TUKWILA, Wash. — All week, the Seattle Sounders watched MLS teams struggle, or even lose, to lower-division opponents in the US Open Cup fourth round. As one of the most successful teams in Open Cup history, the Sounders were determined not to have a similar experience.
The Sounders stormed out to a 3-0 halftime lead over amateur side PSA Elite on Wednesday before settling for a 5-0 win to advance to the round of 16. In doing so, they improved to 18-1-2 all-time in the 101-year-old tournament and also helped erase the memories of last year’s loss to the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies.
"Obviously we weren't happy with the way we started Open Cup last year, so we wanted to make sure we got off to a better start this year,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Playing at home is certainly easier, but we wanted to make sure we went with a strong defensive group, an experienced defensive group, then give some a our young guys a chance [to play] and rest some of the other guys. Overall I was pleased.”
Although the Sounders used a lineup that only bore a passing resemblance to ones they’ve fielded during the regular season, it was full of MLS veterans. Former United States international Marcus Hahnemann was in goal, all four defensive starters had extensive MLS experience, Brad Evans anchored the midfield and Cam Weaver and Kenny Cooper formed a rather imposing forward pairing.
The experience showed in how they remained patient in the early stages. Despite dominating possession, but failing to generate many scoring chances, Seattle refused to force the game. They finally broke through on a 23rd-minute penalty and the dam burst shortly after.
"I thought it was a very a workman-like effort,” said center back Zach Scott, who scored a goal. “It can be easy to let your guard down against a team like this, and in the beginning we were frustrated because they kept us wide, so it was difficult to cover the penetrating balls.
"Once we kept possession with the intent of getting behind them we did a good job and the goals started to come. The biggest thing was to get a zero on the board — we didn't want them to get any confidence."
While the quality of the lineup was perhaps the main factor in the Sounders’ performance, going into a match against a potentially overmatch opponent also takes a certain mentality.
"Winning is winning,” Scott said. “It's been fun to watch soccer on TV, but even more fun to get back out there with your friends. I've been excited to get some rest, but also get these Open games in. It gave a lot of guys an opportunity to get some minutes in."