After 120 minutes of deadlock Wednesday night on a thunderstorm-filled evening, the Sounders had three premier players -- Osvaldo Alonso, Christian Tiffert and Eddie Johnson -- miss penalty kicks in a shoot-out that cost them history: An unprecedented fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Sporting KC prevailed 3-2 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw through 90 minutes of regulation and two 15-minute overtime period at Livestrong Park in Kansas City. A huge controversy erupted on Sporting's fifth and final PK when Paolo Nagamura was awarded a re-kick after referee Ricardo Salazar determined that Sounders goalie Michael Gspurning, who made the save, moved before the ball was struck. Nagamura didn't blow his second chance.
That left Eddie Johnson, Seattle's top scorer, with a must-make, and he skied it over the crossbar. Screaming, Gspurning charged Salazar after the game, and Sounders coach Sigi Schmid was equally furious.
"You can always call a goalie for moving on a penalty kick," Schmid said on post-game radio. "I thought the officiating was very suspect."
But Brad Evans, who along with Marc Burch made the Sounders' PKs, said it best:
"If we make our pens, there's nothing to talk about."
Gspurning made a save on KC's second attempt, providing an opening, but the normally reliable Alonso sent his shot over the crossbar. Newly acquired designated player Christian Tiffert had a chance to come up big, but his attempt was saved by KC's All-Star goalie, Jimmy Nielsen.
Another questionable call led to a breakthrough in a scoreless duel in the 84th minute. Sounders defender Zach Scott was called for a handball in the penalty that was not obvious. KC's Kei Kamara punched the PK past Gspurning.
Less than two minutes later, however, Scott made up for the penalty with a score of his own, assisted by Mauro Rosales.
The drawn-out affair, which was 40 minutes late in starting because of the threat of lightning, was the Sounders' third game in six days, which played to KC's advantage late.
Not since 1997 had an Open Cup been decided on PKs.
The Sounders were bidding to become the first team in the tourney's 99-year history to win four consecutive Cups.
Kansas City’s home-pitch advantage came from winning a secret coin toss after making a closed bid that U.S. Soccer considered equal to the Sounders’ bid.