Seattle Sounders FC took its first step in defending its U.S. Open Cup title Wednesday.
It was more of a leap, really, as the club clustered five goals over a 22-minute stretch during the 5-1 win over the Atlanta Silverbacks before a crowd of 3,703 at Tukwila’s Starfire Sports Stadium.
That’s the most goals the three-time defending champions have scored in Open Cup competition.
“It’s always a lot more fun when you score goals,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “It makes this a lot easier. Getting the goal early in the second half helped us. And then the response after their goal – (Alex) Caskey’s response right away – was what I think really finished the game off. And then after that, I think we were a little bit unlucky not to get more.”
The win sends Seattle through to the fourth round against Cal FC, an amateur club that beat the Portland Timbers, 1-0, in extra time Wednesday night in Portland.
The Sounders’ match with Cal FC will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Starfire.
The visiting Silverbacks played like a team that figured if it’s going to travel 2,500 miles across the country, it might as well win. With the NASL club rejecting a cautious approach, the two teams were almost constantly threatening through the first half.
“They tried to open up and come at us,” defender Jeff Parke said. “Our quality shined. Hats off to them: They come up here and tried to play instead of just sitting in and bunkering in. Maybe it’s not the right call for them, but it was a good night for us.”
In the first half, Seattle’s Eddie Johnson had three good chances. Caskey smoked one just over the crossbar. Osvaldo Alonso almost had a goal for the ages, which he launched from across midfield when Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco got caught far out of the penalty area after getting knocked down by one of his defenders.
The Silverbacks also had several chances in front of the Seattle goal. However, nothing registered on the scoreboard until the 44th minute, when Parke chested the ball down to the foot of Andy Rose, who sizzled it home.
“It was a bummer to give up a goal right before halftime,” said Atlanta midfielder Ciaran O’Brien, a former member of the Tacoma Tide and USL Sounders from Federal Way. “I think that killed us. … To be fair, they’re better. They’re better on the ball. They’re more organized: touch, passing, every aspect they were better.”
After that, the good chances that had missed in the first half started going in.
Two minutes into the second half, the Sounders struck again. This time, Cordell Cato slipped a ball into the box, where Alonso knocked it in, low and to the far post.
Atlanta cut it to 2-1 in the 53rd minute, when Reinaldo Navia fired one past Bryan Meredith. However, Caskey struck back a minute later, creating another two-goal cushion for Seattle.
“They got that goal against the run of play,” Caskey said. “And seeing some of the results from yesterday – MLS teams went up and then let up a little bit and let the lower teams come back – it was lucky that we were able to score a couple right away and kind of demoralize them a little bit.”
Sammy Ochoa put it away with goals in the 62nd and 66th minutes.
“That’s the way he can play,” Schmid said. “We just need him to come out like that all the time. It was a good opportunity for him.”
The convincing victory put Seattle on the safe side of a third-round in which eight of 16 MLS teams were eliminated by lower-level clubs.
“You never know what happens in these games,” Schmid said. “I watched a lot of the games (Tuesday) … so I saw a lot of (lower-level) teams and these teams are going to come and battle. If Caskey doesn’t respond with the third goal after they make it 2-1, maybe the game changes a little bit.”