2011 US Open Cup Semifinal Preview: Champions League sides Seattle Sounders & FC Dallas square off in ‘Super Semifinal’
Historically, Major League Soccer teams are not supposed to win in Mexico. In the past few weeks, however, both FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders have etched their names in history with victories south of the border in the CONCACAF Champions League. On Tuesday, the two clubs, both also in contention for the regular season and MLS Cup titles, look to book a spot in US Open Cup Final.
The game will be held at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash. and will kickoff at 10 p.m. EST.
A power couple, Seattle and Dallas were both in Finals a year ago. The Sounders captured a second consecutive Open Cup title while Dallas came up short in the MLS Cup Final against Colorado. As if that were not enough, both are in contention for 2011-12 to vie for four championships – the United States Soccer Majors. Both are within five points of current league-leader Los Angeles in the chase for the Supporters’ Shield and are therefore firmly in position to reach the playoffs for the MLS Cup. In addition, an unprecedented start for MLS in the CCL has seen both sides take control of their fate two games into the group phase.
And not much separates the two clubs either as witnessed by a 1-0 decision in favor of Seattle just over a week ago in Texas. A rare mistake from defender Ugo Ihemelu, who scored a CCL game-winner earlier this month, allowed Lamar Neagle to take possession and set up the winning score. He found Fredy Montero, who led a flying Mauro Rosales down the right side where he fired a low 18-yard shot past Kevin Hartman, who has been perfect in the CCL with four shutouts in as many games. The win was Seattle’s first at Pizza Hut Park and gave the club sole possession of second place.
If the Seattle Sounders defeat FC Dallas on Tuesday, they will host the 2011 US Open Cup Final. If FC Dallas win, the only way they can host the championship game is if they are victorious against Seattle and the Richmond Kickers upset the Chicago Fire.
The game will have an online video broadcast through SoundersFC.com with Arlo White providing the commentary. TheCup.us, as always, will have a live blog during both Semifinal matches beginning at 8 p.m. EST.
Since the Quarterfinals: Dallas has been by far the busiest of the four semifinal sides since the quarterfinals, playing a dozen games in MLS and Champions League play. The club has kept its form with only two losses, the recent loss to Seattle and a 3-1 defeat in LA to the Galaxy, with a record of 7-2-3 overall (3-2-3 in MLS, 4-0-0 in CCL). Seattle has played the second most with 10 games, Richmond nine and Chicago seven. The Dallas defense has been impressive over the past 12 games, allowing only 10 goals with four consecutive shutouts in Champions League play among them. Including the 2-0 quarterfinal win, Dallas has posted seven shutouts in all competitions over the last 13 games and have yet to allow a goal in the Champions League where they are making history defensively. The biggest victory came August 17 when they edged Pumas in Mexico on a strike from Marvin Chavez in the 66th minute, making Dallas the first MLS club to win in Mexico. On Saturday, the club found themselves down two goals in Kansas City, but rebounded with three unanswered strikes, including two in the final five minutes, to win 3-2. Two minutes after Omar Bravo made it 2-0, Daniel Hernandez scored in the 70th to keep Dallas in the contest. Maicon Santos then leveled the score in the 89th minute on an assist from Brek Shea, who also found Bobby Warshaw in the second minute of stoppage time for the winner.
Quarterfinal: Real Salt Lake (MLS) 0:2 FC Dallas (MLS)
Trends won out as first-time Quarterfinalists RSL remained winless at Pizza Hut Park, falling to all-time leading Quarterfinalist (12 appearances) FC Dallas. Jair Benitez gave the home side the lead 18 minutes in and Jackson provided some insurance in the 54th. Recap [+]
Third Round: Orlando City (USL Pro) 2:3 FC Dallas (MLS)
The hosts had to work for the victory against the lower division visitors as Orlando City got the surprising lead 24 minutes in. Jackson, on an assist from Ricardo Villar, would score in the 39th minute to make it 1-1 at the break. Villar would tally himself five minutes into the second half for what looked increasingly like the winner until Orlando found an equalizer in stoppage time. But less than a minute later the stunned home crowd were sent into a frenzy when Jackson found Milton Rodriguez for the winner. Full Recap [+]
How They Qualified: Automatic entrant from top six MLS finish in 2010.
Open Cup History: Up to 2009, FC Dallas could claim the distinction of being the only MLS team to participate in every Pro Era Open Cup tournament since the league began in 1996. Dallas found success early in their Open Cup history, reaching the Semifinals in 1996 and winning the title on penalties over DC United in 1997. This is Dallas’ 12th Quarterfinals appearance, which is more than any MLS team in the Pro Era (1995-present). After last round’s victory, they improved their all-time quarterfinal record to 5-5-1 (1-0 in PKs). They are 3-3-0 all-time in semifinal matches, including a 2-1 extra time win over the Sounders in 2007 when they were a USL First Division side. In fact, the last time Dallas played a road game in the Open Cup was in that 2007 game at Qwest Field (now called CenturyLink Field).
While this is the first time the two have met as MLS franchises in Open Cup play, this will mark the third time Dallas has played the Sounders in the tournament. Before their 2007 encounter, Dallas’ first Open Cup game in franchise history was a quarterfinal meeting in 1996 against the Sounders of the A-League. The Burn (as they were known then) won the game 3-2 at the Cotton Bowl. (More details below)
As a side note, Dallas’ worst loss in the tournament came in 2001 at the hands of a PDL side by the name of the Seattle Sounders Select. In the Second Round that year, the young Sounders saw a one-goal lead disappear twice, with the last equalizer coming from Ariel Gaziani in the 78th minute for the Burn. In extra time, Kurt Ness would score the golden goal in the 97th minute to complete one of the biggest upsets of the Professional Era.
