Cubs

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.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: