It is only fitting that the finalists for the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup also have the top two scorers in the tournament’s modern history.
Philadelphia Union striker Sebastien Le Toux, the top scorer with 14 goals, will go up against Seattle Sounders FC forward Kenny Cooper who is tied for second with 13 tallies, when both teams face each other on Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup Final at PPL Park in Chester, Pennsylvania (7:30 p.m. ET, GolTV).
Tuesday’s game, however, is entirely focused on the trophy and far less about who is leading that scoring race.
“I want him to score two goals, but we win 3-2,” Le Toux said. “So he passes in front of me and we win the Cup.
“The fact that we are both leading scorers is a nice thing, but it’s not what we want. We are both looking at the trophy right now and we want to get it no matter what.”
For both forwards, their professional paths crossed once before when they were New York Red Bulls teammates in 2012. Cooper was the team’s leading scorer that year with 18 goals in MLS play. Le Toux had a down season with five goals between Vancouver and New York that year, but he has found his scoring touch again this season with the Union.
“Seba’s been doing great this year,” Cooper said. “We met each other a long time ago in Dallas and had the opportunity to play with each other in New York a couple years ago. He’s a great guy and a great player. I’m happy for his success and the great form he’s in right now.”
Cooper is in search of his first U.S. Open Cup crown while Le Toux is in search for his second. The French forward assisted Roger Levesque’s game-winning goal in the 2009 U.S. Open Cup Final as the Major League Soccer expansion side Seattle Sounders FC defeated host D.C. United 2-1 at RFK Stadium.
“It’s a competition that I’ve won one time before, so it’s very important,” Le Toux said. “I feel lucky to have won a final five years ago and I just hope to win again. It’ll be difficult, but we’ll try to be ready.”
Along with the title, the U.S. Open Cup winner also will be rewarded with a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, a familiar competition for Seattle after participating in 2012-13.
“Champions League is a competition that we’ve been in in the past. We enjoy that competition and look forward to it,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Getting knocked out in the semis [against Santos Laguna] the last time around gave us a taste of how close we can get to the final game. Being able to eliminate a team from Mexico (Tigres UANL) was something that was special at the time. But that’s far in the future.”
For Philadelphia-area native and Union interim head coach Jim Curtin, a two-time winner of the U.S. Open Cup, this year’s tournament carries more significance in his eyes.
“It’s something that means a lot to me, being from this city,” Curtin said. “To do it here would be special. It’s different than a player. I’ve won this competition twice as a player and I lost it once as a player, but as a coach it carries a little more weight. As a player you’re a little more selfish in your thinking and that it’s the team and the individuals. Sure, it’s for the city as well. But being from here, I feel more of the weight, not to let the city down. We want to win.”
The Philadelphia Union and Seattle Sounders FC meet in the championship match tomorrow at PPL Park to decide the winner of the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Today's final press conference in advance of the game begins at 2 p.m. ET and will feature Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin and midfielder Sebastian LeToux as well as Seattle Sounders FC manager Sigi Schmid and forward Kenny Cooper.
Kenny Cooper has a personal incentive to extend Seattle Sounders FC’s dominance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“Lamar Hunt’s name is on [the trophy],” Cooper said. “Lamar’s name is special to my family. My dad played for the Dallas Tornado, which he owned then, and when I first came to league, he was the owner of FC Dallas, where I started.
“I would love to win with this.”
He will get his opportunity Tuesday in Chester, Pennsylvania, at PPL Park when Seattle plays the Philadelphia Union in the Cup final (7:30 p.m. ET, GolTV), the fifth time in six years it has reached the championship match and chance at a fourth title.
Beside the family pride, a win also would put Cooper on par with his father, Ken Cooper Sr., in bragging rights at holiday family dinners. The British-born elder Cooper, who began his goalkeeping career with the Blackburn Rovers, won the 1971 North American Soccer League title with the Tornado.
“He has an NASL ring,” the younger Cooper said. “He’s one up on me at the moment. I’d love to win an MLS Cup ring one day, be part of a team that wins all three things. We’re fighting for all three trophies: the Supporters’ Shield, MLS and the Open Cup. I’d love to wear a ring like my father.”
