Fire fall to Sounders in U.S. Open Cup final

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Fire fall to Sounders in U.S. Open Cup final

Tuesday, Oct. 4, 2011
Posted: 11:30 p.m.

WATCH: Klopas talks after 2-0 loss to Seattle

SEATTLE (AP)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 35,615the largest ever for any game in the competitionMontero was in the perfect position to clean up after Johnson made a diving save on Jeff Parkes 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 hasnt 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. Its 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 years CCL.

While Seattle dominated the competition in recent seasons, Chicago wasnt 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 Seattles 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 Parkes 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.

Chicagos best chance in the first half came in the 39th minute when Marco Pappas 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 didnt have opportunities like them, Chicagos Pavel Pardo said. Thats difficult to win when you dont have the ball and difficult when you dont have the opportunity to score.

Tuesdays 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 doesnt want the Open Cup to be the only highlight of this season, with the MLS playoffs less than a month away.

Were not done yet. We still have one more very, very important competition left, Keller said.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Penn State is the Big Ten champ, as for Playoff: 'It's on you now, the committee'

Penn State is the Big Ten champ, as for Playoff: 'It's on you now, the committee'

INDIANAPOLIS — The Nittany Lions are Big Ten champs. Does that mean they’ll get into the College Football Playoff?

In the hours leading up to Saturday night’s Big Ten Championship Game, the consensus answer was “no.” After all, Washington was impressive Friday night in its Pac-12 title game win over Colorado, impressive enough to look Playoff bound. Alabama and Ohio State figured to be locks. And if Clemson took care of business against Virginia Tech, then the Tigers figured to snag that last open spot. Heck, even if something crazy happened to Clemson, Michigan might have had a better chance than whichever team won the Big Ten title game.

But then the Big Ten title game happened, and Penn State’s epic comeback victory over Wisconsin — erasing a three-touchdown deficit behind the sensational efforts of Trace McSorley in a 38-31 win— has everyone asking the same question: Did the Lions do enough to make a big jump into the final four?

James Franklin had his answer.

“What I do know is we just won the toughest conference in college football. We’ve won nine straight. They say you’re allowed to overcome early setbacks? We’ve done that.

“It’s on you now, the committee.”

The truth is that Penn State has a mighty appealing resume. The Lions are winners of nine straight games, including the conference-championship bout. They have a pair of top-10 wins, including taking down the second-ranked Buckeyes. They’re playing as well as anyone in the conference and stack up with country’s finest.

It would make a lot of sense for the selection committee to put Penn State in the final four.

“These last nine weeks we’ve just continued to get better and better,” McSorley said, not advocating for a Playoff spot but providing an assessment of how far this team has come. “Coming in each week and preparing harder. Taking it one game at a time, never overlooking anything. There are a lot of times rankings and that stuff came out, there’s been a lot of noise about where (we) ranked and that sort of stuff. We just stayed focused on the next game and the next thing that was our task.

"And for us to continue to have that mindset with the ultimate goal in the background — it’s a one-game-at-a-time mentality, but we know what we’re working toward — I think it was awesome for our team. And for us to continue to come in and continue to get better each week, taking the next step, never staying the same but never falling back, always continuing to improve. It’s tremendous the improvement that we’ve made from Week 5 until now.”

But the question isn’t whether the Lions are deserving or not. They are. The question is: How do you box one of the other teams out? What exactly did Washington do to fall behind Penn State? The Huskies entered the weekend ranked fourth and put a 31-point whooping on the eighth-ranked team in the country. And what about Clemson? The third-ranked Tigers survived a scare from Virginia Tech in a high-scoring ACC title game. They won their conference championship, and now they should be eliminated?

And then there’s Michigan hanging out there at No. 5, which had the same regular-season record as Penn State and won the head-to-head matchup by 39 points.

The selection committee has a hard few hours ahead of it. Perhaps this will be 2014 all over again, when Ohio State impressed so much in the Big Ten title game that it leaped over two teams to make it into the field of four. Perhaps there wasn’t enough Penn State could do — and it did an awful lot Saturday night — to get past victorious Clemson and Washington teams, each of which has only one loss to its name.

