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August 9, 2012 at 11:30 AM

After tough loss, Sounders FC reflects on U.S. Open Cup run with pride

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — As Sigi Schmid tried to explain all his conflicting emotions about Wednesday night’s dramatic and controversial loss to Sporting KC in the U.S. Open Cup final, the Queen song “We Are The Champions” blared through the loudspeakers of Livestrong Sporting Park and drowned out his voice. It seemed like the noise had been piped into the hallway outside the Sounders’ locker room.

Schmid looked up, paused briefly and continued. He was done complaining about referee Ricardo Salazar. Now, his focus was on appreciating what his team had accomplished.

He was proud of them for grinding through their third match in six days and putting together a credible performance the championship game. Clearly, the Sounders weren’t at their best, and at times, they weren’t very good at all. Fredy Montero was a non-factor, Eddie Johnson ran out of gas, and Sporting KC outplayed them in the midfield. The Sounders couldn’t seize control of the match during regulation and 30 minutes of extra time. And when it came down to penalty kicks, the Sounders missed their final three PK’s and watched Sporting KC edge them 3-2 to end a match that was tied at 1 after 120 minutes.

Still, the Sounders had opportunities to win an unprecedented fourth straight U.S. Open Cup. Instead, they’ll have to settle for a record-tying three in a row and hope to reclaim the crown next season.

Looking back, this run was special and an incredible way for a still-fledgling franchise to introduce itself as a force. And undoubtedly, having the Sounders FC phenomenon attached to the U.S. Cup has meant much to the tournament.

“It’s been great,” Schmid said. “The team’s shown their ability. Even when we get

down 1-0 , we came back right away and got the equalizer (on a goal by Zach Scott in the 86th minute). I think that’s the character of the team. And obviously there were guys out there playing on fumes.

“There was no air for them to get because of the fact they’ve played so many minutes over the last 10 days. But it is what it is. I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplished. I think we had a good chance to get four in a row. We missed our last three PK’s, so that’s something that doesn’t help.”

Scott echoed Schmid.

“Obviously, it’s been a great run,” he said. “It didn’t end like we hoped it would. But I’m very proud of the quality we put into this game.”

Said goalkeeper Michael Gspurning: “I’m very proud of our team. Everything was against us, and we still put ourselves in a position to win.”

After a sigh, Gspurning concluded by saying, “Life goes on.”

The Sounders return to MLS action on Saturday in Santa Clara, Calif., where they’ll face San Jose. It will be their fourth match in nine days. Then, they get a week off before hosting Vancouver on Aug. 18.

If you missed our coverage of the match, here’s my column. And here’s a post-match blog post highlighting Schmid’s problems with the officiating. Also visit The Brewery to vote on whether you think Schmid was right or wrong to rip the refs in his post-match remarks.

I’m out, for now. Have a flight to catch.

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