Cooper has played in the Open Cup final before, in 2007, when he came on late in the second half but could not rally FC Dallas from a one-goal deficit and the New England Revolution claimed the title with a 3-2 victory.
This season, Cooper seems to be determined to claim a title. While he has three goals in 20 MLS games, Cooper has scored a tournament-leading six in four games in the Open Cup.
It is a determination that fits well with Seattle’s approach to the U.S. Open Cup, and the team’s seemingly ownership of it.
“We take a lot of pride in the competition,” said Sounders technical director Chris Henderson. “Even when we played as USL challengers, we went pretty deep into the tournament. That has continued on.
“If you have one night off, you’re out. It’s a knockout. I think we’re 21-3, including PKs. There’s a lot pride in the club in this. To be able to go as far we have, it’s one of hardest competitions to win.”
As a player with six different MLS clubs, Henderson only remembers reaching the semifinals, and most of the teams he played on treated the Open Cup as an afterthought.
“It’s certainly not like that here,” Henderson said.
Seattle won the Open Cup over the first three years the club played in Major League Soccer: 2009, 2010 and 2011. It reached the final in 2012 but lost to Sporting Kansas City.
Last year, Seattle lost its opening game in the tournament to the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, a 1-0 defeat that eliminated the team in the third round. It was a harbinger of a disappointing season that saw the team go winless in its last seven and get eliminated from the MLS Playoffs at the conference semifinal stage.
It was an experience Seattle did not want to repeat. It may seem commonplace for Seattle to win the Cup, but not to the Sounders.
“It never gets routine,” said manager Sigi Schmid, who in addition to the three Open Cups he’s won with Seattle also won one with Columbus, as well as two MLS Cups, a CONCACAF Champions Cup and three College Cups. “To win a fourth Open Cup in six years of existence, I think, is a pretty good statement.
“It’s one of two trophies you can win, maybe although you could count the Supporters’ Shield as a third. I’ve said that if you’re going to enter something, you try to win it. If you’re not trying to win, don’t enter.”
â€¢ Conor Casey Scores First Two International Goals
â€¢ Donovan Nets Game-Winner on Free Kick in the 71st Minute
â€¢ U.S. Faces Costa Rica on Wednesday at RFK Stadium with a Chance to Finish Atop Hexagonal Table
SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras (Oct. 10, 2009) â€” The U.S. Menâ€™s National Team qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa in dramatic fashion with a 3-2 win against Honduras with five goals scored and a penalty missed by Honduras in a heart-stopping second half.
More than 45,000 Honduran supporters rocked Estadio OlÃmpico in San Pedro Sula, uniting behind their national team despite the domestic political strife dominating international headlines. After a scoreless first half that saw both teams shooting off-target, the second half turned into an instant classic with the U.S. getting the deciding goal in the 71st minute from a free kick by midfielder Landon Donovan.
Forward Conor Casey provided the heroics for the U.S., scoring the first two goals of his international career in the 55th and 66th minutes, and setting up the Donovan freekick. It was Caseyâ€™s third appearance in the 2010 qualifying cycle, and the 15th of his career.
The Honduras faithful thought their side would draw even in the 87th minute when the referee awarded a penalty kick in their favor. Carlos Pavon, the all-time leading scorer for Honduras with 55 career goals, shockingly blasted his penalty over the crossbar. Despite the misfortune, the Honduran crowd showed their class by offering the U.S. team a warm ovation following the match.
The U.S. team returns from Honduras to face Costa Rica at RFK Stadium on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 8 p.m. with first place in CONCACAF qualifying on the line. More than 20,000 tickets have been sold for the match that will be broadcast live on ESPN2 and Galavision. Tickets are available at ussoccer.com. To finish first in the group, the U.S. needs to maintain its one-point lead in the standings ahead of Mexico, who travels to Trinidad & Tobago.
