Disappointment, deflation and defeat were the three words to describe the scene at PPL Park Tuesday night after the Seattle Sounders (17-7-3) came away with a 3-1 overtime win over the Union (9-9-10) in the U.S. Open Cup final.
Union players could only watch as the Sounders climbed on the winner’s stage at midfield post-game and raised their fourth Lamar Hunt trophy, as the Union contemplated what could’ve been.
“I respect every team in the Eastern Conference, but (the Sounders) are different,” said Union manager Jim Curtin. “Our guys know it too. That was a man’s game, that was end-to-end and we went toe-to-toe with them. They’re a special group.”
It was a chance for the Union to firmly entrench themselves among the MLS’s best teams, notching their first trophy in franchise history, but instead it ended in heartbreak.
They may have been wearing the Bethlehem Steel colors, who’ve won a record five Open Cup titles in the tournament’s history, but the gesture could’ve served as a bad omen for a team trying to represent themselves on the field Tuesday night. This was the Union’s moment after all.
The last team to win the title from Philadelphia was the Philadelphia Ukrainians in 1966 and now the city will have to wait a little longer. It’s not the long wait that’s upsetting, but rather the losing on home turf. the Union walked back to the locker room as their opponents splashed champagne on each other in jubilation. It’s not something that’s easy to take in. And it’s up to Curtin to pick the team up and keep them focused.
“I’ve never been proud of anything in my life that ended in a loss, but this is the first time,” said Curtin. “Finals are always one play games, they had a couple big blocks to bail their team out and we missed a couple good chances. I wouldn’t say that one team was better tonight, I think it was an even game and somebody has to lose unfortunately.”
One thing is for sure, the Union now know what it feels like to play on the big stage. Unfortunately they now know what it’s like to lose on it too. Now it’s time to harness that disappointment and grow from it. There’s another opportunity in November, this time for the MLS Cup.