The Seattle Sounders have tied four straight games, but they won’t run that streak to five.
Their game tonight against the Colorado Rapids is part of the U.S. Open Cup, and tournament games demand a result. If the match is tied at the end of regulation, 30 minutes of extra time will be played. And if the score remains even, the winner will be decided by penalty kicks.
“It is like rolling the dice when you go to penalty kicks,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “So, it’s not something that you want to go to.”
So far, only one Sounder has taken a penalty kick: Sebastien Le Toux nailed one in Seattle’s 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake, which happened to come in their U.S. Open Cup opener.
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Le Toux said he was especially happy to find the back of the net because he had missed two penalty kicks in the Open Cup last season while playing the USL Sounders.
“It is pressure, of course,” Le Toux said. “But you have to be confident.”
That’s because the kick itself should be easy. The player stands 12 yards from the keeper, who cannot leave his line until the ball is struck. It is just about the only situation in soccer when a goal is expected.
However, that expectation brings pressure – especially when winning and losing hangs in the balance.
“If you’re shooting in a Cup final or something, there’s a lot of pressure on a penalty,” said Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, a veteran of the English Premier League. “I think it’s almost more mentally. You look at the guys here; they can probably kick it in the top corner every training session. It’s a different thing in the Cup final.”
That complicates the coach’s decision on who takes the kicks. The same player who can hit them all day in a training session might not be the right guy to take one in a full stadium with a game on the line.
Once at the penalty spot, the selected player has two basic choices: Anticipate the goalkeeper’s move, or ignore him and assume that he won’t be able to get to a well-placed strike.
And different players have different preferences:
• Fredy Montero: “I just prepare, pick a spot and just hit it.”
• Le Toux: “I pick a spot first, but I’m still watching him. If, of course, I see him moving to the side I choose, I change at the end. If he doesn’t move, I keep my side.”
• Ljungberg: “Sometimes I look at the keeper, and sometimes I don’t. Sometimes goalkeepers look at video, so you want to do it different every time so they can’t read you.”
Of those three players, Le Toux was the only one to play in the earlier Open Cup game, and he seems the most likely to be in the lineup tonight.
Montero sat out the earlier match, and he might sit out again because he played 90 minutes Saturday in a 2-2 draw at Colorado and league play resumes Saturday when Columbus visits Qwest Field.
Ljungberg, meanwhile, has missed back-to-back games with migraines, and his status remains uncertain.
“Freddie is feeling better,” Schmid said Monday. “... He went through training on Saturday pretty much, and went through training (Monday). So we’ll see how he feels (this) morning, and then we’ll make a determination on the rest of the week with him.”
The same uncertainly shrouds the status of Brad Evans (ankle) and Zach Scott (abdominal strain), while Osvaldo Alonso (quadriceps) has been ruled out.
“It’s the way the season goes,” Schmid said. “You’re going to go through a period of situations where you’re going to have injuries. We’ve got some. We’ve been able to handle them and still come out with results, and we’ve got to continue to do that. As I’ve said before, it’s all about the players on the field.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
COLORADO RAPIDS AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC
When: 7 p.m., Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila.
TV: None. Radio: None. Internet: Audio at SoundersFC.com.
What: This is a play-in match for the U.S. Open Cup, the oldest soccer tournament in the United States. The competition matches teams from all levels of professional and amateur soccer. Seattle advanced with a 4-1 win over Real Salt Lake on June 28. Colorado got here with a win over the Los Angeles Galaxy that was settled by penalty kicks. The winner of this game advances to the round of 16 along with MLS sides DC United, Chivas USA, Columbus, Chicago, Houston, Kansas City and New England.
Head-to-head: The teams played to a 2-2 draw Saturday in Colorado in what was their first regular-season MLS meeting. The Rapids will visit the Sounders at Qwest Field on June 28. The USL Sounders met the Rapids twice in Open Cup play, winning 5-0 in 2007 and losing 1-0 in 1999.
Notes: The Sounders are 4-2-4 in MLS play; Colorado is 3-2-4. ... Rapids’ goalkeeper Preston Burpo played for the USL Sounders from 1997-05; and midfielder Ciaran O’Brien played at Decatur High School in Federal Way, with the Tacoma Tide and the USL Sounders. ... Each team is allowed four substitutions, one more than in regular-season games. ... Grandstand seating is sold out. Some general admission tickets remain.
Next: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, regular-season MLS match vs. Columbus Crew, Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, The News Tribune