â€œThis was the most important game in qualifying because it was the one that qualified us for South Africa 2010,â€ said U.S. head coach Bob Bradley. â€œThe celebration was a very good one because when you have a group that has come together, that has worked hard, that has grown, when theyâ€™ve accomplished something itâ€™s a special feeling. Tonight we can all share that feeling.â€Â
After Honduras got things started with a handful of shots in the first few minutes of the game, the U.S. had the first dangerous opportunity in the 18th minute on a second consecutive corner kick by Donovan. His in-swinger from the left side bounced once in the middle of the penalty area and skipped to an unmarked Carlos Bocanegra. The bounce was too high for Bocanegra to get on top of and he headed the chance over the crossbar.
Eleven minutes later, Carlo Costly perfectly timed his run to beat the U.S. to a clearance over the heads of the U.S. back line. As he dribbled toward goal, he scuffed his shot just inches wide of Tim Howardâ€™s right post.
Back the other way, the U.S. had their best chance to score of the half. Casey held the ball just across midfield on the right side and sent Stuart Holden, who was making his first World Cup qualifying start, free down the line. With plenty of time, Holden sent a pinpoint cross to Davies, whose header from eight yards was saved by Noel Valladares reaching back across his body. The rebound came right back to Davies, but he hit his follow-up effort above the crossbar.
After a scoreless first half, the complexion of the game changed completely just 20 seconds into the second half. U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu fell and made a clumsy foul that set up a Honduras freekick just a yard outside of the U.S. penalty area. Julio Cesar de Leon took a one-step approach on his right-footed shot that curled over the U.S. wall and under the cross bar, just out of the reach of Howard in the 47th minute.
The U.S. answered eight minutes later with Onyewu getting involved in the goal. The U.S. center back served a 50-yard ball to the top of the penalty area, where Davies won the header and popped the ball high in the air. As it came down at the top of the six yard box, Casey spun in the air as he challenged Valladares for the ball, and he made first contact with the back of his head before the goalkeeper could get a hand on it. The ball bounced once before going into the empty goal.
In the 64th minute, forward David Suazo came on for Honduras and moments later he made a great diagonal run right from left to right. He received the ball in stride before unleashing a shot from the right side of the area to the far post that forced Howard to make his best save of the night with a two-handed parry to keep the ball from curling inside the far post.
In the 66th minute, the U.S. took the lead that it would not relinquish. Onyewu stepped in at the top of the U.S. penalty area to win a through ball, and carried the ball forward before he found Davies available on the left wing at midfield. Davies took the ball across midfield before playing it square to Donovan. Donovan dribbled toward the middle and threaded the defense for Casey who got behind the last defender in the area. Casey faked a shot to get Valladares to go down, and then calmly slotted the ball inside the right post.
A minute later, Jonathan Bornstein nearly doubled the U.S. advantage with a 25-yard blast that Valladares pushed back into play. Holden followed up but his shot from the right was blocked by a defender.
The U.S. continued to put the pressure on, and Casey earned a free kick after de Leon was whistled for a foul 22-yards from goal. Just three yards further from goal than de Leon scored from earlier in the half, Donovan perfectly placed the ball over Ricardo Clark standing at the end of the wall. Valladares was screened, and couldnâ€™t react in time as the shot sailed over his back shoulder in the 71st minute.
Four minutes later, Wilson Palacios played a soft pass to Suazo who was in behind the U.S. defense on the right side. He played a cross in to Pavon who put the ball into the net from point-blank range. The goal was waived off, however, as Pavon was correctly ruled offside, in front of Suazo and the ball when the pass was played into the center.
In the 78th minute, play seemed to stand still as de Leon played Ramon NuÃ±ez into the U.S. box with two other Honduran players in an offside position. NuÃ±ez dribbled forward to the endline to bring his teammates back into play, and dropped the ball back for Suazo. He found de Leon a few yards away on the right side of the penalty area. De Leon took a touch toward the penalty spot before drilling a shot past a drawn-out Howard to cut the U.S. lead to 3-2.
