Sounders FC

Chelsea’s visit separates Houston

The Seattle Sounders’ friendly next week against Chelsea suddenly has become sandwiched between two games that are serious business.

And both happen to come against the Houston Dynamo.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, the Sounders will face MLS-leading Houston in a game at Qwest Field that could be crucial to the league race. Seattle (6-3-7) goes in six points behind the Dynamo (9-3-4), and a win would cut that margin in half.

Then, on July 21, the teams meet again, this time in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. The loser goes home, while the winner plays for the championship of this nation’s oldest soccer tournament. And for Seattle, it would present a chance to claim the first trophy in the short history of the franchise.

Facing two games that are crucial in their own ways, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid refused to pick one as more important.

“We want to win them both,” Schmid said. “I’m selfish and I’m greedy. But you look at them as mutually exclusive events. And we’ll take the first one first, and then we’ll focus on the second one. … I don’t prefer one over the other. I don’t like to think that way, because whenever you think that way … maybe that’s the way it happens.”

Asked the same question, Sounders players sounded a lot like their coach. However, amid those answers there also seemed to be a sense that the Open Cup is now close enough to have gotten their attention.

“We’re in the semis now, so to get in the finals would be very cool for us,” forward Nate Jaqua said. “But these are two huge games for us, so I’m looking at them both equally. You get a win right now – they’re in first place, we’ve been on a little bit of a roll – if we can keep that going, especially right now in the middle of the season, that would be really crucial for us.”

And it could taste especially sweet to Jaqua, who played the prior two seasons in Dynamo orange before being left available to Seattle in the expansion draft.

“It will be good to play them, but there’s no hard feelings or anything,” Jaqua said. “It’ll be good to see those guys, too. But it’s definitely one you want to win and kind of show them a little bit.”

As for that July 18 friendly in between the Houston visits, Schmid doesn’t expect to have many players asking for rest when the English Premiere League power visits Qwest to play in front of an expected sellout crowd of 67,000.

“Chelsea is a great opportunity,” Schmid said.” Everyone wants to get on the field in that game, whether you’re a starter or you’re a reserve. And so we’re going to try to give guys that chance to get on that field and play in that particular game. So (the Open Cup semifinal) doesn’t change it very much.”

King’s pass appreciated

Fredy Montero drew a foul in the penalty area late Tuesday in the Sounders’ win over Kansas City in the Open Cup quarterfinal. And Sebastien Le Toux sent the penalty shot into the back of the net for the game’s only goal.

Amid those high-profile heroics, it was easy enough to forget how the sequence began: with a short, sweet pass into the box from midfielder Stephen King.

And while King didn’t get much immediate media attention – and couldn’t even be officially credited with an assist – he said his teammates let him know they appreciated his contribution.

“The guys on the team are very complimentary toward me,” King said. “This team does a good job of congratulating people when it’s due. We all want the best for guys on the field, even though it’s competitive nature and people are playing for spots. The team is great. They congratulated me, they congratulated Fredy, and Seba hit the great PK.”

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808