At first glance, the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final looks like a mismatch. The Seattle Sounders have been one of the best teams in MLS all year and currently sit second in the league. The Chicago Fire are 13th in MLS and haven't been a factor all season long. Tuesday evening final will also be played at CenturyLink Field in Seattle before more than 33,000 people so the Fire have no chance, right? Wrong.
While the Fire have been insignificant all season, they have been fantastic of late. In the last two months they have been the third-best team in MLS and thanks to the incredible play of Marco Pappa, Dominic Oduro and the rest of the team, they've really picked things up. They're not the same team that everyone began ignoring in April and Jeremah Oshan from SB Nation's Sounders blog, Sounder at Heart, showed exactly how much better the Fire have gotten.
Over this roughly two-month span, the Fire have been scoring at a clip of 1.9 goals per game in all competitions and have outscored their opponents by eight goals. That run of form has allowed them to qualify for their MLS record sixth Open Cup final (of which they've won five) and climb to within three points of the final playoff spot. This all comes after a start to the MLS season in which the Fire were scoring 1.05 goals per game and had been outscored by seven, while sinking to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
There is no doubt that the Sounders are still favorites. Especially at home, they should get past the Fire, but the visitors will give Seattle a tough match. This isn't the same Fire team from earlier in the year and they have the individual quality, especially in Pappa, to flip the match and send the trophy on its way to Chicago.