A couple months ago, the United States found themselves deadlocked with Belgium with time expiring in the second half. With a chance to win the game, Chris Wondolowski was given a perfect opportunity to score a goal that would surely send the United States to the World Cup quarter-finals. He sent the ball over the bar, and the U.S. lost in extra time after Belgium scored two goals.
Tonight, the Philadelphia Union found themselves deadlocked with Seattle Sounders with time expiring in the second half. With chance to win the game, Vincent Nogueira was given a perfect opportunity to score a goal that would surely give the Union their first trophy in franchise history. He hit the bar, and the Union lost in extra time after the Sounders scored two goals.
The game was a fascinating battle of possession and counterattack. Though Seattle controlled the majority of possession, the game saw a lot of back-and-forth action that entertained consistently through ups and downs and highs and lows for 120 minutes.
Andrew Wenger dominated future Tottenham fullback DeAndre Yedlin along the left wing all match long, and one instance in the first half resulted in an almost goal. After beating Yedlin, Wenger put a cross on net which found Sebastien Le Toux. Le Toux got behind Seattle defender Leonadro Gonzalez and put a great shot on net. Unfortunately for Le Toux, Stefan Frei's right leg was up to the task of stopping what looked to be a surefire goal.
The Union wished for better results there, and eight minutes later, they got it. Off a free kick from a dangerous position, Maidana chipped it into the box where the ball found the head of Maurice Edu. Out-jumping Zach Scott, Edu directed the ball on goal and past a helpless Frei to give the Union a deserved first half lead in a championship game.
The second half began and it did not begin well for the Union. Off the tail end of a series of corner kicks, the Sounders recorded their equalizer. This one came when a whipped ball in the box got headed about like a tennis ball before Chad Barrett got his head on it and directed it toward the goal. The Union's first half effort was for naught, and the Sounders had their equalizer.
The Sounders dominated the first part of the second half and it appeared as if their winner could only be a matter of time, especially after Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins each missed the net by inches. As time went on though, the tide began to change. The match had been back for and forth all game long so it was no surprise when the bulk of the chances swung back to the Union. And did they ever have their chances.
In the 71st minute a Zac MacMath clearance sprung Cristian Maidana for the breakaway but free from Wenger tormenting him, Yedlin used his blazing speed to track back and prevent the opportunity. That would not be the last chance the Union had at a winner in regulation. A blocked Ray Gaddis shot created a wide open net for Pedro Ribeiro, but Ribeiro only ended up flubbing it right to Frei.
Then in stoppage time the Union had yet another chance to pick up the win. Maidana flicked a ball perfectly to the Union's best player, Nogueira, but Nogueira could only muster a shot off the bar. The Union would not be near where they are right now if not for Nogueira, but shooting seems to be a bit of a weakness of his and he is surely going to regret that one in the morning. The Union were inches away from winning the U.S. Open Cup, and they were going to extra time instead.
And indeed, that chance to win it would be the Union's best and last. In the first half of extra time, Martins played Dempsey into acres of space. Dempsey scored easily to make it 2-1 and give Seattle a lead they would not relinquish. Then in the second half of extra time, Martins got a 1-on-1 opportunity with Ray Gaddis. Martins had Gaddis beat enough that MacMath was forced to come out to challenge the shot, and Martins sent it past him and into the net. The goal clinched the 3-1 victory, and the Union would not come close to getting a goal back.
While tonight's loss is disappointing, it should not take away from how awesome it was the Union made it this far in the U.S. Open Cup. Considering the depths of despair Union fans were in before the World Cup break, I'd say being upset that the Union fell just short in the U.S. Open Cup Final is quite the improvement. And now that the Union are tied for 5th place in the Eastern Conference and surging, it could only be a matter of time before the Union have a second shot at the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League berth.