Sounders vs. Union USOC Final: soccer’s version of ‘Rocky’

Rocky Apollo Creed

This year’s U.S. Open Cup final is a soccer story made for Philadelphia.

Both the Union and the Seattle Sounders have made it to the final of the United States’ oldest soccer tournament. In many ways, there couldn’t be a more mismatched pairing.

The Seattle Sounders are the clear favorites. In this case, you may refer to them as the “Apollo Creed” of the encounter. Tuesday night, they steamrolled their way past fellow U.S. Open Cup success story, the Chicago Fire, by an unforgiving 6-0 scoreline. By doing so, they booked their fifth Open Cup Final appearance.

The Philadelphia Union, meanwhile, practically stumbled over themselves to claim their first Final appearance in team history. The Union dispatched of F.C. Dallas on Tuesday evening in a penalty shootout after conceding their lead late in regulation. That victory typifies the scrappy nature of the Union’s Open Cup success. They needed extra time to beat the Harrisburg City Islanders and the New York Cosmos (at home no less!). They scored a clean win against the Revolution at PPL Park before advancing to Dallas and winning on the road.

In short, the Union aren’t just playing the “Rocky” role because the final is in Philadelphia; they are the scrappy, underachieving, unlikely contenders in this lopsided affair.

Seattle, the three-time U.S. Open Cup winners, don’t only have history on their side. They are also the hottest team in Major League Soccer. The Sounders currently hold the top spot in the MLS Supporters’ Shield race with an impressive 13-6-2 record. Up top, they possess one of the most feared duos in the league with U.S. Men’s National Team star Clint Dempsey and Nigerian star Obafemi Martins both ranking in the league’s top ten scoring list (nine and eight goals, respectively).

Like Apollo Creed’s search for a Bicentennial opponent, Seattle has beaten everyone — and no one wants to face them.

The Union? Not so much. A midseason coaching change has left the club in turmoil. They currently stand fifth in the Eastern Conference, clinging on to the final wildcard spot with an unimpressive 6-8-9 record.

One player who does give Philadelphia a fighter’s chance is Sebastian Le Toux. The Frenchman has once again emerged as a club leader. He is currently tied for fifth amongst league goalscorers with 10 to his name. He is also the modern-era U.S. Open Cup goalscoring leader with 14 notches.

But one player will clearly not be enough to take on a team as formidable as the Sounders.

PPL Park will be the site of this encounter on September 16th. If you are looking towards the Rocky movies to give you insight on the outcome, remember — it would take a sequel before Rocky could hoist the title. In their first encounter, the lovable Southpaw took Creed to the limit, only to fall short of the title.

For the Union, there is no second chance. They have one shot at filling their trophy case, and no guarantee of a second.

That is where the correlation between the big screen and the pitch ends.

The Union have enjoyed their fair share of upsets leading to this final, but Seattle have the track record of success. Over the years, the U.S. Open Cup has produced several memorable moments. Most of those moments feature the underdog giving superior opposition a run for their money.

It’s what makes the tournament special — and what should make this year’s Final a can’t miss.