Note: Dave's asked me to fill in on the recap since everyone else is at the match. Here goes nothing...
Well then. For eighty minutes, the Sounders were flat in front of a record crowd at CenturyLink Field, allowing the visiting San Jose Earthquakes to grab a 1-0 first half lead and never really looking like recovering. For most of the match, it seemed as though the Open Cup hangover would last for a second straight win, this one even more disappointing thanks to the huge audience. And then, in an instant, everything changed.
I don't really know how I was expecting the Sounders to react to CenturyLink being so full. You'd like to think that the crowd would have been inspiring, but, well, it wasn't - Seattle played incredibly poorly throughout the first half, making uncharacteristic mistakes throughout and allowing their opponents the vast majority of the good opportunities. Unlike the defeat against the Philadelphia Union, we didn't even have the excuse of being without Fredy Montero to hang onto. This time Fredy was there, and he was as bad as the rest of them.
Chris Wondolowski is the sort of striker who punishes teams who make as many mistakes as the Sounders did in the first half, and he'd given a fair few warning signs that he was in the mood to ruin the retiring* Kasey Keller's day before he raced onto a sweet pass from Rafael Baca to sweep a low shot past Keller and into the back of the net for the game's opening goal. Once Baca sent the ball to Wondolowski, neither Keller nor the defence had any shot of stopping the goal - a giveaway by John Kennedy Hurtado following Jon Busch's long punt forward ensured that everyone was out of position and left the USA striker with a clear run on goal.
*I like how this is both an absolutely true and an absolutely false description of the man, at least for this year.
Keller was mad, and when Keller gets mad it gets rather difficult to score against him. The veteran goalkeeper almost singlehandedly kept San Jose at bay for the remainder of the match, pulling off a series of spectacular stops to keep the deficit at one. Keller's efforts would probably have been for naught had it not been for a second Wondolowski goal being disallowed, but said goal came from a free kick taken before referee Michael Kennedy was ready, and Keller was able to pluck take two out of the air.
By this point, the match had become rather contentious, with the Sounders and the Earthquakes both indulging in some rather unsporting displays of malevolant pettiness. Alvaro Fernandez came close to starting a brawl where he gave Bobby Burling a sly kick as they tussled for possession, and even the normally placid Ossie Alonso lost his temper when Simon Dawkins went to ground under one of his challenges.
The second half hadn't really gone much better than the first for Seattle, but Sigi Schmid had a trump card left to play. Fit-again Mauro Rosales was introduced for Michael Fucito with a little over an hour gone, and while he took a little while to get going he gave the Sounders the creativity and flair they were sorely missing. It was Rosales who linked up with fellow substitute Sammy Ochoa for the equaliser, the Argentine curling in a beautiful pass that carved open the defence and left Ochoa with a relatively simple first-time finish past Busch to level the scores, and after getting into the swing of things he was a constant threat on the Sounders right.
The winner, however, came not from Rosales but from a combination of Lamar Neagle and Fredy Montero. Neither had been particularly impressive on the evening (although both had worked very hard), but when Neagle received the ball on the edge of the box in the 87th minute, he had the presence of mind to realise that Montero was being played onside by Earthquakes left back Jason Hernandez, playing in a simple ball to the Colombian striker to put him one-on-one with Busch. You don't expect Montero to make mistakes from there, and he didn't, flicking a beautiful shot to the goalkeeper's left and giving the Sounders a huge 2-1 lead.
2-1 it would stay after three minutes of stoppage time, and while the game may not have meant anything so far as the Sounders go, it sure felt like it did - 64,000 pairs of lungs went mental at the final whistle. With Keller making an impassioned speech in front of those adoring fans after the match... well, you had to admit, this felt a little bit like destiny, didn't it?
One might be tempted to call this game and the crowd fitting tribute for an American soccer legend's career. I don't think they are - there's still a little matter of the playoffs and the MLS Cup to come. We haven't seen anything yet.