As four-time champions, the Seattle Sounders are something of U.S. Open Cup royalty.
But the Kitsap Pumas of the Premier Development League didn’t treat them that way, battling evenly for 70 scoreless minutes before the Major League Soccer club broke away for a 2-0 win before a standing-room crowd Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium.
“Any team playing against an MLS side, they always come hard and aggressive,” Seattle defender Joevin Jones said. “I think tonight was difficult for us, but we came through it.”
The first goal was sent through traffic by Cristian Roldan, assisted by Aaron Kovar.
“It was kind of in the mix,” Roldan said. “Kovar got ahold of it. Good ball — I think it deflected a little bit, and I just tried to put it on frame. Luckily it went in.”
That forced Kitsap to push forward in search of the equalizer, and Jones added the dagger in stoppage time.
Seattle used a largely reserve lineup, with Roldan, Kovar, Zack Scott, Dylan Remick, and Herculez Gomez among the most familiar performers. Appearing with the first team for the first time was midfielder Zach Mathers, an S2 player who was signed to a short-term contract just in advance of the match. Tyler Miller handled the goalkeeping.
“He made it through 90 minutes, which was good,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said of Mathers. “Kid’s got some potential. … He needs to find a way to get himself on the ball because he’s a really good passer of the ball. His vision is very good. So if he can figure out how to get the ball at his feet more and use his talents, we might have something there.”
Schmetzer was filling in for head coach Sigi Schmid, who served the one-game suspension handed down in the aftermath of the Sounders’ exit from the 2015 Open Cup.
The Sounders controlled most of the play and had several dangerous chances. Kitsap played more defensively and was less threatening.
Minutes before halftime, midfielder Nathan Sturgis left the game with what was diagnosed as a rib contusion. He was taken to the hospital for what were called precautionary X-rays. Regular starter Erik Friberg came on in his place, and Schmetzer credited him with turning the game in Seattle’s favor.
“(Kitsap) did a good job being very organized, very disciplined,” Schmetzer said. “They brought numbers back, and it’s hard to play sometimes against teams when they pack it in. And they did so for (70 minutes). Up until then, it was difficult. And then after the first goal, they had to open up, and then that made it easier for us to get a few more chances, a few more counters, and the game eventually fell to us.”
Schmid will be back on the bench for the Sounders’ fifth-round match. The opponent and location will be determined Thursday, by lots but with some geographical consideration.
Seattle will resume MLS play Sunday at the New York Red Bulls.
Kitsap returns to PDL play Friday against Sounders U-23 in Sumner.