Three straight U.S. Open Cups. Just let that sink in. The Seattle Sounders, a three-year-old MLS franchise, have now won more Open Cup titles than all but seven clubs in the tournament's 98-year-history after dispatching the Chicago Fire 2-0 on Tuesday in front of a record crowd of 35,615.
The Sounders are now just one of four teams to ever win three straight, but the first since Greek Americans AA, who managed the feat from 1967-69. Whether or not every MLS team takes this tournament as seriously as the Sounders, there's simply no denying the enormity of this accomplishment.
No. 3 was easily their most dominant performance, if not necessarily the prettiest. The Sounders out shot the Chicago Fire 27-8 and clearly had the better opportunities. But until Fredy Montero scored his 16th goal of the season in the 78th minute, it was a very tense game.
Montero appeared to have given the Sounders the lead in the closing moments of the first half, but his shot rang off the post and Mike Fucito failed to control the rebound. Fucito nearly scored in the 53rd minute, but his flick past goalkeeper Sean Johnson also hit the post.
As much as the Sounders seemed to be controlling the game at that point, I'd be lying if I didn't acknowledge doubt was starting to creep in at that point. The Fire were looking dangerous, especially on corners, and a goal against the run of play would not have been the biggest surprise.
But as we're constantly reminded, this team is a lot different than Sounders teams of years past. While bad breaks tended to compound, this year's team simply moves on.
This Sounders team seems intent on making their own breaks and creating their own luck, which is basically what happened on Montero's lead-taking goal. Coming off an Erik Friberg corner kick, Jeff Parke forced Sean Johnson to making a diving save. Montero was right there, though, pounced on the rebound and sent CenturyLink Field into absolute pandemonium.
From there, the Sounders really seemed to take it up a notch. They continued to attack and came close to adding to their lead on several occasions, but couldn't quite put it away. That nearly came back to haunt them when Dominic Oduro got a good look in the 90th minute, but he was ruled offside and Kasey Keller was able to make the save.
The game got one final memorable moment in the 6th minute of stoppage time. With Montero trying to simply run out the clock in the corner, he passed it back to Lamar Neagle who spotted Osvaldo Alonso essentially unmarked. Alonso beat one defender, took it toward the goal, faked a shot and provided what may very well be the greatest exclamation point in Sounders history.
The celebration was in full force at that point and really didn't stop until well after the Sounders had received their trophy, posed for hundreds of pictures, thanked the fans and finally left the field a solid 30 minutes later.
It should be said that the atmosphere really did live up to the hype. The vast majority of those in attendance were standing from the opening whistle all the way through the trophy ceremony. The crowd was engaged throughout and was in no rush to leave.
This was supposed to be a special night, and it very much was. Count yourself lucky if you were in attendance because history was made. The Cascadia Cup is ours, as is the Open Cup. Now, it's time to get some of that really heavy silverware.