The Sounders will face its Coach Sigi Schmid’s last team, Columbus Crew, in the Open Cup final October 5th on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field. Columbus outlasted D.C. United 2-1 in extra time Wednesday night in the other semifinal match.
Nate Jaqua scored two goals as Seattle Sounders FC forged its way to the finals of Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition with a 3-1 victory over Chivas USA in the very friendly confines of Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington before a capacity throng of 4.547.
The victory enabled the Sounders to shut the door on an unenviable statistic they sought to eliminate. Since the franchise’s inception last season Seattle had been unable to penetrate the Chivas USA goal in four matches.
Sounders FC is bidding to become the first repeat U.S. Open winner since 1982-83.
It is unbeaten at Starfire, which also houses the team’s training facility, in six matches.
Eager to erase the scoreless string against the visitors, the team of forward Jaqua and Steve Zakuani went to work early to produce the first goal of the evening in the 11th minute. A Fredy Montero pass enabled Zakuani to break free behind the Chivas USA defense on the left flank.
Zakuani responded to the opportunity, cutting to the end line. Zakuani's cross met Jaqua in front of the goal for a one-touch shot that beat keeper Zach Thornton and put the home team on the scoreboard.
Colombia Comet Montero has been red hot recently so it was no surprise when he added another tally to his output, a score in the 58th minute that would turn out to be the decider in the contest. The second goal was also created by the busy Zakuani, who juked his defender and drove the ball low across the middle. Montero tapped it past Thornton from six yards out.
The ambitious Colombian set his sights early in the season as he predicted 20 goals and 10 assists. He stands exactly at the 10 pinnacle for assists while this was his 12th goal in all competitions. After being named MLS Player of the Month for July Montero was named the league’s most recent Player of the Week.
Nate Jaqua has long been a favorite with Sounder fans. Announcement of his name in the starting lineup at forward evoked a loud cheer from the Seattle faithful. Jaqua is roughly what Pete Rose was to baseball.
Rose was nicknamed Charlie Hustle for his determined and aggressive play on the baseball diamond. The 6-3 Eugene, Oregon native Jaqua could be called the Charlie Hustle of soccer with his free flowing style, which was in evidence Wednesday night when his team needed him.
In stoppage time Jaqua scored his second goal of the night and sealed the victory with the aid of another Sounder who, like the Oregonian, is a veteran and a crowd pleaser. Roger Levesque entered the match as a substitute in the 82nd minute. He made his presence immediately felt by delivering a cross from the right flank that Jaqua headed home past helpless Chivas USA goalkeeper Zach Thornton.
Chivas USA pulled even temporarily in the 68th minute, giving Sigi Schmid’s squad its only scare of the night. Jesus Padilla converted on an assist from Justin Braun. Padilla had come on as a substitute 14 minutes earlier.
Kasey Keller, Seattle’s veteran goalkeeper and captain, felt that the team had relaxed its defenses temporarily and generated a hole on which Padilla capitalized to knot the contest. After grabbing the ball to put it back into play Keller shouted out his displeasure to his mates.
On the entire evening, however, it was an occasion to relish for the home team. It was Seattle that constantly pressed the attack, creating numerous opportunities, along with some near misses, without which the already decisive 3-1 result could have been larger.
The Sounders held a commanding 19-10 advantage in shots with a 9-6 edge on goal. Seattle was on top 10-7 in the corner department. Keller recorded five saves on the night while his counterpart Thornton stopped six shots.
After the match Sigi Schmid assumed the frequent posture of a winning coach, that of being pleased but not satisfied, seeking additional improvement from his club. Schmid would have liked a clean sheet on the night for a team that has one of the proudest defenses in the MLS. At the same time he recognized the evening’s effort for what it was, an occasion of solid achievement.
"Obviously we weren't happy with the goal we gave up because we always try and be perfectionists and so forth,” Schmid said. “I thought our ball movement at times was good. [Steve] Zakuani was sharp today. He had the better of [Mariano] Trujillo on the outside. That was important for us. It's a field that lends itself to speed of play, getting faster and I think we took advantage of that."
Congolese and London bred speedster Zakuani had recently returned from a pelvic injury. His return was swift to the delight of Sounder patrons as he enjoyed one of his greatest games in a Seattle uniform with his hard charging dynamics and brilliant feeds that produced assists accounting for the scoring difference on the night.
"I think he got a lot of respect early on, once he took them early and set up that first goal," Schmid explained. “After that, I think [Mariano] Trujillo packed up and for sure in the second half they got people over there to double him. [Rodolfo] Espinoza came back a lot in the first half to help on him and in the second half they tried to double and triple him. If you can make magical moments like that or moments that impact games, that's what makes the difference in games."
Schmid also paid deserved tribute to Jaqua on his inspiring play.
"Well, they all count whether they are six yards away or twenty-five yards away,” Schmid said. “He has made a couple of good runs. He made some good runs today. We talked about it before the game. I said, 'Hey, you're the leading scorer in the Open Cup. You want to stay there.' Obviously he tried to stay there, or is there with the two goals tonight. A lot of the work for his goals, great service by Roger [Levesque], great service by Steve [Zakauni]. We were unlucky a couple of times, Steve's header at the back post was one that we could have had as well. I am very happy for Nate and he got a couple of goals again today."
Jaqua has scored five times in U.S. Open Cup competition.
Since Schmid will be facing the Columbus Crew, the team he coached before moving to Seattle, it was only natural for him to comment on the upcoming match for the U.S. Open Cup title from that standpoint.
"It's sort of ironic that it's the team I'm coaching now against the team I used to coach and so obviously I know their whole coaching staff,” Schmid revealed. “I know a lot of their players there. So it's going to be emotional that way. But we are very happy that we are hosting the game. And we are very excited. We want to sell out Qwest and we want to be able to hoist a trophy in front of all those people."
The next order for business for the Sounders is a trip to Foxborough, Massachusetts. Saturday they face the New England Revolution in an MLS match at 4:30 p.m. PT. After that the team hosts reigning MLS Cup titlist Real Salt Lake September 9th in a nationally televised contest on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.