Seattle wins third straight US Open Cup
Kasey Keller burst through the door first, dumping a bottle of champagne over the head of coach Sigi Schmid.
James Riley and Fredy Montero followed seconds later to douse Schmid - appropriately one bottle of bubbly for each of the three U.S. Open Cup titles the Seattle Sounders FC now owns.
Montero collected a loose ball off a corner kick scramble and slid it past Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 78th minute, Osvaldo Alonso scored on a breakaway in the final seconds, and the Seattle Sounders FC won the U.S. Open Cup for the third straight year with a 2-0 win over the Fire on Tuesday night.
Playing before a record crowd of 35,615 - the largest ever for any game in the competition - Montero was in the perfect position to clean up after Johnson made a diving save on Jeff Parke's header off a corner kick.
Alonso then started the wild celebration when he dribbled around Johnson and scored in the final seconds of stoppage time.
Moments later, the entire Sounders squad was on stage in the middle of the bedlam with confetti floating in the air and fireworks crackling. Up there was injured midfielder Steve Zakuani, who suffered a gruesome broken ankle early in the season, yet was one of the first to be handed the trophy.
Keller held off from flipping into the goal netting as he did last year when Seattle beat Columbus to win its second title, but team co-owner Drew Carey did manage a headfirst slide on the confetti covered turf.
Despite still being a three-year old franchise, the Sounders have learned how to celebrate momentous victories, especially in the Open Cup.
''To win three in a row is something very special, very unique,'' Schmid said. ''It hasn't been done in a long time. Like we said, every time we enter a competition we want to win it.''
Seattle is the first club in more than 40 years to win three straight titles in the oldest competition in American soccer.
New York Greek-American, from 1967-69, was the last club to win three straight in the tournament. It's a tournament the Sounders found success in before becoming a MLS franchise, then took with seriousness after joining the top level of American soccer.
The victory will likely mean another berth in the CONCACAF Champions League as well for Seattle. The Sounders have advanced to the quarterfinal round in this year's CCL.
While Seattle dominated the competition in recent seasons, Chicago wasn't unfamiliar with Open Cup success. The Fire owned four Open Cup titles before Tuesday night, the last coming in 2006. Interim Fire coach Frank Klopas scored the winning goal when Chicago beat Columbus for the title in 1998.
He was stuck watching the celebration on Tuesday night as Chicago fell to 4-2 all-time in Open Cup finals.
''We came into game knowing it would be a battle,'' Johnson said. ''We fought hard for the first 45 and kept it close. Second half they got a bit of fortune on their side.''
Montero goal was his second in a cup final, going along with one he scored in 2009 when Seattle claimed its first title with a 2-1 win over D.C. United in Washington. Montero also scored the only goal in Seattle's semifinal victory over Dallas in late August.
This time, he found himself alone in front of an open net after Johnson made an excellent diving save of Parke's header.
''We kept trying and trying again until that first goal arrived,'' Montero said through an interpreter.
It was close to being even more of a rout for the Sounders as both Montero and Mike Fucito had shots bounce off posts and stay out of the net.
Chicago's best chance in the first half came in the 39th minute when Marco Pappa's left-footed shot from distance deflected off a Sounders defender and changed direction. Already sliding to his right, Keller made a quick move back to his left and clutched the redirected shot.
''We didn't have opportunities like them,'' Chicago's Pavel Pardo said. ''That's difficult to win when you don't have the ball and difficult when you don't have the opportunity to score.''
Tuesday's victory adds another notch in a monumental few weeks for the Sounders, where they advanced in the CCL, clinched a MLS playoff spot for the third straight season and claimed the Cascadia Cup in their regional rivalry with MLS newcomers Vancouver and Portland.
But Keller was quick to point out that Seattle doesn't want the Open Cup to be the only highlight of this season, with the MLS playoffs less than a month away.
''We're not done yet. We still have one more very, very important competition left,'' Keller said.