SEATTLE - OCTOBER 04: Fans participate in the "March to the Match" while holding the Sounders' 2009 US Open Cup trophy prior to the match between the Seattle Sounders FC and the Chicago Fire in the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final at CenturyLink Field on October 4, 2011 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
The Sounders roll over Chivas USA and book their ticket to the US Open Cup final in Kansas City thanks to a vintage performance.
The Seattle Sounders dominated Chivas USA from whistle-to-whistle en route to a 4-1 victory in the semifinals of the US Open Cup, securing their place in a fourth consecutive final, to be played at Livestrong Sporting Park against Sporting KC. The Sounders were unfortunate to enter the half with only a 1-0 lead, with Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy making several huge save to keep the proceedings close. The visitors would not be so lucky in the second half however, as the Sounders doubled their lead through an Osvaldo Alonso penalty right after the break and quickly silenced a brief Chivas fightback to put the game out of reach.
The Sounders capitalized on an entire half hour's worth of dominance in the 31st minute, when Eddie Johnson made a brilliant run through the center to latch onto an equally impressive ball from Osvaldo Alonso and bend the ball past Chivas keeper Dan Kennedy to put Seattle ahead. Several near-misses would transpire before the break, but Seattle started off right where they left things, with Alonso converting from the spot after Fredy Montero was fouled in the area put the Sounders ahead 2-0. Seattle looked to content to pass the game away from that point, but Chivas would make things interesting after a blistering counter-attack ended with Osael Romero putting a second-chance effort past Bryan Meredith and the Goats would provide the Sounders with a few hearts-in-throats moments from there on out, but Brad Evans would give Seattle some breathing room in the 83rd minute by expertly finishing off a fantastic counter-attacking move that flowed through Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero. Just to make sure, Sammy Ochoa gave the Sounders a 4-1 in the 88th minute, sending Starfire into rapture and guaranteeing Seattle's place in the final.
This win is clearly huge in the context of the US Open Cup, as Seattle's unbeaten run since joining MLS continues and the team looks to make history on August 8th with a fourth-straight title. It is the broader picture, however, that makes this win all the more important; Chivas USA is far from an elite MLS team, but they're a very young a promising side that was clearly hungry for success in this tournament. Despite playing a less-than-full-strength lineup, the Sounders dismantled them in every facet of the game and did so playing the kind of attractive, flowing soccer that lead to their greatest successes last season. Seattle will need a few more MLS wins to declare themselves "back" without fear of tempting fate, but this was as close as the Sounders have been to their full potential since April, and they reached it with two Designated Players coming off of their best performances of the season on the bench for the majority of the game.
While Sporting Kansas City has been one of the better teams in the league this season and has made Livestrong a bit of a fortress, if the Sounders can continue to play with the quality they have shown over the past two games they will likely feel confident against any opponent at any venue no matter the stakes. This was the Sounders team we've expected to see all season long and have't seen in quite some time. If this team can sustain this level of performance, this could turn out to be a special season indeed.