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The Union watch US Open Cup final with interest

Peter Nowak may be rooting for the Chicago Fire to get their fifth US Open Cup title (10pm, Fox Soccer), but the rest of the Union might want to pull for Seattle.

“I’ve been through the scenario where they tried to position it a week after MLS Cup and one year we lost in the final at Columbus, we played the MLS final on a Sunday in New England and we had to play the Open Cup final on a Thursday in Columbus. It was trying to get guys, you know, sober, for the game that was sometimes difficult,” Seattle Coach Sigi Schmid said yesterday on a conference call.

Weekend opponent

It certainly wouldn’t hurt if Fredy Montero and the boys were sporting wicked hangovers when Philly rolls into Seattle this weekend. The Union must be looking at the single point they got from Chivas USA the way you look at a drunken internet purchase that arrives through Overnight Mail after a rough night at the bar. Really? I bought a pair of reclaimed beam wood plant stands? A similar Union performance against the Sounders will make the final stretch of the season a series of nailbiters.

Seattle, on the other hand, won’t give two yawns about their weekend match until Wednesday at the earliest. They have already sold 33,000 tickets to the final and will be trying to win a third straight USOC in front of a record crowd.

The Sounders would become only the third team to win three straight US Open Cups since the tournament debuted in 1913-14. Stix, Baer and Fuller won in 1933 and 1934, then changed sponsors to become St. Louis Central Breweries and won again in 1935. Greek American AA won from 1967-69, following an impressive four wins in seven years by the Philadelphia Ukrainians.

Le Toux legacy

Seattle won their first USOC in 2009 as an expansion team. The winning goal was scored by Roger “The Vest” Levesque, who had this to say after the match: “It’s all Sebastien La Toux, all his hard work and effort and determination throughout the game. He won the ball off their center back, took a touch to the endline and I just made it to the back post. I was going to do everything I could not to let that slip by.”

Now Levesque wants us to think Seba Le Toux was working hard late in the game? What will that crazy boy think of next?

Asked why his team seems to place such an emphasis on the USOC, Sounders coach Schmidt said, “Our philosophy is, even though there are ‘other fish to fry,’ if you’re not going to try and win it, let’s not enter it. So whatever we enter we’re going to try to win.”

Those words express the philosophy many expected Peter Nowak and the Union to use. In 2010, Philadelphia put a young lineup out against the New York Red Bulls. Two first half goals by Conor Chinn were enough for New York to dispatch the Union and end any hope of matching Seattle’s expansion run to the Cup.

This year, Seattle has had to pass another series of tough tests to make the final. After a tight 2-1 win over the Kitsap Pumas, the Sounders blew away the Galaxy 3-1 and snuck by FC Dallas 1-0 in the semifinals thanks to a bit of Fredy Montero magic.

A strong second half of the MLS season (including a current run of spectacular form) and home field advantage makes Seattle the odds-on favorite to take this Cup home.

The Fire want a fiver

Chicago won’t go down easily, though. A 1-0 win over the Rochester Rhinos preceded a 4-0 drubbing of the Red Bulls in July. Chicago barely squeezed by the Richmond Kickers in the semis.

The Fire, under interim head coach Frank Klopas have had a second half renaissance. Midseason acquisitions Pavel Pardo and (especially) Sebastian Grazzini have added control and flair to the side respectively, although Grazzini is iffy for the final. Chicago’s place in the final shows how well the USOC fits with MLS. As an also-ran in the league for most of the season, Chicago focused on the Open Cup and it paid off.

A win for Chicago would tie them with Maccabi LA of California and local club Bethlehem Steel, both of whom boast five Cup titles.

Peter Nowak led the Fire to two USOC crowns as a player. He may be rooting for his old team when he watches tonight, but his real focus will be on Seattle, and what the Union can expect on Saturday.

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