Throughout the Seattle Sounders’ first four seasons in MLS, there has been one constant: deep runs into the US Open Cup.
There won’t be a fifth.
Coming directly on the heels of one of their worst losses in franchise history, the Sounders suffered another gut-punching loss. This time it was the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies delivering the blow, sending Seattle to a 1-0 defeat in the third round of the Open Cup on Wednesday.
“A lot of heads down,” defender Zach Scott said about the mood in the postgame locker room. “We’re incredibly disappointed. I don’t even know what to say. Especially me, I’ve been in this tournament for many years and we’ve always done well. This one hurts a little worse for some reason.”
The Sounders had never lost an Open Cup game in regulation during the previous four seasons, compiling a 17-0-2 record, winning three titles and advancing to four finals. Even going back to their USL days, the Sounders had advanced to at least the semifinals in each of the six previous seasons.
Although the Sounders didn’t dominate each of their previous opponents, they always had a knack for figuring out how to get results. Although they got some quality chances against the Rowdies, they couldn’t find the magic touch.
The most glaring opportunity came in the 85th minute when they were awarded a penalty kick after Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa used his hand to clear a ball off the line. Seattle Designated Player Obafemi Martins, who had only recently entered the game, elected to take the kick with a chance to equalize. But Rowdies goalkeeper Diego Restrepo guessed correctly, diving to his right to make the save.
The Rowdies, on the other hand, made the most of limited opportunities. Luke Mulholland raced through the defense to get an open shot from about 10 yards out. Marcus Hahnemann made the initial save, but the rebound went right to Georgi Hristov at the back post and he volleyed it into the open net.
“They should be pissed off,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said about his players. “There were a lot of opportunities for players to stand up and make cases for themselves. Some guys took advantage of that and some guys didn’t. We fell short.”
Playing their second game since Sunday and facing another game on Saturday, Schmid elected to go with a lineup that was a mix of starters and reserves. It was a formula not so dissimilar from past Open Cup runs. Unlike previous seasons, though, this group couldn’t get it done.
“For most of the guys who played today, this was our chance,” said Hahnemann, who has yet to make a league appearance with the Sounders. “You know you’re going to get runs in the Open Cup, for myself in particular because Michael [Gspurning's] been playing well … that’s the disappointing part.”