In the 87th minute, a NuÃ±ez free kick bounced in the area before coming up and hitting Holdenâ€™s left arm. Referee Roberto Moreno immediately pointed to the spot, and Pavon â€“ who converted a penalty against the U.S. on Sept. 1, 2001, in Washington, D.C., in the last U.S. loss on home soil â€“ missed the chance to equalize.
The U.S. held on for the next five minutes of regulation plus four minutes of added time to become the first CONCACAF team to win in Honduras during the 2010 qualifying cycle.
Honduras was previously 8-0-0 at home in qualifying for South Africa, and with three goals scored the U.S. matched the total that Honduras had allowed in their prior eight home games. The U.S. is now 5-3-1 on the road in qualifying, the best mark in CONCACAF heading into Matchday 10.
The match was the fourth time in nine qualifies that the U.S. surrendered the first goal. In those four matches, however, the U.S. has earned 10 of their 19 points with three come-from-behind wins and one come-from-behind tie.
With his goals, Casey became the 20th different player to score a goal for the U.S. in 2009 â€“ the most ever in one year for the team. Donovan, with his pass to Casey on the second goal, set the U.S. single-year assist record with 10 to pass Cobi Jones.
The USA joins Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain and Korea Republic as the only teams who have participated in all six World Cup since 1990, including secured berths to South Africa in 2010.
Fans who wish to follow the U.S. team to South Africa are encouraged to join U.S. Soccer Supporters Club, the official fan membership program for fans of the U.S. Menâ€™s and Womenâ€™s National Teams. U.S. Soccer SC members will have priority status to purchase 2010 FIFA World Cup tickets through U.S. Soccer, with access ahead of the general public.
Match: United States vs. Honduras
Date: October 10, 2009
Competition: FIFA World Cup Qualifier â€“ Final Round
Venue: Estadio OlÃmpico Metropolitano â€“ San Pedro Sula, Honduras
Kickoff: 8 p.m. MT
Weather: 80 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1Â Â Â 2Â Â Â F
USAÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0Â Â Â 3Â Â Â 3
HONÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â 0Â Â Â Â 2Â Â Â 2
HON â€“ Julio Cesar de Leon (unassisted) 47th minute
USA â€“ Conor Casey (Charlie Davies) 55
USA â€“ Conor Casey (Landon Donovan) 66
USA â€“ Landon Donovan (unassisted) 71
HON â€“ Julio Cesar de Leon (David Suazo) 78
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 2-Jonathan Spector, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), 12-Jonathan Bornstein; 7-Stuart Holden (6-Steve Cherundolo, 90+3), 13-Ricardo Clark, 4-Michael Bradley, 10-Landon Donovan; 9-Charlie Davies (17-Jozy Altidore, 79), 8-Conor Casey (16-Benny Feilhaber, 84)
Subs not used: 11-Kenny Cooper, 14-Jose Torres, 15-Jimmy Conrad, 18-Brad Guzan
Head Coach: Bob Bradley
HON: 18-Noel Valladares; 16-Mauricio Sabillon, 2-Osman Chavez, 3-Maynor Figueroa, 12-Emilio Izaguirre; 17-Edgard Alvarez (11-David Suazo, 64), 6-Hendry Thomas (7-Ramon Nunez, 75), 8-Wilson Palacios, 10-Julio Cesar de Leon (15-Walter Martinez, 80); 13-Carlo Costly, 9-Carlos Pavon
Subs not used: 1-Ricardo Canales, 5-Erick Norales, 14-Boniek Garcia, 4-Melvin Valladares,
Head Coach: Reinaldo Rueda
Stats Summary: USA / HON
Shots: 16 / 13
Shots on Goal: 7 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 5
Fouls: 12 / 16
Offside: 1 / 2
HON â€“ Osman Chavez (caution) 47th minute
HON â€“ Maynor Figueroa (caution) 73
USA â€“ Jonathan Bornstein (caution) 85
Referee: Roberto Moreno (PAN)
Assistant Referee 1: Daniel Williamson (PAN)
Assistant Referee 2: Jaime Smith (PAN)
Fourth Official: Jose Luis Rodriguez (PAN)
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: