Here's some of what Sounders coach Sigi Schmid had to say today after the final training session before the U.S. Open Cup semifinal Wednesday against Chivas USA:
On playing at Starfire Stadium) “It’s been good for us in Open Cup. The atmosphere is intense. I think for the fans to see a game here is always a little different because you’re right on top of the action and you see the pace of the game. You see the intensity. You seem to be a little more engaged in what’s going on in the field. For our team, and obviously we have some players who played here with the old Sounders, there’s a lot of memories in this stadium. For sure it’s been a good stadium for us in our Open Cup times.”
On the size of the field) “It feels a little bit smaller so it makes the games a little more duel-oriented. It becomes a little bit faster. The game becomes a little more, maybe, exciting for the outside people and maybe more nerve-wracking for the coaches because the ball is either in front of your goal or their goal quicker just because of the size of the field. It certainly adds an element of athleticism to the game.”
On Chivas USA not scoring much) “They don’t give up a lot, either. You look at them, they’ve only given up 18 goals in 17 league games. They haven’t played many league games. I think this is only their third game since June 23rd, where this is our sixth game. So it’s a little different in schedule, and then they get the weekend off right after this game again. They’re a team that’s a little bit harder for us to figure out because they’ve played different lineup and they haven’t played many games lately. They’ve changed formations at times where they’ve played a 4-4-2, and then they’ve played a 4-5-1, and then they’ve played a 4-4-1-1. They’ve done all kinds of little different things, but they don’t give up much. They haven’t scored much either. The game gets bogged down in the midfield a little bit at times because of their play. But also they’re a very good passing team and they’re a very good technical team. It’s going to be a tight game as a result of how they play defensively and our defense has been, for the most part…has also been reasonably solid.”
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On choosing a lineup) “Obviously we need to get a result to get to the final. The team we play is, again, we’re going to try and put out the team that we think is best for this occasion. Our game total versus their game total is a big difference, and so we have to take that into account. We have to take into account who is sharp right now and who is healthy, and those affect those decisions. Certainly the object going in to tomorrow night is to get to the final. We can’t get to the final unless we beat Chivas.”
On the importance of the U.S. Open Cup) “There’s only three trophies to win—four if you include the Supporter’s Shield, which is the team that has the best record. You’re really only in three competitions, per se. You’re in the Champions League competition, you’re playing for MLS Cup, and you’re playing for the Open Cup. It’s one of three big prizes. For us, it’s a tournament that is difficult because it’s straight knockout. If you have one bad game, it’s over. In league, you can have a bad game. Even in the playoffs, you can maybe have a bad game, but if it’s a two-game series you can recover. Here, it’s one bad game and you’re done. We’ve shown a pretty good capacity to deal with that in the past years. It’s something our club has to be proud of. There’s a lot of teams in MLS that have never won an Open Cup trophy, and for us to have three already is something that helps set us apart a little bit from some of the other clubs and is something we can look on with pride.”
On going for a record fourth straight Open Cup) “We haven’t talked a lot about winning four. That’s a game away, but we’re talking about getting the opportunity to get that. Certainly the history—last year we were able to get three...To win four is something that hasn’t been accomplished before. All that makes it unique, makes it special, makes you a part of that group that accomplished this goal…As a player you get motivated by winning things, winning prizes. And obviously, this is another prize.”