If Tuesday’s match was a measuring stick for the Seattle Sounders against Major League Soccer competition, the teams could not have produced a closer result.
It took 90 minutes of regulation, two 15-minute overtime periods and a penalty-kicks shootout before Zach Scott — the seventh striker for the Sounders — drilled the ball into the back of the net to give Seattle a 6-5 shootout edge over the Kansas City Wizards of the MLS and a 1-0 victory.
The 4,674 fans at Qwest Field erupted and Scott was mobbed by teammates in the goal box as the Sounders advanced to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the second consecutive season. Seattle will play United Soccer Leagues rival Charleston Battery, which defeated FC Dallas on Tuesday, Aug. 12 in Charleston, S.C.
The Sounders and first-place Charleston played to a 2-2 tie last Thursday. The teams also played a 1-1 tie in Charleston on April 19.
The Sounders are in their final year in the USL, the second division of U.S. professional soccer behind the MLS.
Next season will mark the debut season for Seattle Sounders FC. Current Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer will serve as minority owner and general manager of the newest MLS franchise.
The USL Sounders have not backed down to MLS competition, having now won four of their last five games against MLS opponents.
“The preparation is the same, the training is the same, everything is the same, but human nature does take over at some point, but we are playing an MLS opponent so its easier for my guys to get motivated for a new MLS opponent,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said.
It was fitting the match went to a shootout, putting the two goalkeepers on center stage. Kansas City’s Eric Kronberg and Seattle’s Chris Eylander were brilliant in goal as both teams produced constant threats throughout the game. The two teams had a combined 37 shots, including 14 on goal.
The Wizards’ best chance in the first half came in the 18th minute as Ryan Pore centered the ball to Mike Kraus in front of the net, but Kraus shot the ball right to Eylander.
Kansas City had 10 shots on goal, compared to four by Seattle, and won the time of possession battle, but the Sounders had several great scoring chances.
“It was two different styles,” Schmetzer said. “We were a bit more direct.”
In the 38th minute, Seba Le Toux burst down the right side, but Kronberg just got a piece of his shot. Two minutes later, Le Toux had an open shot at the top of the 18-yard box. Wizards defender Rauwshan McKenzie appeared to make contact with Le Toux, but there was no call from the referee.
The Sounders had several more shots on goal in the second half, but appeared to tire as the game remained scoreless.
“They were tired,” said Schmetzer, whose team is coming off two games in the past week. “We’ve had an extremely tough schedule. (Kansas City) would keep good extended possessions in our half of the field, and yeah, it made me nervous.”
The Wizards, who won the Open Cup in 2004, featured a patchwork roster. The team has an MLS game against New York on Thursday and an international friendly against Atlas of Mexico on Friday, so coach Curt Onalfo elected to rest many of his players. The starting lineup included five rookies and no regulars.
Jimmy Conrad, one of two players who traveled who has started every MLS game for the Wizards this season, entered the game in the second half. But during the shootout, he shot the ball into Eylander for the first Kansas City miss.
It appeared that would open the door for the Sounders, but Le Toux, who has scored five goals in four Open Cup matches, responded with a miss of his own. The shootout was even until Eylander stopped Tyson Wahl’s shot, which gave Scott his opportunity.
“I knew Eylander would make one save. To make two is unbelievable,” Schmetzer said.