Sounders FC

Stakes rise, crowd falls for tourney

The Seattle Sounders will play for higher stakes Tuesday than they did Saturday, but they’ll be playing before about 61,000 fewer people.

That made for an unusual blending of moods Sunday as the Sounders put their 2-0 loss to Chelsea in an international friendly behind them and began training for their U.S. Open Cup semifinal match with Houston.

That match will be played before a sellout crowd of about 4,000 Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.

“After having watched John Wooden some years when I was playing at UCLA, his philosophy was if you have a really up game, you’re going to have a down game,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “So, that’s why I never try to hype games too much if you can avoid it. I think the guys were motivated and were ready to play against Chelsea; but I don’t think we spent a ton of emotional energy in terms of leading up to the game.”

Houston also played Saturday, but it played a league game, a 1-1 draw in Toronto that moved the Dynamo four points ahead of Seattle in the MLS standings. That was followed by a cross-continent flight to Sea-Tac on Sunday.

The Sounders had it easier, playing at home in a match that didn’t count and offering the advantage of unlimited substitutions.

That allowed Schmid to limit the minutes of 10 of his starters – one for each reserve available. The lone member of the Sounders to play the full 90 minutes was defender Tyrone Marshall, selected by Schmid because Marshall’s duty with the Jamaican national team had given him the longest rest preceding the Chelsea game.

Midfielder Freddie Ljungberg drew the second-most playing time against the English Premier League club. His 74 minutes could signal that the Swede could be inactive for the semifinal of the Open Cup, the rules of which limit teams to five foreign players.

Schmid avoided specifics about his lineup. But he implied that it might look more like a league game than a reserve game, now that the club’s first trophy is just two victories away.

The Seattle-Houston winner will meet the winner of the game between D.C. United and USL-1 Rochester for the Open Cup title in early September. If United advances, it will play host to the championship game. If Rochester advances, it will visit the Seattle-Houston winner.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808