Sounders FC keeps U.S. Open Cup
Sounders FC became the first team in the Major League Soccer era to win back-to-back U.S. Open Cup titles, beating Columbus before an Open Cup record crowd.
Seattle Times staff reporter
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Sounders FC had a clear goal from Day One.
To be something unique, something special, something different.
The record-setting ambition came to life Tuesday night at Qwest Field, as two goals from midfielder Sanna Nyassi led Seattle back from an early deficit to beat Columbus 2-1 in the 97th final of the U.S. Open Cup.
The triumph, in front of a record crowd of 31,311, made Sounders FC the first team in the Major League Soccer era to win back-to-back Open Cup titles.
Consider history rewritten.
But did coach Sigi Schmid think that goal could happen so fast?
"You hope that it can happen fast," he answered, moments after taking a champagne shower. "We had the opportunity. ... we worked hard to get there."
Two years. Two trophies.
"An amazing night," general manager Adrian Hanauer said. "The weather, the fans, just the atmosphere and then to get the win — it's a great feeling."
The night didn't get off to a great start for Sounders FC, but with the score tied 1-1 in the 66th minute, Nyassi scored the celebrated game-winner by knocking in a rebound after teammate Steve Zakuani headed a shot off the crossbar. Nyassi had delayed his call up to the Gambian national team to play in the championship.
"The chances came tonight and I made sure I finished them," said Nyassi, the first MLS player to score twice in the Open Cup final.
Columbus, the winner of five major trophies, pressed hard for the equalizer in the final moments — midfielder Robbie Rogers hit the crossbar in the 85th minute — but fell to 0-3-2 against Seattle and Schmid, the Crew's ex-coach.
Zakuani said the victory was more special than last year's 2-1 Open Cup final win on the road against D.C. United.
"To repeat is much tougher, and doing it at home is amazing," said Zakuani, who waved a Sounders FC flag during a victory lap.
After absorbing pressure for most of the first half, the Crew took a shocking lead against the run of the play in the 24th minute on midfielder Kevin Burns' first career goal. The buildup came on the right side, where defender Frankie Hejduk got behind the Seattle defense and cut the ball back to forward Steven Lenhart, who set up the wide-open Burns for a low shot to the corner of the goal past diving goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Sounders FC defender Patrick Ianni was confident his team would come back.
"I knew that we'd get one (goal)," he said with a smile. "And when we got one I knew it would come again."
The first one came in the 38th minute from Nyassi, who scored his first MLS goal only Saturday. After battling Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum for a cross, the young Gambian collected a deflected pass from Nathan Sturgis and fired a hard shot from the top of the penalty box into the open goal for the equalizer.
"My confidence keeps growing," said Nyassi.
So did that of the entire team, as the road to rewriting history continues.
• Multiple reports indicated the Open Cup winner will earn a berth to the 2011-12 CONCACAF Champions League, but no official announcement was made. In September, Hanauer said that possibility was "highly, highly likely."
• Seattle forward Nate Jaqua finished with five goals, tied for the tournament high.
• Sounders FC will get $100,000 in prize money. Columbus receives $50,000.
• Last year, Seattle beat D.C. United 2-1 on the road at RFK Stadium to claim its first U.S. Open Cup trophy.
• Sounders FC's next league game is at Kansas City at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. A win or tie against the Wizards would clinch an MLS playoff berth.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or email@example.com
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