Guillermo Barros Schelotto
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Recap: Crew vs. Sounders USOC

Sanna Nyassi scored twice and Seattle Sounders FC defended their Lamar Hunt US Open Cup title on Tuesday at Qwest Field, earning a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew in front of the largest crowd for a final in the history of the tournament.

The Sounders – who celebrated in front of a raucous crowd of 31,311 after the match was over – become the first MLS team to win two straight USOC crowns, and the first team to win consecutive titles since the New York Pancyprian Freedoms won in 1982-83.

The hero was inevitably Nyassi, who scored in the 38th and 66th minutes to help Seattle rally from an early 1-0 hole. It’s been an impressive few days for the Gambian midfielder, who scored his first career MLS goal in the Sounders’ 3-2 win over Toronto FC last Saturday, and was the man in the right spot twice to help the Sounders overcome an early 1-0 hole.

The Crew received a goal from Kevin Burns in the 24th minute but couldn’t hold on, and failed to win their first USOC title since 2002. They also lost during the 1998 final to the Chicago Fire.

Meanwhile, the Crew’s ineffectiveness against Seattle continued. In five matches over two seasons, Robert Warzycha’s team has failed to win against Sigi Schmid’s Seattle side, posting a 0-3-2 record overall.

The mark of more than 31,000 fans on Tuesday smashed the previous finals record involving an MLS team, set in 2000 when Chicago beat the Miami Fusion in front of 19,164 fans at Soldier Field. The previous attendance high for a USOC final was set back in 1929, when 21,583 fans attended the final played at Dexter Park in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Nyassi’s game-winner came shortly after the break, but much of the dirty work went to Steve Zakuani. The Sounders youngster snuck inside the Crew’s Frankie Hejduk to send in a seemingly harmless cross, but when the ball bounced off the crossbar it was Nyassi’s moment to shine. He promptly pounded the ball into the net from just a few feet away, then celebrated in front of a pulsating supporters’ crowd.

The Crew got on the board early thanks to some nifty teamwork. Hejduk streaked down the side and found forward Steven Lenhart in the box, and Lenhart dropped it off to Burns. He coolly slotted a shot past Seattle’s Kasey Keller for the 1-0 lead.

But it was short-lived in Nyassi’s hands. After Gruenebaum came off his line to punch away a cross in the 38th minute, the ball ricocheted to Nyassi just outside the penalty area. His shot easily found the net and the crowd erupted, only setting the scene for his dramatic second goal after the break.

The Crew struggled to equalize and the match turned chippy down the stretch, but they still nearly equalized in the 85th minute. US international Robbie Rogers - playing sparingly in just his second game back from nearly two months sidelined with a knee injury- rang a shot off the crossbar after a cross from Hejduk, but the Crew could muster no more serious chances.

Both teams came out with a first-choice starting lineup. The only change for Seattle was at left back, where Tyson Wahl stepped in for Leo Gonzalez. With only five international players allowed in U.S. Open Cup competition, Gonzalez had to be sacrificed to make room for the other international players.

Columbus brought their first team out as well, with only Gruenebaum starting in place of Will Hesmer the only change from the weekend. (Hesmer has started every one of the Crew’s league games, while Gruenebaum was Warzycha’s choice in in Champions League and U.S. Open Cup.)

Seattle started on the front foot, with Fredy Montero forcing Gruenebaum to smother a header inside two minutes. One of the most intriguing matchups was on the Crew’s defensive right side, where Hejduk faced off against Zakuani. Zakuani got the better of the matchup with his first run, sending in a cross that ended up in Gruenebaum’s gloves after a deflection.

Eddie Gaven notched Columbus’ first shot, but Montero again forced a diving save from Gruenebaum as Seattle had the better opportunities early.

They also controlled much of the second half, attacking down the flanks through Wahl and James Riley. Zakuani got in behind the Crew defense in the 60th minute, but Gruenebaum came off his line to snuff out the chance.

In the 64th, Gaven took his fourth shot on goal with Keller making the diving save.

Warzycha looked to Andres Mendoza and Emilio Renteria to inject more offense into the game in the 78th minute, but neither player generated any serious chances to wrestle another title away from the Sounders.

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