TUKWILA, Wash. – The carnage was there for everyone to see. Seven MLS teams had gone down to defeat to lower-division opponents in a single night.
The Seattle Sounders were determined not to join them.
“You keep thinking to yourself, you know it’s going to be a tough game, but it’s important we take this tournament seriously,” Sounders defender Jeff Parke said after the Sounders began their defense of their three straight US Open Cup titles by easily taking care of the NASL’s Atlanta Silverbacks 5-1 on Wednesday. “ We want to come out here and win, get to the championship and win another trophy. This is our tournament. We’re the ones to try to get the trophy again.”
That the Sounders have no shortage of players and coaches who have themselves spent time in the lower divisions seems to be one of the things that works in their favor against those kinds of opponents.
“I came from a lower-division team last year and they are really motivated,” said Sounders midfielder Alex Caskey, who spent last year with the Charleston Battery. “It helps us at least not take them for granted as much, make sure we’re committed and come out with everything we have to make sure we beat them.”
For their efforts, Seattle will face another lower-division team in the fourth round after amateur side Cal FC sprung possibly the biggest upset of the tournament by beating the Portland Timbers 1-0 in overtime.
The Sounders got a glimpse of the team they’ll face on Tuesday, as they were able to watch Cal FC’s final minutes of regulation and overtime. At one point, an audible cheer could be heard from their locker room when Kris Boyd missed his 80th-minute penalty that would have given the Timbers a late lead.
Amateur team or not, the Sounders are simply looking at Cal FC as the latest obstacle between them and a record fourth-straight title.
“We just saw that Cal FC is a quality team and they are going to be someone we have to battle with,” Sounders forward David Estrada said following Thursday’s training session. “It’s nice to play at home, but we knew whoever it was it was going to be a difficult task.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.