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Drilling down on, U.S. Open Cup: at Seattle 4, Chivas USA 1

Jul 12, 2012, 12:18 AM EDT

610x Getty Images

TUKWILA, Wash. – The dream is still alive. Three-time defending champions, Seattle punched their ticket to Kansas City for a chance to claim a their record fourth-straight U.S. Open Cup title, downing Chivas USA 4-1 at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday.

Man of the Match: Osvaldo Alonso continues to make this tournament his own. His 31st minute through ball for Eddie Johnson set up the opening score, while his second half conversion of a penalty drawn by Fredy Montero punched Seattle’s ticket to Kansas City.

Two other Sounders have claims to this honor. Johnson’s run on the opening goal was more valuable than Alonso’s pass, and his finish portrayed a man who has put four confidence-draining years behind him. In addition to drawing the foul that set up the game-winning goal, Montero was the match’s hardest worker, constantly making himself available for passes from midfield. Whether it was a message or just a break in the routine, Sigi Schmid’s Saturday benching seems to have worked.

Packaged for takeaway:

  • Both teams started strong teams, and although Seattle looked better from the start (particularly going down their right, with right back Zach Scott playing directly to Fredy Montero), Chivas USA had a number of things to build on:
    • Raushawn McKenzie made up for a Jorge Villafana’s ineffectiveness at left back while also putting in some nice work to prevent the connections to Montero from generating chances.
    • Ben Zemanski was giving one of his best performances of the season on the left midfield, proving Chivas’s best man on the ball.
    • And on the small Starfire pitch, Oswaldo Minda proved particularly problematic in the middle. The Ecuadorian destroyer never had to range far from his spot at the base of midfield to disrupt play.
  • That’s why it was surprising when the opening goal was generated through the middle. Alonso pounced on a turnover just inside Chivas’s half, at which point Eddie Johnson burst into a great run from the right flank, tearing open Chivas’s defense. EJ sprinted past Villafana, behind McKenzie (who came out to challenge Alonso), and was kept on by Danny Califf, caught four-to-five yards behind his central defense partner. A nice ball from Alonso, one touch from Johnson, and Dan Kennedy was set up. An easy finish gave Seattle the lead.
  • Given Chivas USA had yet to show anything in attack, it was a particularly painful opening goal. There was nothing in Robin Fraser’s team that said they had a comeback in them. Finishing the first half without a shot (let alone a shot on goal), Chivas never seemed to adjust to the small field. Various attempts to switch the ball and change their angle of attack left them looking pensive and ill-prepared when the Sounders were able to quickly close them down.
  • Two minutes into the second half, Montero drew the penalty that would provide Seattle’s game-winner. If Fraser had instilled a winning plan at half time, Chivas were never able to see it. Before the teams had even warmed up, Seattle had doubled their lead.
  • Of course, it wouldn’t be that easy. Seattle couldn’t just take control and close out the match, though they tried. For the next 25 minutes, it was all Chivas USA could do to keep Montero off the scoresheet, Seattle’s star attacker continuing to exploit the left side of the Chivas USA defense, turning Villafana’s night into a nightmare.
  • The effort was enough to create a huge Man of the Match debate, one that goes to the heart of how to pick the honor. I sided with Alonso because, in addition to being his usual pesky self and doing a good job distributing from the middle, he was involved in each of the first two goals. For all the torment Montero caused the Chivas defense, wasn’t producing an end result.
  • The missed chances looked like they might matter when Chivas USA substitute Cesar Romero bundled his way through Seattle’s defense in the 74th minute, eventually poking a ball past Bryan Meredith from seven yards out. Shockingly, Chivas USA was within one.
  • Seattle restored their two-goal lead 10 minutes later, with Montero finally getting onto the scoresheet. A ball played from the left flank saw him 30 yards from goal with a chance to run at McKenzie and Califf. As the defenders backed off, it looked like Montero was lining up a shot from distance. The threat froze the defenders, allowing Brad Evans to get forward, into the right of the box, and onto a Montero ball for Seattle’s third goal.
  • Four minutes later, Villafana’s inability to clear a ball allowed Sammy Ochoa, just off the bench, to come from behind, take the ball, turn and finish into the left of net. Kennedy didn’t even bother diving, disgusted at what had just transpired.
  • Perhaps Seattle didn’t look three goals better, but it’s hard to argue with the result. Even when Chivas USA pulled to within one, the game never seemed in doubt. Chivas had no way to get at Seattle, and with the weakness down their left, there was no way they were going to contain the Sounders.
  • Now, for the second time in their U.S. Open Cup run, Seattle has to go on the road to secure their title. Their fist of three titles was won at RFK Stadium against D.C. United. If they’re to take a record fourth-in-a-row, they’ll need to knock off Sporting at Livestrong.
  1. ndnut - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:32 AM

