Given a genie and a magic lamp, Sounders FC might wish that every game could be a U.S. Open Cup match.
And forward Nate Jaqua would readily agree.
Jaqua scored on two short headers in the second half Wednesday night to send Seattle past the Los Angeles Galaxy, 2-0, in the quarterfinal round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
“We did what I wanted us to do,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We came out and we played with a lot of energy, a lot of desire. It didn’t matter who they had on the field – I know they were missing certain people – but it was our energy, our defensive pressure that helped create the game that we wanted to create, and I’m very happy for the team.”
The game was played before a sellout crowd of 4,512 at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.
The result moved defending champion Sounders FC to 8-0 all-time in Open Cup play.
No champion has defended its title in the Open Cup’s professional era, which started in 1994. However, five champions have returned to the final. The Sounders will try to make it six when they meet Chivas USA in a semifinal match Sept. 1 at Starfire.
As for Jaqua, his goals were his third and fourth in his past three Open Cup appearances. He scored in the semifinal match last season against Houston and again in the third-round game last week at Portland.
Then he made the difference against the Galaxy, scoring both goals on short-range headers after rookie Miguel Montano’s crosses put the Galaxy defense in danger.
“It feels great,” Jaqua said. “It’s fun being out there with the guys, especially when everyone works for each other, battles together. Yeah, it was a great team effort. It’s fun playing those games.
“Miguel did well, very well,” Jaqua added. “He caused them some problems and whipped in some very good balls.”
Seattle seemed in control most of the way. However, the first goal didn’t come until the 50th minute, when several Sounders broke into the penalty area against the outnumbered Galaxy defense.
Montano fired a shot that L.A. keeper Josh Saunders stopped but didn’t control. Montano got the rebound and fired again, sending the ball into the crossbar. This time, the rebound went to Jaqua, who headed it in from about a yard away.
Twelve minutes later, the combination struck again as Montano sent a cross to the back post, where Jaqua headed it into the woodwork, got his own rebound and tumbled into the goalmouth just behind the ball.
“(Jaqua and I) have been playing well,” Montano said through an interpreter. “We’ve been practicing well together – even just the two of us – and crossing. That reflected in the game.”
The results have been vastly different for Seattle during most of the Major League Soccer regular season, in which the club stands at 4-8-3 at its midpoint.
Two of the Sounders’ losses came against the league-leading Galaxy, 4-0 on May 8 in Seattle and 3-1 on Sunday in Carson, Calif.
However, the lineups that went at each other at Starfire were considerably different.
Terry Boss started in goal as Schmid gave Kasey Keller his first game off this season. Leading scorers Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani didn’t get off the bench, and designated player Freddie Ljungberg wasn’t even among the reserves.
Similarly, Galaxy stars and U.S. World Cup team members Landon Donovan and Edson Buddle did not make the trip, and regular goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts watched from the bench.
Still, Schmid saw nothing but positives from the Open Cup result.
“It’s definitely big,” Schmid said. “It’s a mentality. Losing becomes a habit; winning can also become a habit. Every game you win, it becomes a better habit for your team, and that’s what we want to establish right now.”
The Sounders will return to MLS play Sunday, when FC Dallas visits Qwest Field.