SAN FRANCISCO – The Sounders FC had the cards stacked against them in their Lamar Hunt US Open Cup quarterfinal matchup with the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday.
With just one day between their league match on Sunday against the Portland Timbers and the Open Cup meeting, the Sounders were left with a makeshift lineup as they traveled to San Francisco to face the top team in MLS.
Against those tall odds, the Sounders outplayed the Earthquakes at their own game and advanced to the Open Cup semifinals, getting a goal from Cordell Cato and a standout performance by Andrew Weber to escape Kezar Stadium with a 1-0 victory.
"It was an important win," Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. "We overcame a lot of things today and that can help a team. Obstacles are there, but obstacles are there to be overcome and we can overcome those obstacles."
In the 19th minute, Cato ran up the right side, then slid a ball at a near-impossible angle and got it past San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham and inside the far post for the 1-0 lead.
"The last couple games it was difficult because we always had to fight from the back," Cato said. "With that goal, it brought confidence to not only me, but the whole team and we were able to push forward as a whole team."
It looked like San Jose found the equalizer in the 33rd minute when Ike Opara knocked in a corner kick, but the Earthquakes were whistled for the foul and Seattle held on to their lead.
Seattle continued to mount the pressure in the first half, but couldn't add to their lead as Cato missed just wide on one shot and Sammy Ochoa had one shot saved and another miss just over the crossbar.
In the second half, San Jose brought on their top scorers, Chris Wondolowski and Steven Lenhart, to try to get back into the game.
Within two minutes of Wondolowski and Lenhart entering the match, the Earthquakes started sending long crosses into the box, searching for the heads of their goal-scoring tandem. The first came in the 55th minute, but Weber blocked it, then smothered it to keep the Sounders in the lead.
"Andrew did well. He came up on a couple crosses where he had to come out and punch them," Schmid said. "His spirit and his demeanor in terms of organizing our team today was good."
As the minutes grinded away, so did the tension as Alan Gordon and Justin Morrow were both shown yellow cards for tackles, then Gordon was ejected with a straight red card when he hit second-half sub Marc Burch in the back of the head.
During second-half stoppage time, San Jose continued to pepper the Seattle box with crosses, but Weber and the Seattle defense held on for the 1-0 win, advancing to the semifinal for the fourth straight year, where they will meet Chivas USA on either July 10 or July 11.
The Sounders will continue their road trip with their next match against the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.
Sounders FC – Cordell Cato 19.
Earthquakes – None.
Sounders FC – Andy Rose (caution) 82, Marc Burch (caution) 93+.
Earthquakes – Alan Gordon (caution) 49; Justin Morrow (caution) 75; Alan Gordon (ejection) 93+.
Sounders FC – Andrew Weber, Brad Evans, Zach Scott, Patrick Ianni, Leo Gonzalez, Cordell Cato (Marc Burch 83), Servando Carrasco, Andy Rose, Alvaro Fernandez (Jhon Kennedy Hurtado 89), Roger Levesque, Sammy Ochoa (Eddie Johnson 76).
Earthquakes – David Bingham, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Ike Opara, Justin Morrow, Rafael Baca (Marvin Chavez 80), Sam Cronin, Tressor Moreno (Steven Lenhart 54), Shea Salinas, Khari Stevenson (Chris Wondolowski 53), Alan Gordon.