TUKWILA, Wash. – Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid has strived for the last three years to reach the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament, only to falter in the MLS play-in games with the Columbus Crew.
Tuesday night at Starfire, the Sounders reached the tournament with a 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, but Schmid missed the climactic moment when Kevin Forrest headed a Roger Levesque volley into the back of the net for the game’s only goal because his attention was turned to the sideline.
“He ended up scoring a good goal, unfortunately I didn’t see the goal,” said Schmid who laughed that he had his back to the field because he was preparing to sub for Forrest.
Starting on the left wing, Forrest conceded after the game that he hadn’t played particularly well until the goal, but noted that contributing positively to the end result was all that mattered.
“To be honest I didn’t have that great of a game. But you just keep going, keep improving, keep working … it’s just good to contribute,” the UW product and Edmonds native said.
The Sounders got out to a fast start, pelting the Colorado box with shots in one stretch in the 13th minute, Levesque played a ball to Sanna Nyassi coming up the middle and Nyassi blasted a shot from 20 yards out. Former USL Sounder Preston Burpo made the initial save, redirecting the ball back out to Levesque for a shot from 15 yards out, causing Burpo to make another diving stab at the ball. This time the ball came free to Sebastien Le Toux for a volley from nine yards out from the left post, but he couldn’t get enough on it and Rob Valentino cleared it from the right post.
That pressure continued throughout the first half and Seattle outshot Colorado 8-5, with four shots on goal compared to only one for the Rapids.
“We wanted to get out on top of them early and go from there, keeping possession and getting our chances,” Levesque said. “We weren’t too fortunate early on and you don’t want to let a team stick around but we got the goal in the second half and that’s what we needed to move on.”
Colorado turned up the pressure in the second half, forcing Kasey Keller to make three of his four saves after the intermission as Keller earned the clean sheet. But it was Forrest’s goal – his first as a Sounder – that propelled Seattle into the Open Cup.
It started when Nyassi made a quick throw-in from the right side to Levesque in the box. Levesque flicked a header over his shoulder toward the net where Forrest made the run.
“I think everyone on the field was surprised that Sanna had a long throw,” Levesque said. “We’ve never seen it in practice before. But he stepped up and chucked it in the box. I was just standing in the right place at the right time just trying to get anything I could on it to direct it toward the goal. Kevin Forrest … had a great finish on it and I don’t think there was anything Preston could have done about it.”
Added Forrest, “Sigi always talks about anticipation in the box and it just paid off. I ran in, the other guy was flat-footed, so I just slammed the header in.”
For Schmid, the win marks a return to the Open Cup for the first time since coaching the LA Galaxy in the tournament in 2004. He played several starters in the game, but it was not, he contends, out of determination to reach the tournament, but rather, need.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to play in the Open Cup,” said Schmid, whose Columbus Crew teams were all eliminated in play-in games. “It was really frustrating because I’ve wanted to get back into the tournament. But for us, starting starters was really out of necessity.”
The Sounders will enter the Open Cup in the third round, which starts June 30. They play their next league game against the Crew on Saturday night at 7:30 at Qwest Field.
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