Obviously, that was not the way the Seattle Sounders thought this run of U.S. Open Cup success was going to end. They didn't think it, probably, because it's the kind of nightmare ending you never want to imagine. A hard-fought game comes down to a penalty shootout, which is then at least partially decided by a questionable referee decision.
Make no mistake about it, referee Ricardo Salazar did not cost the Sounders a chance at making history. The Sounders had their chances, whether it was Eddie Johnson narrowly missing a shot in the first half or the two penalties he and the uber-reliable Osvaldo Alonso sent over the crossbar. Salazar's whistle aside, the Sounders had it within their power to go home winners.
In the end, it wasn't meant to be. The Sounders played well, but not great. Sporting KC may have played a little better, and made good on the chances they did get -- no matter the circumstances behind how they got them.
To their credit, the Sounders players were willing to wear this one. We should all find some positives in the reactions of players like Johnson, Michael Gspurning and Zach Scott, all of whom handled themselves well in the aftermath. As Gspurning noted, life goes on and so does the season.
Failing to win a fourth straight Open Cup is undeniably a blow, but mainly one to the ego. The Sounders are not invincible in this tournament, although it is worth noting that they still haven't lost in regulation since 2005. The Open Cup has never been the biggest prize the Sounders were seeking and it most certainly isn't now. There are still some mighty big prizes to seek and if meant cashing in the Open Cup to win them, it will be swap we'd do every time.
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
Seattle Sounders FC Head Coach SIGI SCHMID
On his team's performance in the U.S. Open Cup title match:
"Even when we went down 1-0 tonight, we came back right away and got the equalizer. Obviously, there were guys out there playing on fumes because of the fact that they have played so many minutes over the last 10 days. It is what it is, but I am very proud of what we accomplished. I think we had a good chance to get four in a row. We missed our last three penalty kicks so that is something that doesn't help. And certainly if he doesn't call the one back, we're still taking penalty kicks right now."
On Zach Scott's equalizer during regulation:
"It showed the character of the team. We went down 1-0 and we got one back. It was a little bit of fate, as well, because I thought theirs was undeserved and we ended up getting it right back and equalizing the game. Obviously Zach did well, and it was a great free kick from Mauro [Rosales]."
"Congratulations to Kansas City for winning the championship. I think their players battled and fought hard. It was difficult for us. It was our third game in six days. It was just that little bit of sharpness that was missing. It's difficult, you're playing against a team at home so the crowd helps them. When you're playing against the referee as well and he makes some absolutely, I thought, ridiculous calls, it's very touch to win."
"The handball that he called, I don't know how he can see it. He's not at a good angle to see it if it is a handball. Nobody I've talked to has seen a replay that shows it being a definite handball or not. One of our players warming up there and our assistant coach said it hit him in the chest, so you don't know."
"You can always call a goalkeeper for moving. Nielsen moved ahead of every shot as well. But he didn't call anything back there. All of a sudden, he calls one back, he decides indiscriminately."
Seattle Sounders FC Defender ZACH SCOTT
On this year's U.S. Open Cup:
"Obviously it was a great run. It didn't end like we hoped it would, but we're still very proud. The quality we put into this game, we gave ourselves a good chance to win. The circumstances just didn't work in our favor. But now our focus has to be quickly back to league play and on our game on Saturday versus San Jose. That is the most important thing at this point."
On scoring the team's equalizer:
"I knew their marking wasn't as tight as they wanted it to be and we have so many guys who are good in the air. As long as Mauro [Rosales] put it into a good spot, which he always does, we knew we would have a chance. Fortunately, I was the guy in the right place at the right time and I was able to get just enough on it to tuck it into the corner."
On conceding a penalty kick:
"I have a ton of respect for the refs in our league, Ricardo [Salazar] in particular. I think he's a great ref. I think you guys saw the game. I think you guys saw the replays. I am not going to comment any further on that. Sigi [Schmid] can comment on the refs all he wants. But as for me, I will be the first guy to put my hand up when I make a mistake, and I hope the refs do the same."
Seattle Sounders FC Forward EDDIE JOHNSON:
On his penalty kick that went over the crossbar:
"It's those moments that you dream of as a soccer player, being able to make those moments, wanting to contribute to the team in pressure situations. But I wouldn't change anything about my approach to that. I was confident taking it, I sent the keeper the wrong way. Maybe from a psychological standpoint, he probably got in my head a little bit, because he was reading a piece of paper. But for me, I didn't want to change anything. I was comfortable going that way and I just hit it a little too hard. But, I wouldn't change anything about the approach. I wouldn't change anything about the way we played as a team."