And maybe that’s why the Lions were already practicing their gracious-loser responses after the big win Saturday. While Franklin politicked in front of a raucous bunch of Penn State fans at Lucas Oil Stadium, his players were happy just to be nominated, so to speak.

“We’ll be watching, no doubt about it. But I think the best thing about tomorrow is, regardless, we know we’re going to get another opportunity to play another game and play as a family, and I think that’s what’s most important,” linebacker Jason Cabinda said. “We’re just so excited. Regardless of the opportunity, it’s going to be an awesome opportunity, regardless of where it’s going to be whether it’s a Playoff or it’s a Rose Bowl or whatever bowl game. We’re going to be super excited about it.”

“You want to compete for a national championship, you want to play for a national championship, but you also can only control what you can control,” running back Saquon Barkley said. “Obviously we set ourselves to be in the Rose Bowl or the Playoff, and if we get left out we’re still playing for a Rose Bowl. … You can’t go wrong with that.”

Obviously, the alternative is pretty nice, too. Remember that Penn State wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near this position. The Lions are still working out from under the shadow of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, not to mention they play in the toughest division in college football, sharing the standings with top-ranked giants Ohio State and Michigan and last year’s conference champ Michigan State.

Making the Rose Bowl? That would be a huge deal for a program that was considered accomplished for 7-6 seasons in each of Franklin’s first two at the helm.

It would be unwise to write Penn State completely out of the Playoff picture quite yet. The selection committee will be having long conversations about the merits of the Lions versus the merits of the Huskies and Tigers and Wolverines.

Penn State’s fate at this point is truly a mystery, something that wasn’t expected when the night started.

But unexpected has kind of been a theme for the Lions this season. Maybe they’ve got one more big unexpected surprise left in them come Sunday afternoon.

“We’re going to wake up tomorrow, go back to State College, watch the selection committee do whatever they want to do, and we’re going to start preparing for whoever it is they announce who we’re playing and where we’re going,” wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton said. “Obviously we can’t control where we’re going, but like we’re been saying all year, as long as we’re taking care of our business, everything else will take care of itself.”

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks look to bounce back vs. Jets tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Winnipeg Jets tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Seeking revenge.

In their first meeting of the season, the Jets ended the Blackhawks' 11-game point streak by shutting them out 4-0 in Winnipeg. The Blackhawks will look to get even tonight when the Jets come into their building, where the Blackhawks are 10-1-2. The Jets haven't been as successful away from home, carrying a 4-8-2 road record into the United Center.

2. Tired legs? Not so fast.

It will be a quick turnaround for the Blackhawks, who will play their second game in as many days traveling from Philadelphia to Chicago. But don't expect fatigue to play too much of a role. Well, maybe it will, but the Blackhawks have been close to perfect in the second of a back-to-back with a 4-0-1 record compared to 3-3-0 in the first game. It also helps that Saturday's game against the Flyers was at 12 p.m., giving the team some extra time to recover for a divisional matchup. The Jets, on the other hand, will being playing in their second game in as many nights as well, having played St. Louis last night which ended in a 3-2 overtime win for the Jets. 

3. Who's in, who's out on D?

Trevor van Riemsdyk returned to the lineup Saturday, and certainly showed some rust after missing more than six weeks with an upper-body injury. With it being the second of a back-to-back, the Blackhawks could look to rotate the blue line and reinsert Gustav Forsling, who was a healthy scratch for the first time, back into the equation and perhaps Michal Rozsival, too.

4. Patrik Laine.

The No. 2 overall pick in 2016 has scored four goals and an assist in his last three games, continuing his phenomenal rookie campagin. He's on pace to reach almost 40 goals, which is incredible for a rookie in an era where scoring gets harder and harder. He's tied with Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 16 goals, one of which came against Chicago in the first meeting. 

5. Capitalize on special teams.

The Jets haven't been particularly good on special teams lately. They're 3-for-26 on the power play in their last 10 games, which is an 11.5 percent success rate, and are 26-for-36 on the penalty kill (72.2 percent) in their last eight. Their power play percentage ranks 20th in the league at 15.2 and penalty kill ranks 25th at 79.0. They're trending in the wrong direction. The Blackhawks are still struggling to find a rhythm on the power play, so perhaps this is a good opportunity to break through.

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