    I think you mean Brad Evans scored the 3rd Seattle goal. Do you know when SKC is putting tix on sale to the public? I just need a date to assign someone back home since I’ll be on a mission trip July 14-22. The game was controlled by the Sounders, but I wouldn’t say it was sure when it was 2-1. Chivas seemed to dominate that 20-30 minute stretch, which scared me since it was a one goal lead instead of two.

    • Richard Farley - Jul 12, 2012 at 12:39 AM

      Didn’t I put Brad Evans?

      (Checks)

      (Doh!)

      Thanks! One too many Brad in this world!

      Re: Tickets, not sure.

      Re: Chivas dominating … I didn’t see that, but in fairness, I’m probably wrong. Montero had so many chances during that stretch, I thought it pretty clear Seattle was still “on the front foot.” From the stat sheets: Seattle outshot Chivas USA 11-4 in the second half.

  2. ndnut - Jul 12, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    Yeah, it was just that stretch. It ended shortly after the goal, but they still got the ball down there. Maybe no shots, but certainly some danger. Just found ticket info but won’t say for fear I would jeopardize my chance at them. ;)

  3. sir1389 - Jul 12, 2012 at 2:34 AM

    Nothing against the Open Cup but its pretty obvious Seattle is the only team that cares about it, and they definitely seem to do so at the expense of their pursuit of the MLS cup. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to see multiple tournaments and cups spring up in America like in Europe, and as the MLS and soccer grow in the US they do become more prestigious and sought after. However the depth of talent of the US teams right now lends for only one to be taken seriously, and it seems like the other 18 teams all would rather shoot for the league hardware.

    • mrpaisley - Jul 12, 2012 at 4:25 AM

      Definitely dude. I mean did you SEE who San Jose fielded? Who is Chris Wondolowski? I mean they expected some no-namer to score against Seattle? LOL right? Or how about SKC? Aurelien Collin is a nobody that probably came from like, Mississippi! Maybe when teams field their Starting 11 maybe THEN people other than Seattle will care.

      Wait Tim Howard wants to play for Seattle? Why does HE know about the Open Cup? Wut?

      • sir1389 - Jul 12, 2012 at 11:42 AM

        Just because you can find one team that didn’t bench their star player for the Open Cup doesn’t make my premise invalid. Would you say that the only qualification for beating a team at its best is if their top player is in the game? Would you boast that you’d beaten Manchester United they fielded a team of reserves plus Wayne Rooney? Regardless, back to my original point: If you just look at the 8 teams that lost in the 3rd round to lower level leagues, nearly all of them did not field their best XI for that match and instead played some combination of starters and reserves or all reserves, instead opting to play their main team in their league games earlier and later in the week. Their decision to do so clearly shows a lack of interest in taking the Cup seriously. As I mentioned earlier, Seattle seems to be the only team year in and year out that fields a respectable team for the Cup in every game they play. But in their two games within the week of their first game against Atlanta, they lost at home to Columbus and tied Chivas. While you may disagree with my premise, I reason that this shows they put more emphasis and resources to preparing for the Open Cup rather than their chances at winning the MLS cup.

      • mrpaisley - Jul 29, 2012 at 3:24 AM

        Uh, basically you just said “teams mix pros and second-team players” which, is exactly what Seattle did >_>

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