Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders | US Open Cup Final Match Preview
Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders
September 16, 2014, 7:30 pm ET
PPL Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
Watch on: GolTV and The Comcast Network
The Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders will get their shot at the history books on Tuesday evening when the 2014 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final takes place at PPL Park. At stake is the USA's oldest soccer trophy, which will be awarded for the 101st time and is now named after one of the most influential pioneers in US soccer history. Additionally, the winner will receive one of the United States' four berths in the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.
The referee for the game will be Armando Villarreal, assisted by linesmen Peter Manikowski and Corey Parker, and fourth official Matthew Nelson.
This is the first US Open Cup final in the Philadelphia Union’s five-year existence (their previous best finish was the semifinals in 2012), but they come from a part of the country flush with tradition in this tournament. The state of Pennsylvania trails only New York and California for all-time USOC titles with 14 in total, and the Union would bring their home state even with California should they win the trophy. Five of the state's titles belong to the legendary Bethlehem Steel FC, whom the Union have paid homage to with their third kits, often worn during Open Cup matches.
The Sounders, meanwhile, have made the Cup a priority since joining the league in 2009, with three titles and another final apperance to their name so far. After hosting and winning the 2009-2011 finals, the Sounders fell on penalties to Sporting Kansas City in 2012.
The final comes at a perfect time for both teams, as far as form is concerned. Though the Union saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, they fought back to draw the New York Red Bulls 2-2 in their last game before the final while beginning with a number of regular starters on the bench, including Sebastien Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira and Sheanon Williams. Going back further, since Jim Curtin took over coaching duties for John Hackworth on June 10, the Union have gone 9-2-5 in all competitions, a remarkable turnaround after winning just twice before that in 2014.
Seattle also enjoyed last-gasp success this weekend, as they rode an Andy Rose winner in stoppage time to a memorable 3-2 victory over in-conference rivals Real Salt Lake on Friday night. With four wins in a row and an extra day of rest on the Union, the final is coming at a perfect time for Seattle.
The two teams played their lone league meeting of 2014 in Seattle back on May 3. The Union took the lead on an early Brad Evans own goal, but Seattle came back through Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall to win 2-1.
Players to Watch
Sebastien Le Toux, Philadelphia Union: We'll start with the obvious. Le Toux (right) is the all-time leading goalscorer in the modern era of the US Open Cup, and he's done it all with the Sounders and the Union. This time around, he has three goals to his name in the tournament, a brace in a 2-1 extra time win over the New York Cosmos and another in the quarterfinals against the New England Revolution. In league play, Le Toux tops the Union scoring charts with 12 goals and is second on the team in assists, with six.
Kenny Cooper, Seattle Sounders: The Sounders have a tailor-made match (and conspicuous lookalike) for Le Toux in Cooper. The big forward has scored in each of the Sounders' four Open Cup games, including a brace against the Chicago Fire, for a total of six goals in this year's competition. Though much of the attention rightly goes to the likes of Martins and Clint Dempsey, the experienced Cooper could be the X-factor for Seattle, just as he has done throughout this year's competition.
Philadelphia Union Outlook
The Sounders are no doubt an intimidating foe, but the Union could match up well in their 4-2-3-1 formation with two defensive midfielders in theory helping cover the space in the middle that Dempsey and Martins love to exploit. Additionally, the Union have boast the ever-reliable Le Toux and Conor Casey, and have recently seen the emergence of another legitimate scoring threat with the continued development of Andrew Wenger. They may not match Seattle pound-for-pound on paper, but they certainly have the acumen to top the Supporters' Shield leaders.
Seattle Sounders Outlook
Though playing away from home, Sounders fans should be fancying the team's chances in any venue given the form they've showed throughout the season. The captivating 3-2 win against RSL last Friday was a perfect example of the type of attacking soccer they excel at (see the final point here). If they're able to find space between the Union midfield and defense, where Dempsey and Martins can combine best, they'll put any defensive worries (six goals conceded in their last four games, all wins) well behind them.
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- Road to the Final: A look at Philly's remarkable win in Harrisburg
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- Top 10 most memorable matches in Sounders Open Cup history
- Sounders will want to keep MLS momentum going to capture Open Cup in Philly