Sounders fight their way to U.S. Open Cup win
Several melees broke out between Seattle and San Jose in the Sounders' 1-0 quarterfinal win.
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SAN FRANCISCO — It was an ugly game all around, but at least the Sounders liked the final result.
A 1-0 win over the Earthquakes in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday night at Kezar Stadium ended with a bench-clearing brawl seemed more fit for a football game than a soccer match.
Incidentally, Kezar Stadium was the original home of the San Francisco 49ers.
"The game got chippy," Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. "There were a lot of aerial duels ... there was a lot of pushing and shoving ... but at the end of the day it was just a good, hard-fought win for us."
After the game, a full-on brawl broke out near the Earthquakes' bench. San Jose players said that Eddie Johnson, who came into the game as a substitute in the 76th minute, was celebrating in front of the San Jose bench before he punched Earthquakes reserve Jed Zayner, who did not play in the game.
"All the reports that I heard is that (Johnson) was celebrating in front of our bench and yelling at our fans, and Jed told him just go do it over on his side," San Jose's Chris Wondolowski told The San Jose Mercury News after the game. "And he took a swing and hit Jed in the eye."
San Jose's Jason Hernandez chased Johnson, and then a bench-clearing fracas ensued as Earthquakes fans booed. Zayner was on the ground for a minute or two before being helped to his feet.
Johnson was not able to be reached for comment after the game. According to reports, Zayner was not seriously injured.
Schmid said he did not see Johnson's punch and wasn't sure exactly what happened, but said he thought an Earthquakes player swung at Johnson first. Schmid added that he told Johnson not to celebrate in front of the opponent's bench, but that San Jose coaches also confronted Sounders players before the melee.
"It was a bad way to end the game," he said.
The only red card that resulted from the exchanges was issued to San Jose's Alan Gordon in the 93rd minute. There were five yellow cards given out during the game — three to San Jose and four to Seattle.
Perhaps lost in the scuffle at the game's end was the magnitude of the Sounders' narrow victory. Seattle (7-5-4 in MLS) is now 16-0-1 in the U.S. Open Cup dating to April 2009. Seattle will host Chivas USA, a 2-1 winner over the Charlotte Eagles, in a July 10 semifinal matchup. Prior to Tuesday's game, Seattle defeated non-MLS teams Atlanta, 5-1, and Cal FC, 5-0, in earlier rounds of U.S. Open Cup play. Seattle is attempting to win its fourth consecutive U.S. Open Cup.
"This win is very important because we move on, and it's also important because we haven't had very good form in MLS play lately," Schmid said. "To get to the semi-finals with this win, we are very happy."
It was a physical game that got out of hand in the second half. The conflict started out with a heavy dose of pushing and bumping before devolving into three rounds of melees. A heated exchange in the 75th minute took several minutes to sort out after the teams converged for a mass confrontation with lots of shoving.
"It did get a little out of hand, but that is just a sign of the passion to win," Cordell Cato said.
Cato gave Seattle the lead in the 19th minute on an unassisted goal from 8 yards out. Cato, who became the youngest Sounder ever to score a goal at 19, converted on an extreme angle from outside the right post. San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham had a good look at the shot, but the ball deflected off a defender and went between Bingham's legs.
"You get space and take a crack at it. It deflected off a defender and that was a little lucky," Cato said. "It is a great feeling to get that first goal."
In the 33rd minute, San Jose (10-3-3 in MLS) appeared to have equalized, but the goal was disallowed because of a San Jose handball in the 6-yard box.
In the second half the Earthquakes turned up the heat offensively, bringing in their top two scorers — Wondolowski, who leads MLS with 13 goals, and Steven Lenhart (five goals) — as substitutes in the 53rd minute. The Earthquakes could never cash in on their opportunities, however.
The Sounders played at a spirited pace in front of 7,219 fans, including a vocal contingent of more than 100 Sounders supporters.
Sounders goalie Andrew Weber, who played with the Earthquakes from 2009 to 2011, registered his first shutout in Cup play with Seattle.
Seattle had three shots on goal and held San Jose to none.
The two teams will face off again in MLS play on Aug. 11 at San Jose.
The Earthquakes defeated the Sounders 1-0 in March and currently sit atop the MLS standings.
|Seattle||1 0 — 1|
|San Jose||0 0 — 0|
Seattle — Andrew Weber, Brad Evans, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Leonardo Gonzalez, Cordell Cato (Marc Burch, 83rd), Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose, Alvaro Fernandez (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, 89th), Roger Levesque, Sammy Ochoa (Eddie Johnson, 76th).
San Jose — David Bingham, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Ike Opara, Justin Morrow, Rafael Baca (Marvin Chavez, 80th), Sam Cronin, Tressor Moreno (Steven Lenhart, 54th), Shea Salinas, Khari Stephenson (Chris Wondolowski, 53rd), Alan Gordon.