Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sounders Win the U.S. Open Cup!

Obafemi Martins (Michael Perez/AP)
It was a bruising match from start to finish, but the Sounders prevailed, defeating the Philadelphia Union 3-1 in overtime in the 101st U.S. Open Cup. Philadelphia took the lead in the 38th minute on a header by Maurice Edu. The Sounders and Chad Barrett answered with a goal early in the second half, tying the score 1-1. Both sides would have chances to win in regulation, but keepers Zac MacMath and Stefan Frei both made key saves to keep the score deadlocked. Near the end of regulation, the Sounders were just barely hanging on. Zach Scott and Brad Evans both suffered apparent knee injuries, but both soldiered on. The Sounders had already used two substitutions and had only one left. They literally limped in to overtime.

Sigi Schmid would elect to replace Evans with Gonzalo Pineda early in the first overtime period. In the 101st minute, Clint Dempsey would receive a pretty pass from Obafemi Martins and put the Sounders ahead 2-1. In the second overtime period, with Philly pushing all its players forward in an attempt to score the equalizer, Martins would receive a clearance, beat a defender and the goalkeeper, and score Seattle's third goal, putting them safely ahead 3-1.

(Michael Perez/AP)
The entire 120 minutes was a battle. In addition to the injuries to Evans and Scott, Ozzie Alonso and DeAndre Yedlin also got banged up. The end result, however, was a trophy for the Sounders, their fourth U.S. Open Cup championship in six years. The celebration at the end of the game was vigorous, to say the least.

The Sounders will now battle the rest of the season for the Supporter's Shield and MLS Cup. The tandem of Martins and Dempsey appears very to be very formidable at this time. Hopefully, the Sounders will be able to re-charge for the stretch run after this incredibly rewarding--but draining--run through the U.S. Open Cup.

It was not easy to watch this particular match, or even listen to it on the radio. There was no local television or radio broadcast. SoundersFC.com had an audio stream. A small outlet called GolTV had television rights. However, GolTV is not available through Comcast (though it is carried by DirectTV). A brand-new startup called KlowdTV.com acquired streaming rights days before the Final. The charge to stream the match: $8.48. As this was the only option available to me, I signed up. I tested the service the day before the match; it seemed to work great. When I got home from work tonight, after being excited all day at the prospect of watching the match, I found that the stream was a disaster. It was glitchy and froze constantly. I stopped watching and listened instead to the Sounders audio. In the second half, however, I decided to try switching from GolTV's English feed to the Spanish feed. Voila! A mostly clear picture with only occasional glitches. I was happy. I got to see the go-ahead goals live. The Sounders audio wasn't synced to the video, but oh well. It was a historic night, and I was happy I didn't miss it completely.

The U.S. Open Cup tournament is an exciting tournament. The same win-or-go-home atmosphere that makes March Madness so compelling is present here. However, the tournament is lagging behind pretty much every other sporting event in this country. We live in an age when almost every single college basketball and college football game is televised. For all intents and purposes there was no television coverage of the U.S. Open Cup whatsoever. It's a shame. It's a fun tournament. But it needs media coverage to grow. Tonight's game was a classic. It was a showcase for soccer in this country. For those who found a way to watch, it was a game that will long be remembered.

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