Chivas USA's quest for a trophy ended the same place its last real quest met its end, where every quest, at least for this trophy, seems to come to a close.
The Goats ran into the Seattle Sounders in Wednesday's U.S. Open Cup semifinals, and if their usual trouble spots -- an inability to create chances, costly mistakes in the worst places -- hadn't put them at a sizable disadvantage, then surely the reigning champs' attacking prowess would have done the trick.
The Sounders advanced to a fourth straight U.S. Open Cup title game -- and perhaps an unprecedented fourth straight triumph -- with a 4-1 romp in Tukwila, Wash., where they are 17-0 in the 99-year-old tournament.
Eddie Johnson gave Seattle a 31st-minute lead, Osvaldo Alonso converted a penalty kick at the start of the second half, and Cesar Romero's strike to halve the deficit with about 20 minutes to go was answered by UC Irvine product Brad Evans and Riverside's Sammy Ochoa near the end.
Chivas, which hasn't won a trophy in its 7 1/2-year history, failed in its biggest match since falling in the semifinals two years ago to the Sounders on the same Starfire Sports Complex turf.
“Early in the game was exactly as we expected it to be: a battle for territory, not giving anything up, getting into good spots,” head coach Robin Fraser told ESPN Los Angeles. “I really thought it was going exactly as expected. Then we made a mistake to give up a bad goal, made another mistake for a bad goal to start the second half, then we're chasing the game.”
Chivas, despite ample possession, couldn't penetrate, and the service from the wings wasn't good enough. Starfire's narrow dimensions caused problems, and the Goats didn't get off a shot until the 58th minute -- and didn't get off a good one until Romero, who provided a big spark off the bench, made it 2-1 in the 74th.
That has been the recurring theme all season: Chivas has only 17 goals over 21 games in all competitions, and it's not because chances aren't being taken.
“I'd say I'm running short on patience in terms of scoring goals,” said Fraser, whose team has been shut out in three of its last four Major League Soccer matches and scored more than once only four times all year, twice against lower-level Open Cup opposition. “We'll just continue to work at it, continue to try to get the ball in dangerous spots.”
Seattle will face Sporting Kansas City in the final Aug. 8 at Livestrong Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan.
Sporting won, 2-0, at Philadelphia, with Jacob Peterson tallying from Graham Zusi's free kick in the 65th minute and -- with Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath pushed forward in search of an equalizer -- Zusi scoring from midfield into an empty net deep into stoppage.
Seattle caught Chivas' backline pushed forward for the first goal, slicing through midfield with Alonso's through ball then leaving Johnson 1-on-1 with goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, who didn't have a chance.
Alonso made it 2-0 in the 48th minute after Fredy Montero was spilled by Rauwshan McKenzie, a questionable call, especially after a similar play -- clearly shoulder-to-shoulder -- was ignored by referee Chris Penso.
Seattle had plenty of chances before, after and in between, but Kennedy made four big saves: on UCLA-bred rookie Andy Rose in the 11th minute, at the left post on Johnson in the 35th minute, on Evans in the 73rd and with a diving stop on Montero in the 80th, when the result was still in doubt.
Chivas might have struck first, in just the third minute, when Jorge Villafaņa surged past several defenders along the left seam and into Seattle's box. Rather than shoot, as he ought to have, he slid the ball square above the 6-yard box. It was easily cleared.
Said Fraser: “From the angle I was at, I was thinking yes [he should have shot].”
Villafaņa almost hooked up with Alejandro Moreno in the box after 20 minutes, sending in an exquisite cross that just cleared the Chivas captain.
Seattle was dominant in midfield, especially after halftime, repeatedly winning balls in Chivas territory and then pressuring the Goats' defense. Chivas finally found a lifeline when Romero came on in the 64th minute.
The first-year forward worked both flanks marvelously, and he brought Chivas back after cutting inside from the left and unleashing a shot that Sounders goalkeeper Bryan Meredith parried. Romero easily put away the rebound.
Chivas pushed forward effectively over the next few minutes but got nothing out of it, and Seattle's quick sequence in the 83rd minute -- with Johnson playing Montero into space and Montero, as he reached the top of the box, picking out Evans to the right -- ended the suspense. Ochoa added the fourth five minutes later.
The result wasn't unexpected -- the Sounders haven't lost in the Open Cup since the 2007 semifinals (they were beaten on penalties after a draw in the 2008 semifinals) -- but Chivas' performance was disappointing. A lost opportunity or just another step in the club's evolution toward what it will become?
“It's both. It's definitely both,” Fraser said. “There are things that we have to learn from and have to grow from, but without a doubt it's a lost opportunity. We did well to get tyo the semifinals, and if we're a little cleaner, maybe our conversation is a little different.”
WORTH NOTING: The Sounders outshot Chivas, 18-4; the tally was 9-0 until Juan Pablo Angel one-bounced a free kick to Meredith in the 58th minute. ... Los Angeles Maccabi and Bethlehem Steel have the most titles, with five apiece. Maccabee last won in 1981, Bethlehem in 1926. Chicago Fire, MLS's best club in the competition, is one of three teams with four championships. ... Sporting Kansas City won in 2004, as the Kansas City Wizards. ... Seattle won its titles with wins at D.C. United (2009, 2-1) and at CenturyLink Field against Columbus (2010, 2-1) and Chicago (2011, 2-0). ... The last team to reach four straight finals was a St. Louis team that made it to the title game six years running (1932-37, winning twice) under three different names: Stix, Baer and Fuller; St. Louis Central Breweries; and St. Louis Shamrocks. Bethlehem (Pa.) Steel went to five in a row (winning four) from 1915 through 1919. ... Former Chivas forward Justin Braun, who went to expansion Montreal last November in the deal to bring James Riley to L.A., was traded Wednesday to Real Salt Lake, his hometown team, for a 2014 draft pick.
U.S. OPEN CUP
Starfire Sports Complex (Tukwila, Wash.)
Seattle Sounders (MLS) 4, Chivas USA (MLS) 1
S -- Eddie Johnson (Osvaldo Alonso) 31
S -- Osvaldo Alonso pen. 48
C -- Cesar Romero 74
S -- Brad Evans (Fredy Montero) 83
S -- Sammy Ochoa 88
Seattle Sounders: Bryan Meredith; Zach Scott, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez; Cordell Cato (Brad Evans, 61), Osvaldo Alonso, Andy Rose, Alex Caskey (Alvaro Fernandez, 81); Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson (Sammy Ochoa, 86). Unused subs: Marc Burch, Josh Ford, Jeff Parke, Mauro Rosales.
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Jorge Villafaņa; Paolo Cardozo, Oswaldo Minda, Ben Zemanski (Ryan Smith, 85), Blair Gavin (Cesar Romero, 64); Juan Pablo Angel (Jose Erik Correa, 69), Alejandro Moreno. Unused subs: Tim Melia, Casey Townsend, Peter Vagenas, John Alexander Valencia.
Yellow cards: Alonso 42, Minda 44, Califf 77.
Referee: Chris Penso. Att.: 4,500.
Philadelphia Union (MLS) 0, Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 2 (Peterson 65, Zusi 93+)
Seattle (MLS) at Sporting Kansas City (MLS), time TBA