On the team's performance:
"I thought we came out and we showcased ourselves well and played them well with them having the home-field advantage and having the fans behind them. I think we still created chances and gave ourselves a chance to still get something out of the game."
On the penalty kick shootout:
"On a perfect day, the save that [goalkeeper Michael] Gspurning made that got retaken goes our way. But it didn't go our way this time. If you ask me, or the other four guys that took penalty kicks, we're all confident. But it didn't go our way."
Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Michael Gspurning
"What should I say? I think I didn't do something bad. Fact is I was always in the right corner. It was unlucky that we didn't win the PKs."
"Of course it was a turning point. I make the save, and on the other hand we're one down. If this is not a turning point, then I don't know [what is]."
"I'm very proud of our team because everything was against us. We played here, we had the crowd against us. Thanks to the guys who supported us from Seattle. They are amazing."
"Of course we are down today, but life goes on. That's the message from the day."
Sporting Kansas City Head Coach PETER VERMES
On the significance of the winning the tournament:
"I'm extremely excited for the ownership group, for the club and the staff, the players and the fans, and more importantly, Kansas City. We really set out on a mission to make soccer a major sport in this community and this city. I think that when you look at the event tonight, it just demonstrates the commitment that this organization and this ownership has and that our fans do, as well. It's an incredible reward for the great job that everyone did."
On the importance of the home crowd:
"It was fantastic. Staying through the bad weather early on and continuing to keep the noise up and supporting us throughout the whole entire game. It was fantastic. Just putting a lot of pressure on Seattle, especially on the penalty kicks, a big credit to them."
On the penalty shootout:
"We knew going in who our guys were going to be. But we had to make a change because Teal [Bunbury] was one of them. He wasn't out there because we had made a sub. All-in-all, I thought the guys did a good job. They stayed focused. They got the job done at the end of the day. They committed to what we need to do."
On the importance of the berth in the CONCACAF Champions League:
"It's what we set out do as a club, first of all, to be in competitions like that. This made is a straight berth into it for us. Bringing that kind of competition to this facility and to this club is the next step in the direction that we want to go in."
Sporting Kansas City Goalkeeper JIMMY NIELSEN
On Sporting's penalty shootout victory over Seattle:
"I'm so happy right now, just extremely happy. It's well deserved for this whole organization and this whole city. There are a lot of hard-working people in this organization, and they're doing an excellent job to promote the soccer team. This is not only Sporting Kansas City's victory and night, it's the whole city's night. It's unbelievable how this team has grown in the last year-and-a-half. It's unreal. I'm happy for so many people on and around this team."
On his strategy in defending the Seattle penalty kicks:
"I had a plan A and a plan B for the shootout. I didn't' really feel like plan A was working, so I changed a little bit. I tried to mess around with them a little bit and get into their head."
Sporting Kansas City Midfielder PAULO NAGAMURA
On preparing for the penalty kick shootout:
"We trained for penalty kicks during the whole week and Peter [Vermes] made his selection right before the shootout. We are just glad to bring this Cup home to our fans. They have done so much for us, so it is good to give them something in return. We were confident we could do this tonight. We are a good team. Seattle is a good team, too, but we thought we could do this. It was a very hard game and it has ended very well for us."
On the victory:
"This win ranks pretty high in my career. I've won this trophy once with Los Angeles but this one is pretty special because of the home crowd and this stage. This win is for Sporting KC, and it's very big."
On the injury he suffered to his face in the first half:
"I think I'm going to have to have three stitches. But there was no chance of me leaving the game. I knew I had to be on the field to help my team win."
On retaking his penalty kick during the shootout:
"The second time I took the shot, I was pretty confident. I knew he was off his line the first time, and I didn't think he could stop me two times. I trained really well this week, so I knew I just needed composure. I thought he came off his line more than once. But I'm glad it worked out for us. We're the winners, and we're very happy with that."
Sporting Kansas City Forward KEI KAMARA
On the win against Seattle:
"This is a dream come true. We wanted to do this for the fans. They've been fantastic for us for the longest time. Things didn't come easy, Seattle's a tough team. They're organized and hard to beat, but we came out tonight knowing we had to win. There wasn't really a choice. We had to do this for SKC Nation."
On making two penalties, one in the 84th minute and one in the shootout:
"I'm comfortable taking penalties. It's my job on the team, so when Peter [Vermes] decided I would go first, I knew I had to deliver just like I did earlier. Jimmy [Nielsen's] save was the momentum swinger in the shootout. Once he made that save, you kind of felt like we were going to do it."
On where this win ranks in his MLS career:
"This is about as good as it gets. Winning a major trophy in front of the best fans in the League, you couldn't ask for more than this. Everyone on the team deserves this moment. Everyone out in the crowd deserves this moment. I'm so happy for everyone."