CONSIDERING the championship history of Philadelphia sports - or, rather, the relative lack thereof - the Union had to know that winning the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final was not going to be easy.

In the end, the script became all too familiar - heartbreak as another team celebrated a championship at Philadelphia's expense.

For more than 100 minutes, U.S. national team star Clint Dempsey had been relatively invisible.

But like all great players, he needed only one moment to make his presence felt.

Dempsey's strike in the 101st minute proved to be the difference as the Seattle Sounders won their fourth Open Cup in 6 years by beating the Union, 3-1, in extra time at PPL Park.

Playing for the first trophy in franchise history, the Union might have deserved a better result, but, ultimately, the team was like the Flyers in 2010, the Phillies in 2009, Eagles in 2004 and Sixers in 2001 in coming up a step short of the prize.

The Open Cup isn't the ultimate prize in U.S. professional soccer.

The Union still has a good shot at making the MLS playoffs and having a run at the MLS Cup.

That quest will continue on Saturday when the Union hosts the Houston Dynamo.

But the Open Cup was a big prize to play for. The winner is the club champion of the United States.

The atmosphere at PPL was intense, as Union fans came out strong in an effort to spur the 5-year-old franchise to its first trophy.

"We want the Cup, gotta have that Cup" was chanted around the stadium throughout the 90 minutes of regulation and much of the two 15-minute extra-time periods.

The realization that things were not to be did not sink in until Seattle substitute Obafemi Martins sealed things with an insurance goal in the 114th minute.

Thousands of miles from home, the Sounders were still able to celebrate with a group of fans who had packed into a section at PPL.

It was an especially disappointing night for Union interim manager Jim Curtin, an Oreland native who grew up a four-for-four Philadelphia pro sports fan.

In the days leading up to the final, Curtin, 35, spoke of the pressure he felt at not wanting to let his city down in the quest for a championship.

Curtin was only 4 when the Sixers won the 1983 NBA Finals, so the only true memory he has of a Philadelphia championship remains the Phillies' World Series title in 2008.

When you are playing for the first championship in franchise history, nothing is too small in the quest for even the slightest edge.

The Union tried to get the gods of soccer to give a slight smile of approval by paying homage to the region's great tradition, acknowledging prior Open Cup winners Bethlehem Steel and the Philadelphian Ukrainians before the game.

When the championship trophy was rolled onto the field, it was accompanied by the Rev. Dan Morrison, historian for Bethlehem Steel, and Alex Ely, a member of the Ukrainians who won Philadelphia's last Open Cup in 1966.

And to its credit, the Union took play right to Seattle, which so far has established itself as the best team in MLS.

Philadelphia, which wore the black and white colors of Bethlehem Steel, controlled much of the run of play in the first half. The Union missed on several close opportunities but got on the scoreboard first when, in the 38th minute, Cristian Maidana served a free kick into the box that Maurice Edu headed past Seattle goalie Stefan Frei.

But Seattle knows how to win Open Cups, having previously won in 2009, 2010 and 2011, the franchise's first three seasons in MLS. With the Open Cup back in hand, Seattle is looking to win the "Treble," which includes the MLS Supporters Shield (most regular season points) and the MLS Cup. Whatever Sounders manager Sigi Schmid said to his charges at halftime worked because they came out looking like a different team.

Less than 3 minutes into the second half, Chad Barrett got hold of a loose ball from a scramble in front of the Union net and pushed the ball past Union goalie Zac MacMath.

If there was a curse on Philadelphia sports, the Phillies lifted it when they won the World Series in 2008.

But considering how many combined seasons the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and Sixers have played and how few combined championships they have won, the Union's hope was that, in its first chance at a trophy, it could break a tradition of disappointment, instead of adding to it.

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL