Sounders FC earned a chance to defend its U.S. Open Cup title with a 3-1 semifinal win over Chivas USA on Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.
Two goals by Nate Jaqua and a pair of assists by Steve Zakuani punched the Sounders’ ticket to the championship game, which will be played Oct. 5 at Qwest Field against the Columbus Crew.
“I’m very excited for our fans, for our team, the organization – everybody who works so hard,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “It is rare that you get to play for a championship at home, and we’re certainly going to give it every ounce of effort to get the result, and hopefully we can collect a trophy at home.”
The semifinal started with end-to-end action, but the majority of that was on the Sounders’ attacking end.
That paid off in the 10th minute, when Zakuani made a run down the left side and into the penalty area, kept possession as he turned at the end line, and then passed in front of the goal, where Jaqua touched it in from 3 yards.
That stood up until the 58th minute, when the Sounders seemed to put it away with another goal fueled by a Zakuani run. This time he lost a double-team with a stutter-step juke to the middle, then continued his run down the left side before sending the ball across to Fredy Montero, who ran on and finished, giving Chivas keeper Zach Thornton no chance.
“All the credit for both goals – Jaqua’s and mine – go to (Zakuani),” Montero said through an interpreter. “He’s a player that is coming from injury, and he can still give a lot more. Credit to him. It’s always good to have a player like that.”
Chivas – which had called the game the most important in club history – crept back in the 68th minute, as Jesus Padilla ran onto a headed touch from Justin Braun and smacked it past Sounders keeper Kasey Keller.
Chivas’ breakthrough set up a hard-played stretch run, and the issue wasn’t settled until Jaqua headed in a cross from Roger Levesque during added time. It was Jaqua’s fifth goal of the tournament, most among active players.
“It was one where maybe Roger should’ve taken to the corner,” Jaqua said. “I thought he was going to. But I saw him kind of look up and made the run in. (I’m) just happy I didn’t get crushed by Zach.”
Earlier in the evening, Columbus advanced to the final with a come-from-behind, extra-time win at D.C. United. Next, Schmid’s former team will try to prevent the Sounders from becoming the first Open Cup champion to defend its title since the New York Pancyprian Freedoms did it in 1983.
“We’re excited about playing for the title,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
The Sounders have little time to either savor the win or look ahead to the title game. They will fly out today for New England, where they will meet the Revolution in a league match on Saturday.