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.”