As the Union chase first Open Cup crown, these five remember and recall that winning feeling
It’s a memory that will stay with these five forever.
Being a part of a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final is special – win or lose.
It’s a chance to say you took part in the championship game of the oldest American soccer tournament, one that pits every club from weekend warrior leagues to Major League Soccer heavyweights against each other for ultimate bragging rights.
Five current members of the Philadelphia Union have played in and won Open Cup titles.
Three are current players in midfielders Fred (D.C. United), Sebastien Le Toux (Seattle) and Ethan White (D.C. United) in addition to two on the club’s coaching staff in technical director Chris Albright (Los Angeles Galaxy) and interim team manager Jim Curtin, who won a pair while in Chicago.
Team: Los Angeles Galaxy
Open Cup: Winner (2005); runner-up (2006)
Today, Albright’s primary responsibility is to help the Union bring in that next great player, but when he was wearing the uniform, he was instrumental to the Galaxy’s 2005 championship winning team. In a defensive start, Albright helped to keep a 25th minute goal by young forward Herculez Gomez the decider for over an hour.
A year later, Albright would make a return the final with Los Angeles, but this time watch as Jim Curtin and the Chicago Fire hoisted the trophy following a 3-1 final. Curtin came on in stoppage time to secure the win for the Fire, but was an important piece of that championship squad.
"The reality is, there are two [professional soccer] trophies you can win in the U.S., and the Open Cup is one of them," Albright told philadelphiaunion.com. "For me in 2005, the Open Cup completed winning the double [Los Angeles also won the MLS Cup that season] as well, so it means a lot looking back now. Winning a single elimination tournament says a lot about your team. Being able to deal with that pressure at every round speaks a lot about the group your playing with."
Team: Chicago Fire
Open Cup: Winner (2003, 2006)
It took Curtin just two seasons to hoist his first Open Cup trophy. A third round pick in the 2001 MLS SuperDraft, the Villanova product captured the crown following a 1-0 Fire defeat of the old New York/New Jersey MetroStars. Curtin played a full 90 in the 2003 Open Cup final. In 2006, the Fire would win again after beating Albright’s aforementioned Galaxy side. This will be Curtin’s fourth trip to a U.S. Open Cup final, but first as a coach.
“You don’t want to be on the losing end of one of those, it’s a horrible feeling,” Curtin told reporters recently. “To sit out here and watch [Open Cup officials] hand out the medals [to the winners] and you get your second place medal, it’s tough. I told this [Union team that] we don’t want any parts of that, especially in front of our hometown fans.”
Sebastien Le Toux
Team: Seattle Sounders
Open Cup: Winner (2009)
This will be Le Toux’ second trip to an Open Cup final and he will be looking to replicate the same success he had in 2009 with Seattle. That year it was the Sounders celebrating a trophy in their first season in MLS, defeating D.C. United, 2-1. It was Seattle’s 86th minute tally that would secure the club’s trophy, as a great finish from forward Roger Levesque was assisted by Levesque’s roommate on the team...Sebastien Le Toux.
Since the, Le Toux has scored an astounding 14 goals in the competition and is the all-time scoring leader in the modern era of the tournament.
“I love this tournament because I’ve always had success in it,” Le Toux said. “I feel like I play very well in this tournament and from winning it [during] my time in Seattle, I know how important it is. It’s special to me and I know it’s special to my teammates [here with the Union] to be going after it as well.”
Team: D.C. United
Open Cup: Winner (2008); Runner-up (2009)
The significance of Fred’s trips to the U.S. Open Cup final is that they mark two coincidental occurrences. The 2008 win was a 2-1 United victory in which Fred provided the game winner against USL-PRO side the Charleston Battery. The Battery are the last non-MLS club team to qualify for the final and the first to make the championship game since the memorable win of the Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
The following year, Fred played the first half in a finals loss to Seattle Sounders FC, a team making its foray into MLS coming from USL-PRO. Also, it was Fred’s current teammate in Le Toux that assisted Seattle in its 2-1 defeat of D.C. United that season.
Team: D.C. United
Open Cup: Winner (2013)
Before coming to Philadelphia in a trade that saw former Union defender Jeff Parke head to D.C., White, a United homegrown player, helped a lackluster United side celebrate a defeat of MLS Cup runner-ups Real Salt Lake that season. White started the match and played the full 90 minutes in a 1-0 defeat of Salt Lake. Impressive considering it was the only claim of success United could hang its hat on given the club mustered just three wins in MLS play that season.
“My [Union] teammates joke all the time about how I played on one of the worst teams in the MLS last season and how terrible that D.C. team was,” White said during a recent radio interview. “But I just remind them whenever they get on me that I have a championship ring.”
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org