USOC Preview: Seattle, Chicago primed for Open Cup final

SEATTLE SOUNDERS vs. CHICAGO FIRE
CenturyLink Field, Seattle
October 4, 2011
10 pm ET (Fox Soccer)

The Chicago Fire finished their expansion season with a bang, winning both the MLS and US Open Cup. Since then, the Fire have reached the semifinal eight times in the USOC and won four titles, making them one of the most successful clubs in the history of America’s oldest soccer tournament.

On Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field in Seattle (10 pm ET, Fox Soccer), Chicago will face the Seattle Sounders, themselves trying to tie the record by winning their third straight Open Cup, in front of a crowd expected to reach nearly 40,000.

It’s a case of recent success versus storied tradition. Now all that’s left to figure out is which one will prevail.

Chicago Fire

The Fire are 28-8-3 all time in USOC play, and have only lost once in the final – in 2004 to the then-Kansas City Wizards. The Fire have reached the final by defeating the USL Richmond Kickers, the Cindarellas who took down the Columbus Crew and Sporting KC, in a dramatic 2-1 result.

But as good as that win was for Chicago, their recent form has been even better. Including the win over Richmond, the Fire have won six of their last eight competitive games. Striker Dominic Oduro has set the pace, netting five goals over that stretch, but scoring duties have been shared throughout the squad, with Marco Pappa bagging a hat trick last Wednesday against Real Salt Lake.

Head coach Frank Klopas gave several regular starters a rest for the weekend's match against Houston. Oduro, Pappa, and forward Patrick Nyarko all saw their minutes limited, while Pavel Pardo, Dan Gargan and Josip Mikulic did not see action. Sebastian Grazzini did not play and is listed as questionable for Tuesday.

“Now we have the Open Cup finals and that is what we are concentrating on," Oduro said after the Houston game. "This game is past.”

In search of Open Cup glory, it’s expected that Klopas will put out his best starting XI.

Seattle Sounders

The Sounders, the two-time reigning champions, come into Tuesday’s game fresh off a 9,000-mile road trip that spanned three countries. Head coach Sigi Schmid gave several starters the day off against the New England Revolution on Saturday to keep them fresh for Tuesday.

“It’s going to help us,” Schmid said to MLSsoccer.com over the weekend. “We were able to rest the players that we needed to rest and wanted to rest, and so I think those guys will be ready to go.”

After a torrid August that saw Seattle go 7-0-1 in all competitions, the Sounders have had a relatively pedestrian September, going 3-2-1. To get to the final, however, Seattle had to fight their way through the LA Galaxy and FC Dallas, and should be well prepared for MLS opposition going into Tuesday’s matchup.

The Open Cup win in their expansion season earned the Sounders their first silverware in MLS. The trophy is important to the club, and there is expected to be 40,000 fans on hand to remind them.

“There’s been a lot of pride dating back to the USL days in the Open Cup,” said Roger Levesque, one of three remaining holdovers from the USL Sounders. “ […] With the MLS team coming in, it’s one of those things where regardless of who steps on the field and what competition it is, the goal is to win. I think that attitude has developed over the last few years.”