When Cal FC enter the offensive third, even their coach isn’t quite sure what to expect. Their defensive philosophy has been described as a “slip ‘n slide,” and until last week’s win over the Portland Timbers, the only video available on them was essentially home movie quality.
With that in mind, it's safe to say that putting together a scouting report on the plucky amateur side is easier said than done. Not that head coach Eric Wynalda feels any sympathy for the Seattle Sounders, who Cal FC play in the fourth round of the US Open Cup at Starfire Sports Complex on Tuesday (10:30 pm ET, FOX Soccer, live commentary on MLSsoccer.com).
“The bottom line is they can talk and talk and talk before and make excuses after it’s over,” Wynalda said during a Monday conference call with reporters. “You try to prepare the best you can before, but at some point, they’re going to put the ball down and blow the whistle and they’re going to play.”
Of course, none of that will stop Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid and his assistants from doing everything they can to be as prepared as possible.
“We always try to do our homework and prepare in the proper matter,” Schmid said. “The one thing we don’t want to ever do is shortcut in any way. We look into it. We look into the history of the players, we research what we can find out and see what information we have on them. Having tape and being able to watch them play is very important.”
There are a few things working in the Sounders’ favor when it comes to determining how Cal FC will play Tuesday night. In addition to last week’s film, the Sounders have also had several Cal FC players in their camp for trials. Among those former trialists are goalkeeper Derby Carillo, midfielder Danny Barrera and center back Jesus Gonzalez. The Sounders also considered signing left back Mike Randolph at one point.
“As a team and as a unit, they’ve played very well,” Schmid said of Cal FC. “Some players play very well in certain environments and certain situations. They’ve got talented players.”
Schmid compared Cal FC’s collection of talent to a very good USL team. Wynalda, understandably, is a bit more bullish. He believes his group of players could form the nucleus of a very competitive MLS side.
Hypotheticals aside, Wynalda thinks his side matches up quite well against the three-time defending Open Cup champions.
While the Timbers’ size and speed was a tough matchup for Cal FC — whose players Wynalda admits are not particularly fit — the Sounders’ more technical style may allow for a more fluid game.
“If you look at Seattle, if they play their guys, that setup kind of allows us to not just absorb some pressure but to push one [more] into the attack than we did against Portland,” Wynalda said. “[It] allows us to get a little more of the ball and all these guys to create the triangles they like to create.”
Whatever they do create, Wynalda only seems to want credit for finding them, not turning them into something they weren’t before.
“It’s about them, it always has been about them,” Wynalda said. “The fact that I just had the follow through to make this happen doesn’t make me the hero.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.