USOC: Sounders hope Cup will springboard turnaround

USOC: Fredy Montero and Justin Morrow

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TUKWILA, Wash. As hard as it may be to believe, the Seattle Sounders are still tied for their best start in franchise history.

The Sounders’ 7-1-1 start to the season has helped to mitigate the damage done by the current seven-match winless run, but it also gives head coach Sigi Schmid confidence that the team is talented enough to turn it around. Although it won’t count in the MLS standings, Tuesday’s US Open Cup quarterfinal against the San Jose Earthquakes in San Francisco (10:30 pm ET, streamed live at sjearthquakes.com) is where they are hoping to start the turnaround.

“Obviously it’s a tournament we’ve done well in the past three years,” Schmid understated about his three-time defending Open Cup champions. "This is probably our most difficult challenge, having to come back and play on just one day’s rest against a team that has two days rest. It is what it is. It’s a challenge we have to accept and we have to rise up to it.”

The Sounders have historically been able translate Open Cup success into better MLS results. 

PREVIEW: Seattle prepare for tough match with San Jose

In 2010-11, they posted combined 16-4-5 in MLS matches during the months in which they also played Open Cup games. They’ve also managed to secure points in nine of the 14 MLS matches (4-5-5) they’ve played following USOC games.

The early returns have not been quite as good this year. Despite winning their previous two Open Cup games by a combined score of 10-1, the Sounders have gone 0-2-1 in the three MLS matches since then.

“We need to play better soccer,” Schmid said. “I think the guys know that. We know that. We know we’re capable of it. It’s difficult when you’re playing from behind and that’s the first thing we have to correct. We just have to make sure we don’t get behind in a game, and the game will go a lot better for us.”

Beating the Earthquakes will be no small task. Buoyed by a rash of a late-game heroics, they sit atop the Supporters’ Shield race with 33 points and a league-best plus-12 goal differential.

This is the farthest they’ve advanced in the Open Cup since getting to the quarterfinals in 2005.

“They’ve built a team over a few years now, and I think they found the right chemistry and the right mix, and they’ve got good depth,” Schmid said about the Earthquakes. “There’s all kinds of different pieces they can bring. [They are] definitely, as they’ve shown in their league play, a team that’s much improved.”

Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.