TUKWILA, Wash. – There might not be a coach more qualified than Brian Schmetzer to speak to the dangers of overlooking a lower-division opponent in the US Open Cup.
From 2002-08, Schmetzer led the then-USL Seattle Sounders to a 4-1-3 record against MLS opponents. Schmetzer’s only regulation loss to a MLS team came in 2003, when his side fell to the LA Galaxy in the fourth round. In fact, the last team to beat the Sounders in Open Cup competition was the USL’s Charleston Battery in the 2008 semifinals.
Now, as an assistant with the three-time defending Open Cup Champions, Schmetzer is hoping to help the Sounders avoid a similar fate as they prepare to host the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks in the third round on Wednesday (10 pm ET).
“MLS teams need to make sure they prepare correctly,” Schmetzer said. “Anything can happen on any given day, even if we prepare our team as well as possible. That’s part of the great side of our sport. But if we do our jobs and make sure our players are prepared, we should give ourselves that added benefit.”
Aside from the rather obvious motivations that come whenever lower-division teams face sides higher on the totem pole, the Silverbacks have a little something extra. Atlanta midfielders Raphael Cox and Ciaran O’Brien are both Seattle-area natives who once played in MLS. Cox played for Real Salt Lake in 2009 and O’Brien, a former member of Generation adidas, last appeared on the Colorado Rapids roster in 2010.
“That’s what the Open Cup is all about,” head coach Sigi Schmid said when asked about the pair. “For those players, it’s an opportunity to say, ‘Look at me. I think I deserve to be playing where you guys are at.’”
In addition to O’Brien and Cox, the Silverbacks have several other players with quality resumes. Midfielder Danilo Turcios has 85 caps with Honduras, while forward Reinaldo Navia has 40 caps with Chile and currently leads the NASL with six goals.
Despite that talent, though, the Silverbacks have not gotten the results they’ve wanted. They are currently sitting on five points through nine matches (0-4-5) and reside in the NASL’s basement.
Of course, the Silverbacks’ league standing is of no importance to the Sounders.
“We’re not stupid enough to think we can overlook Atlanta,” said Sounders defender Zach Scott, who is one of two Sounders left over from the USL days. “I’ve been in that position a lot of times with the lower-division Sounders where an MLS team has come in cocky and over-confident and we’ve put them in their place. For my part, I’ll be sure to make the guys know we have to focus on this game.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.