It’s finally here. After all of the hype, mostly by DC United, the US Open Cup final has arrived. What makes this edition of the USOC so interesting is that this game means more to both teams than just the national soccer championship. Bad blood exists between the two front offices over the game’s location, signaling that MLS may have a new rivalry in the making.
The budding rivalry between these two teams stems from one specific incident. Today’s match will be played on DC United’s home field, RFK Stadium. Throughout the entire tournament, DC United has never had to play a game on the road. Seattle also bid for the final match, but lost because of stadium available at US Soccer’s desired start time. This has led to unkind words from the Sounders front office regarding the process, something that has irked DC United. For Seattle, this is match is partially about showing they deserved to host the game, regardless of the circumstances.
The winner of the US Open Cup also gets a spot in the 2010-2011 CONCACAF Champions League. For DC United, that means they would be the only team so far to qualify for every year of the CCL. Houston also has a shot at claiming that, but given DC United’s nearly constant connection to MLS firsts, the drive to the CCL will be enough motivation. Seattle is eager to prove that they would do well in the CCL, despite the struggles of MLS teams have experienced in the competition the last two seasons.
For Seattle, this game is a also shot at legitimacy. After a torrid start to the season, the Sounders have sunk back into normalcy, experiencing the typical ups and downs of any expansion team. The Sounders still find themselves in playoff contention. Winning the Cup could be the confidence boost they need to push through the playoffs in their bid to be the first team to win the MLS Cup in their expansion season since the Chicago Fire in 1998. Chicago also won the USOC in 1998.
As much as Seattle has riding on this game, DC United ultimately has more. This is due largely to their marketing campaign, We Win Trophies. DC United is hands down the most storied club in MLS, winning more MLS Cups than any other team. They are also the defending USOC champion and are seeking to be the first team in the professional era of the tournament, beginning in 1996 when MLS teams first entered the competition. DC United is all about tradition, and adding yet another MLS and US Soccer first to their already impressive resume will certainly be on their minds tonight.
Prediction: Seattle Sounders FC 2, DC United 2 (Seattle wins 4-3 on penalty kicks)A lot has been said about Seattle’s recent form, but they haven’t exactly played poorly. They have the skill necessary to take the game over. DC United has collapsed in several games recently, causing some to call for the head of Tom Soehn. The win in Chicago has quieted down the mob for now, but a loss tonight at home could doom Soehn’s tenure with DC. Despite the motivation for both sides, I see this one ending as a draw. Since we can’t have draws in championship games, we’ll see penalty kicks. Normally PKs are a toss-up, but in this case I have to give the edge to Seattle. Kasey Keller has earned it.