As the U.S. Open Cup reaches its final stages, teams are taking it more seriously.
Seattle Sounders FC and the Kansas City Wizards loaded their lineups with regular starters for their quarterfinal match Tuesday in Tukwila, and both teams went at it like they wanted to advance.
Finally, Seattle broke through to the semifinals with a 1-0 win before a crowd of 4,352 at Starfire Sports Stadium. That lone goal came on a Sebastien Le Toux penalty kick after 88 minutes that were jammed with chances but absent of finishes.
“It took long enough for sure,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Overall, in the run of play, we created a lot of chances. We were a little bit unfortunate. … I was happy that defensively we didn’t break down. We didn’t give anything away; and that put us in a position when we were awarded the penalty we take advantage and turn it into a win.”
Stephen King started the winning sequence with a pass to Fredy Montero in front of the goal. Kansas City keeper Kevin Hartman darted off his line, dived and dumped Montero.
Referee Abiodun Okulaja, who had taken a let-’em-play attitude most of the night, blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot.
Le Toux, who had come on in the 71st minute, drilled the penalty kick.
“I was feeling like I had to take it,” Le Toux said. “As the coach tells us, it’s not good to maybe take a shot when you’ve had a foul on you. … Of course, there is a little pressure. I knew I had to score if I decide to take the PK. I was confident.”
The Sounders dominated the run of play most of the way, although Kansas City had some solid chances, mostly on counters and quickly built runs.
In one brief flurry of the second half, Sanna Nyassi missed a chance down the right side; soon after, Montero broke into space down the left side and fired just wide of the inside pole; and finally Steve Zakuani almost traced Montero’s steps into the box but he lofted a chip over the crossbar.
“It’s a good sign when you’re creating chances because you’re just one step from finishing it,” Zakuani said. “If you’re not creating, then you’ve got to worry about creating and finishing. We came in at halftime very happy with our play, confident that we could keep it going in. In the second half, we still had a few good chances. ... There was lots of stress a little bit, but we got the win.”
That made the Sounders one of three Major League Soccer teams advancing to the semifinals of this tournament, which is open to all levels of soccer in this country.
Seattle will return to Starfire at 7 p.m. July 21 for its semifinal match against Houston. The Dynamo advanced by beating the Charleston Battery, 4-0, Tuesday in South Carolina.
In the other bracket, D.C. United of MLS will meet Rochester of USL-1.
“It’s something that’s exciting,” Schmid said. “Word on the street is that it might lead to a CONCACAF Champions League spot as well; so that’s important to the club. I think our guys for sure can smell it now and taste it. ... We’re basically two steps away from trying to bring a title to Seattle.”
The Sounders will return to league action at 1 p.m. Saturday, meeting Western Conference-leading Houston at Qwest Field. … The Sounders are teaming with Tacoma glass artist Dale Chihuly. On Thursday, general manager Adrian Hanauer, goalkeeper Kasey Keller and Chihuly will join for the unveiling of a commemorative art piece to be presented to visiting international soccer teams.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808