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.”