TUKWILA, Wash. — There may not be another MLS match on the Seattle Sounders’ schedule until June 16, but that doesn’t mean they are treating the upcoming period as a break.
Head coach Sigi Schmid dubbed this “opportunity week,” emphasizing that between Wednesday’s US Open Cup third round game against the Atlanta Silverbacks (10 pm ET, streamed live on soundersfc.com) and Friday’s Reserve League game against the Vancouver Whitecaps that just about every healthy player should see the field.
“They know we still have two games,” Schmid said. “We want to get through the Atlanta game to ensure ourselves a second game. Everybody is going to get an opportunity to show themselves and show that, ‘Hey Coach, you’ve been looking past me, you need to look at me because I’m a guy who can play.’ It’s a great chance for our guys and they would be making a big mistake if they look past it.”
Schmid suggested the lineup against the Silverbacks will have some mix between starters and reserves, just as he’s done during the early rounds of each of the Sounders’ previous three Open Cup championships. While that’s a recipe that got more than a few MLS teams in trouble on Tuesday night (see all results here), the Sounders have previously been able to use it to fuel strong runs in multiple competitions.
This year’s team would seem to be similarly well suited. Despite using different starting lineups in all 13 games – giving 19 players at least 180 minutes of playing time and employing 21 different starters – the Sounders have still managed to get off to a 7-3-3 start, good enough for third place in the Western Conference standings.
“We always emphasize this is a very deep team,” said third-year Sounders forward David Estrada, who has gone from a seldom-used reserve to having played the second most minutes on the team this year. “There’s going to be a little bit of a mix of guys, but whoever is on the field is going to be just as good.”
The key, multiple Sounders players and coaches have said, is to make it clear that expectations don’t change even if the team’s on-field personnel does.
“Winning is contagious,” said Sounders defender Zach Scott, who has logged nearly 600 Open Cup minutes over the past three seasons. “Winning is something we want to continue no matter who steps on the field, no matter what competition we’re in. It’s an overall team mentality, coming from the top with the coaches down to the players.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.