SAN JOSE, Calif. – In their opening match during this year’s US Open Cup, the San Jose Earthquakes featured the likes of second-year man David Bingham in goal and rookie Josh Suggs along the backline.
With the Quakes three wins away from their first piece of hardware since picking up the 2005 MLS Supporters’ Shield – and their first potential title since taking MLS Cup 2003 – the opportunity to audition depth in US Oopen Cup play has come and gone.
In its place is a match that pits Supporters’ Shield leaders San Jose (10-3-3) against the Seattle Sounders, three-time USOC defending champions. It’s the only quarterfinal in this year’s Open Cup bracket that features two MLS clubs squaring off (Tuesday, 10:30 pm ET, streamed live on sjearthquakes.com).
“It’s a big, big game for both clubs,” Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop said. “We want to stop the momentum for them, obviously. We’re trying to win this game. It’s not time to put players out that are untested. We’re going to put out a team that’s going to try to win the match, and I think Seattle are going to do the same.”
Even though the match is being held at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco – the Quakes’ regular venue, Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, was unavailable – Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch (above) expects the same atmosphere as a regular-season battle.
“It’s going to be another MLS game,” Busch said. “They’re going to take it seriously, we’re going to take it seriously. One person’s going to move on and one’s going to be knocked out.”
Given this is San Jose’s third match in seven days, Yallop could make some tweaks as a concession to fatigue. One change is definite: Simon Dawkins, who had started 10 consecutive matches on the left wing, is out with a left shoulder sprain suffered Saturday against Real Salt Lake. Dawkins’ likely replacement is Shea Salinas, who returned Wednesday from a two-month layoff after breaking his left clavicle.
The Quakes have never factored heavily in USOC play. San Jose only made it out of the quarterfinals once in seven previous attempts, so trying to achieve that goal against a Sounders club that hasn’t lost in USOC play since joining MLS in 2009 adds another layer of difficulty to an already tough task.
“It’s going to be really, really hard,” Yallop said. “But we’re ready. I think our guys are mentally ready to win.”
San Jose are buoyed by the fact that they swept their high-altitude road trip last week with victories at Colorado and RSL. Seattle may have the Open Cup pedigree, but the Quakes are rounding back into the kind of form they had while opening the season on a 7-1-1 tear.
“Players are measured in any sport on trophies,” Busch added. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a US Open Cup or an MLS Cup. The closer you get to it, the more the realization: you’re possibly three wins away.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.