Seattle Sounders Vs. Chicago Fire, 2011 U.S. Open Cup Final: Preview, History On The Line For Both Clubs

Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC and Daniel Paladini of the Chicago Fire battle for the ball in an MLS at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

Two of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer square off for the countries oldest soccer trophy, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has a storied past that only a select few have been able to get their name on multiple times. Tomorrow night, history will be made again. Seattle Sounders FC are going for their third straight USOC title, a first since Greek America SC did it back in the late 1960s. 

Standing in their way is the Chicago Fire, who are seeking history of their own. They would like to be the first Major League Soccer team to lift the Dewar Trophy for the fifth time, a first for a pro-era club. Chicago is 4-1-0 all-time in USOC finals matches with the only loss coming to the Kansas City Wizards in 2004. The Fire are also winless in three meetings in Seattle against the Sounders, dating back to 2009.

Both teams come into this match as two of the hottest clubs in MLS over the last two months. Since August 1, both teams have earned 19 points in league play, tied for the most with the Los Angeles Galaxy

Seattle may have to go into this match without two key players, James Riley may be out with a concussion and MLS MVP-candidate Mauro Rosales is still having issues with a MCL sprain. Both are said to be game-time decisions for Sigi Schmid. 

Chicago should be fully-fit for this match as they rested some starters in their 1-1 draw in Houston over the weekend. The Fire will need to lean heavily on Marco Pappa and the quick feet of Dominic Oduro in this one to get their offense going. Oduro has been very impressive as of late as he currently has 12 goals on the season. Pappa on the other hand is looking good as he netted a hat trick last Wednesday against Real Salt Lake.

The Fire will need a big effort from their defense as Fredy Montero has been hot as of late. Expect a fun matchup with Montero and Jahil Anibaba or Cory Gibbs

The real fun will come down to these two clubs in the midfield. Seattle has been doing very well with creating chances and keeping possession through their midfield with veterans Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans. along with their wing play through either Rosales, Alvaro Fernandez and Lamar Neagle

Chicago has been like a new team in the midfield over these last two months since Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini came on board. Both have helped free up Pappa and allow for Oduro to get open into space more often. Their defense has also been improved with the growth of keeper Sean Johnson and the back four coming together nicely. 

X-Factors

Marco Pappa (Chicago) - After reviewing the RSL-Chicago game, it is still pretty clear that this club goes as Pappa goes. Oduro has done well to score as many as he has this season but Pappa is still the biggest factor going on this Fire team. Seattle will need to key in on him and eliminate the passes out of the midfield to Oduro and Patrick Nyarko

Fredy Montero (Seattle) - 5 goals and 3 assists in last 6 MLS games is reason alone to key on on Montero. The Fire have to know that he is key to getting the offense going if Rosales is unable to play in this game. 

Prediction

The crowd could be a fun factor in this one as CenturyLink Field will be packed for this game. Both have history on their side in a way in this competition. Chicago is an impressive 28-8-3 record in Open Cup play since 1998, which has helped them win four Cups already. But the home crowd and strong play from the Sounders favors them a tad bit more in this one. I like Montero to keep his current scoring up and someone like Fernandez or Mike Fucito to bag the game winner. Chicago will make this one interesting make no mistake about that but with this game in Seattle, the Sounders have the edge.

Pick: Seattle 2, Chicago 1

TV: Fox Soccer, 10pm ET (7pm PT)

For more on this match be sure to check out SBNation.com's Seattle Sounders blog, Sounder at Heart and Chicago Fire blog, Hot Time In Old Town for more information and coverage of this match. 

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