TUKWILA Seattle Sounders FC opens a two-game, two-competition week Tuesday, when it begins the defense of its U.S. Open Cup.
And while the Sounders will have the advantage of playing at Starfire Sports Stadium, the visiting Portland Timbers will be the fresher team. And then so will be the San Jose Earthquakes when Seattle returns to its Major League Soccer season Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
“(The Timbers) will not have played a game since (June 6), so they will have had 10 days of rest,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “And then we play San Jose, which will have played one game in the two weeks. We get to play some rested teams.”
The Sounders likely will create their own rest by introducing some players who didn’t play – or didn’t play much – Saturday in their 3-0 league win over FC Dallas.
One of those is expected to be goalkeeper Troy Perkins, who watched Stefan Frei play every minutes of this MLS season, but who worked off some rust with an appearance in a USL match last week as Sounders 2 defeated Los Angeles Galaxy II, 1-0.
“I thought he had a good game,” Schmid said. “I thought he managed the game really well, and I thought he approached the game from a really good mental standpoint.”
Allocation of the roster has been one of the keys to the Sounders’ history of success in this tournament.
Since joining MLS in 2009, the Sounders have played six U.S. Open Cups. They have advanced to the final five times and won it four times, including last year at Philadelphia.
“The Open Cup is important to me, it’s important to us because of our history as a club now,” Schmid said. “It’s important just from the standpoint that if it’s not important, let’s just not enter, let’s stay out of the competition. If we’re going to enter we’re going to try and win it. We have to be smart as we go into it. We know that we have a game Saturday. … We know that we have people who are going to be eager to play that game.”
The one time the Sounders didn’t reach the final, they also didn’t even reach a second match: One and done. That one game was on a road at Tampa Bay, where they lost 1-0 to the second-division Rowdies. Their only other loss – although officially a draw decided by penalty kicks – also came on the road, at Sporting Kansas City in the 2012 final.
The Sounders have never lost an Open Cup match on either of their home fields, including a perfect 16 straight at Starfire.
“We know what our record is there,” Schmid said. “We’ve got guys that are very comfortable playing in those confines. More than anything, I think the crowd being on top of the action just changes it to a different dynamic. When you’re sitting in CenturyLink and you’re in the nice seats, you see the game and you can appreciate the game. But when you’re close like you are at Starfire, you really understand the intensity, the speed, then physicality of the game.”
SOUNDERS 2, TOO
Also Tuesday, Sounders 2 visits Real Salt Lake of MLS for a fourth-round match at Sandy, Utah.
The winner will go on to face the team that advances from the Los Angeles Galaxy-PSA Elite match.