No Seattle Sounders had any doubt why their fourth-round U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday at Starfire Sports Stadium attracted national attention.
It was Cal FC, the amateur club that had knocked off three professional teams on its way to facing three-time defending champion Seattle.
“I told our guys before the game, ‘The TV’s here not for you; they’re here for them,’ ” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “ ‘So we need to show them that we have a team, too, and that we can play soccer as well.’ ”
It took a while, but the Sounders finally managed, mauling the underdogs, 5-0.
Cal kept its Cinderella story going for more than a half, sticking stubbornly with the Sounders through a scoreless first 48 minutes.
“Credit to them,” Sounders midfielder Andy Rose said. “ These are really good college guys who’ve come out, maybe not had the best luck so far, but they definitely have the caliber of the MLS, and I’m sure they’ll make it at some point. They’re very motivated, so we had to match that. We had to kind of weather that storm in the first half.”
Then Cal’s magical coach ride not only turned into a pumpkin, but it rolled off a cliff and burst into flames.
Everything changed in the 49th minute when Cal defender Jesus Gonzalez was called for a handball in the penalty area.
Osvaldo Alonso nailed the penalty kick.
With Cal suddenly playing from behind, Seattle started finding space and taking advantage of it.
“We just wore them down,” defender Zach Scott said. “It was nice to get the first one, and then a couple of more really quickly after that. And it just broke them after that. That’s really what we were looking for, getting hopefully an early one. That didn’t happen. But we knew once we got one, that other ones would come.”
They came in waves.
In the 58th minute, Fredy Montero made it 2-0, running onto a Cordell Cato cross and finishing into a nearly open net.
In the 66th minute, there was a scramble in front of the Cal goal, and Caskey sent the ball toward the net before it grazed in off Rose. That one made it 3-0.
In the 68th minute, Montero nailed a free kick from about 25 yards. Now it was 4-0.
In the 70th minute, Alonso sent in a screaming volley from about 35 yards. He later called it the best goal of his career, and it settled things at 5-0.
As the minutes wound down, the crowd of 3,894 chanted, “This ain’t Portland,” a taunt to Cal’s third and final victim on its tournament run, following wins over Kitsap of the PDL and Wilmington of USL-Pro.
Cal FC is an amateur club created and coached by former U.S. national team star Eric Wynalda to give players a second chance at professional careers.
“When we had to make a switch to get more forwards on the field it just opened up, and they showed their quality,” Wynalda said. “ When you look at the way that we addressed the game, we knew that Seattle, they just have more quality than Portland. There were times that we were able to play, but we could never get numbers forward.”
The win sends Seattle into a quarterfinal match against San Jose, a 1-0 winner against Minnesota on Tuesday. That game is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. June 26 at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco.
Seattle returns to MLS action June 16 at Montreal.
Sounders FC will begin CONCACAF Champions League play in a group with CD Marathon of Honduras and the Caribbean champion to be determined .
CONCACAF announced its groups Tuesday, as determined by a draw held at the federation office in New York.
Group play will begin July 31 and conclude Oct. 25. Game dates and kickoff times will be announced later.
Each three-club group will play a home-and-away round robin, and the winner of each group will advance to the knockout round.