U.S. Open Cup Semifinals In Seattle


Sunday was a good day. The Seattle Sounders got a much-needed win over the Houston Dynamo. Chad Marshall was back from injury. Stefen Frei recorded his first clean sheet since July 13, and Sigi Schmid won his 200th game as an MLS head coach. But there’s no time to enjoy Sunday’s feats. Seattle gets a measly 72-hour break before tonight’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against the Chicago Fire at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, WA. Don’t ask. I have no idea why it’s played there.

The U.S. Open Cup, for many fans, means being hunched over a laptop on a weeknight watching a grainy video feed of players running around on dead grass with audio that sounds like announcers in a bathtub. But it’s so much more if Seattle can take home the Cup. If not? Then it’s just a silly tournament distracting us from the real goal, the MLS Cup.

The US Open Cup is old. In 1914, the Brooklyn Field Club defeated Brooklyn Celtic 2-1 at Coates Field in beautiful Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in the Cup’s inaugural year. The Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup in 2009, 2010, and 2011; and were runners-up in 2012, losing to Sporting Kansas City on penalties. Only four teams have ever won the Cup three times. However, Seattle exited the tournament early last year with a third-round loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

“We were disappointed last year for getting knocked out early.” – Sigi Schmid

A fourth title would place the Sounders in the prestigious ranks of the Fall River Marksmen, the Greek American AA, and the Philadelphia Ukrainians. A title this year would etch their names in the history books alongside the Bethlehem Steel and the Maccabi Los Angeles, the only teams in the history of mankind to win this most glorious of trophies five times.

Chicago is coming off a 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls, a win that moved them three points clear of the Houston Dynamo in the East and two points shy of a playoff spot. Chicago’s season is summed up in one word: mediocrity. After playing 22 MLS games, Chicago have won four, lost five, and played to 13 draws. Cup games can be an opportunity for clubs struggling in league play to shake off the frustration and win a trophy. The 2013 MLS MVP, Mike Magee, leads the Fire with seven goals. He’ll be the man the Sounders have to stop to move to the finals.

May 31, 2014; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid during the National Anthem prior to the game against Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field. Seattle defeated Real Salt Lake 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

For Sigi, the key will be resource allocation. Seattle has a match in Salt Lake on Saturday and then another match back home next Wednesday against the San Jose Earthquakes. His club sits atop the entire league with 41 points and, although he would never say so, the MLS Cup is the goal for this year. Will Sigi go all out to advance in a tournament he’s already won three times? Or will the MLS Cup be in the back of his mind, and will he want to avoid risking injuries? Or (drumroll please), will he throw caution to the wind and win ’em both?!

“We were disappointed last year for getting knocked out early.” Sigi told reporters on Monday. And that’s about as fired up as he’ll get. We’ll take it!

You should be able to watch the game at Soundersfc.com tonight at 7:30. The winner of tonight’s match will face the Philadelphia Union in the final. Philadelphia defeated Dallas FC last night on penalty kicks to advance.