CHESTER, Pa. – Extra-time goals from Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins finally settled an epic U.S. Open Cup final, as the Sounders held off the Union 3-1 in the overtime period for its fourth Open Cup title in six years on Tuesday night.
My first impressions from PPL Park:
– What a match
Dempsey’s slide just missed a bouncing ball at the back post and strike partner Martins curled a shot inches wide of the post. Union sub Pedro Ribeiro dribbled a soft shot directly at Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei with the goal gaping and Vincent Nogueira smashed a shot off the inside the left-post.
And those flashpoints were just in the final 15 minutes of normal time – the last two in stoppage time.
Both teams rose to the title stakes, at least down the stretch, and so did the boisterous home crowd.
Zac MacMath denied Martins with a big left hand just a few minutes into the extra time period but could do nothing on Dempsey’s game-winner shortly afterward. Dempsey stormed onto Martins’ cross to cap a counterattack with a clean strike into the bottom corner in the 101st minute — and the latter outraced Raymon Gaddis and chipped MacMath to clinch the result 13 minutes later.
Whether you buy into the Open Cup as a major competition or not, the 2014 final was a classic.
– Both defenses struggled
Unlike in the attack, where Martins, Gonzalo Pineda and Marco Pappa all started on the bench, the Sounders fielded what has become their first-choice back line on Tuesday.
The unit didn’t perform like it – at least in the opening 45 minutes as the Union took a 1-0 lead into the break.
Union forward Andrew Wenger tormented Seattle right back DeAndre Yedlin on the wing throughout the half, leading to a number of scoring chances.
The Sounders defense was at fault for the opening goal, too, as Maurice Edu beat Zack Scott to Cristian Maidana’s well-placed free kick in the 38th minute.
Seattle evened things up less than three minutes into the second half, when both the Union defense and MacMath allowed a corner kick to bounce around the box long enough for Chad Barrett to pounce.
But while the Union back line finally succumbed to the pair of stoppage-time counters, the Sounders were at least able to redeem themselves by seeing off Philly’s desperate final push.
– This game deserved a better platform
GolTV isn’t available on all cable providers and hard to find on the ones that do carry it. Comcast picked up the feed in the Philadelphia area, but that did little good for the opposing fans living 3,000 miles away.
Much was made in the build-up about the availability of a live stream – one that required an $8.95 monthly remember to access – only for it to perform so poorly that the provider promised a full refund before the match was even 20 minutes in.
The U.S. Open Cup may not be a priority for some – or most – MLS clubs, but it’s a competition with a rich history. The announced crowd of 15,256 was far louder than the figures indicated and flat-out electric down the stretch. The game itself was more than worthy of a final.
It’s a shame so few were able to see it.