WASHINGTON -- The Seattle Sounders hope to build on their U.S. Open Cup championship when they return to MLS play.
Freddy Montero and Roger Levesque scored to lead Seattle to a 2-1 victory over D.C. United in the Open Cup final Wednesday night, giving the expansion Sounders their first trophy.
Seattle came in winless in its last three MLS games and is in third place in the Western Conference.
"The team needs to win big games to start believing they can win big games," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "This is the first step in that process."
Montero smashed in a rebound in the 67th minute and Levesque scored in the 85th as Seattle joined Chicago (1998) as the only teams to win the Open Cup in their inaugural season.
Clyde Simms scored for D.C. in the 89th minute.
The win was especially satisfying for the Sounders, who felt slighted after the United won the right to host the final from the U.S. Soccer Federation.
A media war of words between Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer and United president Kevin Payne followed that decision, and the 17,329 who came to RFK Stadium more than doubled the attendance for D.C.'s Open Cup-winning victory over second-division Charleston (S.C.) last year.
"I was giving Kevin Payne a little bit of stick, saying that this is our attendance for an autograph session," Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. "But, obviously, the D.C. fans were great. They were vocal, they were loud the whole game, but our fans in Seattle are something special."
Montero thundered the ball into a gaping net to put Seattle up 1-0 after Freddie Ljungberg reached Steve Zakuani's cross, only to be denied by a diving Josh Wicks.
Wicks lunged but couldn't beat Montero. The D.C. goalkeeper was then ejected in the aftermath of the goal for apparently stepping on Montero, who was sprawled on the ground after scoring.
"I made a mistake and it cost us a player and it cost us the game eventually," said Wicks, also lost his cool in a 1-0 league win at Chicago on Saturday in an altercation with Marc Burch, his own defender. "It is what it is."
As United struggled to cope a man down, Levesque made it 2-0 when he tapped into an empty net after Sebastien Le Toux's cross beat substitute goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
Simms also scored into an empty net after reaching a deflected free kick. United pressured through five minutes of stoppage time, but could do no more than force a clearing punch from Seattle goalkeeper Kasey Keller with a late corner kick.
"To think that you're a man up and you're going to piss away a two-goal lead, it would've been extremely disappointing," Keller said. "But we hung in there. We lost a little bit of discipline there, gave up that goal. But we won, and that's what matters."
The Open Cup often suffers from the perception that it is a distant second in importance to the MLS Cup, which crowns the league champion every November. The U.S. Open Cup, which began in 1914, is open to all levels of professional and amateur teams associated with the USSF.
That didn't stop around 100 green-clad fans from traveling to RFK Stadium from the Pacific Northwest. They jumped in delirium in their perch in the upper deck as the final minutes ticked down, and received an ovation from the entire Sounders squad before the trophy presentation.
"Whether it's in Europe or in the (U.S.) or with the national team, winning a cup is winning a cup," Keller said. "And we really wanted to make a point and win it for our fans, and for our organization that have really made this a first-class experience for everybody."
Seattle was unfortunate not to lead by halftime, after
Wicks twice denied Montero from inside the 6-yard box in the first half and also kicked away Ljungberg's low drive. D.C.'s best chance of the the half came just five minutes in, when Chris Pontius missed wide of the left post from about 6 yards.
"We were under the gun a lot," said United midfielder Ben Olsen. "Give them a lot of credit. They've got some talented guys, and some pretty dynamic players up top. It's a long night, even if you're trying to play even numbers."