Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Fire cannot halt Sounders' Open Cup run
By Charlie Corr
The Chicago Fire spent a large portion of Tuesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup simply attempting to endure Seattle Sounders FC's frequent attacks and possession.
It was only a matter of time before the Sounders would strike, and Fredy Montero provided the winner in the 77th minute to lead Seattle to a 2-0 win over the Fire in front of an Open Cup-record crowd of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.
"I just think we never got [in] rhythm," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "We had a little bit of a momentum change in the first half, then it just seemed that we didn't get that back. And our frontrunners didn't seem to work well off each other."
Osvaldo Alonso added a goal five minutes into second-half stoppage time as Seattle won its third straight Open Cup.
Chicago fell to 4-2 in Open Cup finals, also dropping the 2004 title match to the Kansas City Wizards, while winning the 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 Open Cups.
The Sounders were the clear-cut attacking force for most of Tuesday's match, and Chicago was lucky on a couple of occasions to maintain the scoreless stalemate. Montero struck the left post in first-half stoppage time. Then in the 53rd minute, Mike Fucito flicked the ball over Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson but hit the right post.
Montero finally broke through in the 77th when he scored off of a rebound. On a set piece, Seattle's Jeff Parke had a header that was saved by Johnson. But Montero was able to clean up for the goal.
Alonso added an exclamation point with his late tally, dribbling past Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause, a late-arriving Patrick Nyarko and Johnson to place the ball into the net for the 2-0 lead.
Chicago did not create a great deal of chances, but there were some moments where the Fire could have created some offensive damage. In the 39th minute, Marco Pappa's strike deflected off of Fire forward Dominic Oduro, but Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller dove to his left to make the save.
In the 90th minute the Fire had a chance for an equalizer when Fire defender Cory Gibbs headed the ball forward and Oduro's header almost went over Keller's glove. But Oduro was in an offside position anyway.
Johnson had six saves for the Fire and Keller had four for the Sounders.
Analysis: Seattle was by far the better team on the pitch, and there is no disputing it. The Fire could only withstand the Sounders' barrage of attacks for so long.
One element that hurt the Fire was the lack of time they got out of midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, (hamstring). According to the Fire, Grazzini said that he could only go for about 10 minutes. That appears to explain why the Fire waited until the 84th minute to get him in there. But by that point, Montero already did the damage. Chicago minimally needed a healthy 45-minute effort from Grazzini to have a chance against the Sounders.
Defensively, the Fire were shaky. Center back Josip Mikulic was the weak link among the Fire's back line. To make matters worse, Mikulic cramped up once again and rookie Jalil Anibaba was brought in at the 61st minute. Anibaba should have started the match.
Overall, it was a commendable Open Cup run for the Fire, and realistically this was all Chicago had left to play for this year. The MLS playoffs are a long shot, especially following the New York Red Bulls' 2-0 win over the Los Angeles Galaxy earlier Tuesday.