

“We understand how important it is. The fans out here were incredible,” Rose said after the match. “We understand what it means for them. We want all the silverware we can get this year and the first opportunity is the Open Cup.”

In mid September, the Sounders traveled across the country along with hundreds of their supporters for a duel with the Philadelphia Union. The match was tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, but Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins both scored in extra time to give Seattle a dramatic 3-1 victory and its first trophy of the year.

After the match, Sounders FC hoisted its fourth Open Cup trophy, tying the Chicago Fire for the most by an MLS team. Cooper was named Player of the Tournament after leading the competition with six goals.

“People want to win championships and people want to win trophies,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said after the match. “That’s the attitude we have in our locker room and that’s the attitude that we approach the Open Cup with.”