A fast start by the two-time defending champion Seattle Sounders FC Wednesday night in the final US Open Cup Quarterfinal literally left the visiting Los Angeles Galaxy defense out of sync early on, as the host jumped to a two-goal lead and flew to a 3-1 victory at Starfire Soccer Complex. The win marked a second historic night in the tournament, as the Sounders MLS-USL combo became the first ‘team’ to reach five consecutive Open Cup Semifinals in the Professional Era.
A year ago in the Quarterfinals, it was Nate Jaqua scoring twice to lead Seattle to a 2-0 win over the Galaxy. He would again star in the rematch with a goal and an assist in the first 25 minutes, along with a number of other close calls. The Galaxy would narrow the gap before halftime, but Lamar Neagle secured the victory with a strike late in the second half.
Jaqua sent the message he was going to be a handful three minutes in, when he hit the far post with a header. Less than a minute later, Pat Noonan delivered a through ball that found the striker in the fourth minute for his eighth career Open Cup goal. He ranks third among 2011 Open Cup participants in the all-time Professional Era scoring leaders, trailing the Richmond duo of David Bulow (14) and Matthew Delicate (9).
LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders made a brilliant save in the 23rd minute on a scramble in the box, at the start of a series of chances that finally resulted in the second goal. Less than a minute later Noonan found Jaqua alone at the corner of the six, but his shot rolled inches wide of the far post.
In the 25th minute, a limp pass attempt by AJ DeLaGarza out of the back led to the second tally. Jaqua jumped on the loose ball on the unforced turnover and slipped it to the left to Fredy Montero, who fired it in from the edge of the area in open position.
On the half-hour mark, a quickly-paced pass out from Saunders rolled past the defender and into Seattle’s possession, leading to another Sounder scare that flew over the bar
Another brilliant play in the 36th left the Galaxy defense retreating. Montero made a great spin in the middle, playing the ball out to left flank to Lamar Neagle, who sent a low cross into box for a pair of Sounders crashing on goal only to see it cleared as the crowd gasped.
Landon Donovan, who exited a minute after the Sounders restored their two-goal lead in the 74th, had the first good chance for the Galaxy in the 40th when he was able to flick a header at goal, but Terry Boss made a nice last second stop for Seattle.
Less than a minute later, however, a cross from Chris Birchall on the right flank made it through a sea of defenders in the box to the far side where Adam Cristman slotted it inside the post from about nine yards out, giving the Galaxy hope of a comeback.
The rally was nearly complete two minutes into first half stoppage time when roles were reversed. Cristman got the ball at the top of the box and dished it off to his right to a wide open Birchall, who wound up and blasted a shot at Boss that was stopped.
The second half was a more settled affair that was more balanced. Neagle fired a shot from the left corner that was stopped by Saunders in the 58th, with Birchall launching a cross a minute later that floated off the face of the crossbar. In the 62nd minute, Donovan created another chance when he drove into the box before dishing it off to Paolo Cardozo, who sprinted diagonally across his path into the left corner. Cardozo gathered the ball and sent a cross flashing into the box that Cristman nearly got to for an equalizer.
A minute later, the Sounder faithful gave a round of applause to Pat Noonan upon his exit, as he saw the end of his first game back on the pitch since July of 2010. The switch marked a series of changes for both sides over the next 10 minutes.
In the 68th the Sounders nearly struck for their third, when Alvaro Fernandez sent a ball from right corner of area into the box to a diagonally dashing Montero, whose header was caught by Saunders at near post.
A free kick in the 73rd created some danger from the Galaxy, but in the end Boss would gather the ball. The match would prove to be wrapped up shortly thereafter.
Neagle restored the two goal advantage on another unforced turnover by the Galaxy. Birchall turned it over in the midfield directly to Fernandez, who carried it down the right side to penalty area before slotting it diagonally to a charging Neagle for a close-range finish.
The Sounders had one last flash with Third Round star Mike Fucito, who entered in the 79th, forcing a diving save out of Saunders two minutes into stoppage time.
The Sounders’ campaign to become only the fourth club ever to three-peat continues in the Semifinals when they play host to FC Dallas August 30 at Starfire. The fifth consecutive appearance in the final four (USL and MLS) by Seattle eclipses the four-year runs previously accomplished by the Galaxy (2000-03) and fellow 2011 semifinalist Chicago Fire (2003-06).
TheCup.us Match MVP: Nate Jaqua
Video highlights (SoundersFC.com)
SEA — Nate Jaqua (Pat Noonan) 4
SEA — Fredy Montero (Nate Jaqua) 25
LA — Adam Cristman (Chris Birchall) 40
SEA — Lamar Neagle (Alvaro Fernandez) 74
LA Galaxy — Josh Saunders, Bryan Jordan, A.J. DeLaGarza, Gregg Berhalter, Todd Dunivant, Chris Birchall, Michael Stephens, Juninho (Jovan Kirovski 78), Landon Donovan (Hector Jimenez 75), Paolo Cardozo (Miguel Lopez 64), Adam Cristman.
Substitutes Not Used: Juan Pablo Angel, Kyle Davies, Brian Perk.
Seattle Sounders — Terry Boss, Zach Scott, Jeff Parke, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Pat Noonan (Erik Friberg 64), Osvaldo Alonso, Alvaro Fernandez, Lamar Neagle, Nate Jaqua (Roger Levesque 71), Fredy Montero (Mike Fucito 79).
Substitutes Not Used: Servando Carrasco, James Riley, Mauro Rosales, Kasey Keller.
SEA — Osvaldo Alonso (caution; Tactical Foul) 22
SEA — Fredy Montero (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 54
SEA — Jeff Parke (caution; Tactical Foul) 55
LA — Paolo Cardozo (caution; Reckless Tackle) 59
SEA — Mike Fucito (caution; Delaying a Restart) 90
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee’s Assistants: -Corey Rockwell; Mike Kampmeinert
4th Official: Levi Rippy
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-71-degrees