PRO ERA RECORDS: 21-12-4 (4-0 in PKs) | 6-8-2 vs. MLS teams
Since the Quarterfinals: The Sounders hit a mini rough patch after advancing from the quarterfinals. A wild 4-3 victory over reigning MLS champion Colorado was followed by a pair of losses as they dropped a 1-0 decision in Panama against San Francisco in their Champions League Preliminary Round opener and then fell 3-1 in Houston. The Sounders rebounded to advance via series overtime at home against San Francisco in the next match, sparking a seven-game unbeaten streak in all competitions heading into Tuesday. The current run of 6-0-1 includes the victories in Monterrey and Dallas as well as an impressive 4-1 Champions League win against Guatemalan power Comunicaciones. The Sounders were the second MLS club to win in Mexico, avenging a pair of defeats to the same Monterrey side they also played in the group phase a year ago. Alvaro Fernandez provided the 1-0 winner in the 38th minute avenge a heartbreaking road loss from the year before in which they saw a two-goal lead not hold up en route to a 3-2 loss to Monterrey. Seattle comes into the semifinal contest off an impressive 6-2 victory against the Columbus Crew Saturday in which they led 4-0 before the break. Lamar Neagle had a hat-trick on the day and Mike Fucito, TheCup.us Player of the Third Round, had a goal and an assist.
Quarterfinal: Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS) 1:3 Seattle Sounders (MLS)
A year later it was Nate Jaqua again in the spotlight as Seattle downed the visiting Galaxy in the Quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. Jaqua notched a goal and an assist in the first 25 minutes as Seattle advanced to the Semifinals. If you include the Sounders’ USL history, it marked the fifth time in a row the club has reached the final four. No Professional Era team has accomplished that feat. Recap [+]
Third Round: Kitsap Pumas (PDL) 1:2 Seattle Sounders (MLS)
Mike Fucito put the Sounders up two goals, but the finish was not easy as the PDL side fought back with a goal from former number one MLS draft pick Nik Besagno. Recap [+]
How They Qualified: Automatic entrant from top six MLS finish in 2010.
Open Cup History: Sounders FC set out to become a force in the Open Cup during their 2009 inaugural year, and did just that. They became the first expansion team since Chicago Fire in 1998 to take the Cup, winning 2-1 against DC United at RFK Stadium. They then turned around and made more history in 2010, as they became the first team since the New York Pancyprian Freedoms in 1982 and 1983 to win back-to-back Open Cup titles. Their victims this time were the Columbus Crew, by the score of 2-1 in front of the largest Final crowd ever (31,311). Used to going against MLS teams, this will be the second consecutive year Seattle and Los Angeles have played in the Open Cup, with Seattle notching a 2-0 win last year at Starfire.
Officially, the Sounders MLS franchise does not recognize the club’s USL history, but if they did … the Seattle Sounders have been competing in the Open Cup since 1995 and have reached the Semifinals three times (1995, 2007, 2008). The USL club’s all-time Open Cup record was 15-11-2 (1-1 in PKs) with an impressive 11-2-1 (1-0 in PKs) record at home and they eliminated five MLS teams (2003 – San Jose; 2007 – Chivas USA & Colorado Rapids; 2008 – Chivas USA & Kansas City Wizards).
PRO ERA RECORDS: 9-0-1 (1-0 in PKs) overall | 7-0-0 vs. MLS Teams
HEAD-TO-HEAD (Including Seattle’s USL history)
1996 US Open Cup Quarterfinals
Dallas Burn (MLS) 3:2 Seattle Sounders (A-League)
Cotton Bowl – Dallas, TX
The Sounders reached the Semifinals the year before, but with MLS entering the competition, the defending A-League champions had a much tougher road. They traveled to the Cotton Bowl to take on the Dallas Burn and three minutes into the game they had the lead when Joey Leonetti five-holed Mark Dodd to put the visitors up 1-0. The Sounders would take that lead into halftime, but the Burn came out firing in second half. Lawrence Lozzano tied the game in the 58th minute on an assist by Gerell Elliott. 12 minutes later, Mark Santel sent a through ball to Elliott in behind the Seattle defense and he tucked away the Burn’s second goal of the night. In the 79th minute, Dallas added an insurance goal as Elliott assisted on Ted Eck’s goal, beating Seattle’s promising young goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. Seattle’s David Hoggan would convert a penalty kick in second half stoppage time, but the Burn would emerge victorious 3-2. (Fun fact: Jeff Cassar and Tom Soehn entered the game in the second half for Dallas, with both players making their respective MLS debuts)
2007 US Open Cup Semifinals
FC Dallas (MLS) 2:1 Seattle Sounders (USL-1)
Qwest Field – Seattle, WA
Dallas returned to the Semifinals for the second time in three years with a 2-1 extra time win over the Seattle Sounders. All the scoring came in extra time when Carlos Ruiz put the visitors up 1-0 in the 91st minute. In the final minutes of extra time, Abe Thompson was brought down in the penalty area by Zach Scott and was awarded a penalty kick. After Noah Merl was sent off for something that occurred away from the play, the Sounders would have to play with 10 men in the final minutes. Leighton O’Brien did manage to cut the lead in half at the end, but it was too little, too late.