Sounders FC is about to conclude a stretch of six games in 18 days.
And while the Sounders will tell you they’re all important, the U.S. Open Cup semifinal tonight against FC Dallas is the only one that actually qualifies as a must-win game.
“It’s one and out (in) the Open Cup,” defender Jeff Parke said. “Other games – league games – you can hopefully rebound from it the next weekend. But here, if you lose you’re done. You look back and say ‘What happened? I wish we were still in the tournament,’ or whatever. But we’re going to go out there and do our best.”
While the loser departs the tournament, the winner goes on to the final against either the Chicago Fire or Richmond Kickers (USL-Pro).
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The Sounders also have a couple of added incentives. If they win, they know they will host the championship game at CenturyLink Field.
And if they win there, they will become the first club to win three consecutive Open Cups since Greek American SC of New York did it in the late 1960s.
“It’s the last game in a long stretch of games for us,” coach Sigi Schmid said Monday after his team worked at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, site of today’s 7 p.m. game. “We want to make sure that we maintain our focus going into this last game.”
After the final whistle, Seattle finally hits a break in the schedule. The club won’t train again until Labor Day and won’t play another game until Sept. 10.
However, Schmid said that it is the toll of the games already played – not the promise of a break ahead – that he must consider when assembling his roster.
“You can’t say, ‘Oh, well you’re going to get five days off so even though you are really, really tired, because you are going to get five days off, well, all of a sudden you have a shot of adrenaline,’ ” he said. “I don’t think that necessarily happens. But we (have told the team) ‘This is the last of the work days, so do whatever you need to do to maintain your focus.’ I think sometimes mentally you want to get a break in and (remind) the guys that there is no break until Wednesday. Mentally we have got to stay focused, stay sharp and keep our attention to the task at hand.”
Dallas has been similarly busy. The semifinal will be the Hoops’ eighth competition in August and fourth in 11 days.
The game 10 days ago was against Seattle, which went to Texas and won, squaring the MLS regular-season series with each club taking a 1-0 win on the other’s pitch.
“It seems always when we run into Cup opponents it seems we play them in league fairly recently prior to a Cup game,” Schmid said. “We’ve both been on a very, very hectic schedule. … You’re looking at two teams that have played a lot of games in the last three weeks, so it might be a battle of attrition at the end of the day.”
Lamar Neagle of Federal Way was honored Monday as MLS player of the week after scoring three goals Saturday in Seattle’s 6-2 win over Columbus. “It’s a great story for him,” Schmid said. “He dedicated himself where he wanted to be a soccer player last year, and he’s worked hard, and it’s great that it’s worked out for him this year.” … Defender Patrick Ianni (hamstring) is available tonight. Midfielder Michael Seamon (ankle) is out. … Dallas defender George John, a Shoreline native who played for the University of Washington, is expected to be available tonight after an anticipated transfer to Blackburn Rovers of the English Premier League fell through. … Newly acquired Sounders forward Sammy Ochoa isn’t expected to appear in any games until mid-September.
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer
FC DALLAS AT SOUNDERS FC
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila.
TV/radio: None. The game will be streamed live at SoundersFC.com.
Notes: This is a semifinal match of the U.S. Open Cup, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s national championship, which is open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament began in 1914 and is the oldest annual team competition in U.S. sports. … The winner advances to the final Oct. 4 against the winner of the Chicago Fire-Richmond Kickers (USL-Pro) match, also tonight. If the Sounders advance, the final will be played at CenturyLink Field. … The Sounders are two-time defending Open Cup champions. They are trying to become the first team to win three consecutive since Greek American SC of New York did it from 1967-69. … These are two of the top three teams in the MLS regular-season standings: Seattle is 13-5-9; Dallas is 13-7-7. The clubs have split their two regular-season meetings: The Hoops won 1-0 on May 25 in Seattle, while the Sounders won 1-0 on Aug. 20 at Dallas. … Rookie Josh Ford is expected to be Seattle’s reserve goalkeeper after Terry Boss was called in by the Puerto Rico national team. … The game is sold out.
Quotable: “We have always taken the Open Cup seriously. Obviously Dallas takes it seriously as well, because Lamar Hunt was their original owner and the Hunt family still owns the team. I think it’s a game of massive importance.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
Next: 1 p.m. Sept. 10, Real Salt Lake; CenturyLink Field.
Don Ruiz, staff writer