On Wednesday night in Tukwila, the Sounders FC Open Cup train will roll into Starfire Stadium for a semifinal match with Chivas USA as the Sounders look to become the first team since 1935 to reach the final four consecutive years.
While they are aware that they have a chance to make history if they can become the first team in the tournament’s 99-year history to win four straight titles, they aren’t about to look past Chivas USA to the final on August 8.
“The opportunity to get into a fourth Open Cup final would be great,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Obviously this is a difficult game. Chivas will be highly motivated.”
Chivas USA sits in seventh in the Western Conference, just three points behind the LA Galaxy for the fifth and final playoff spot at 5-7-5.
However, they have just one loss in seven matches since acquiring Juan Agudelo and Danny Califf in trades with the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union, respectively, in mid-May. Additionally, they have Open Cup wins over the Ventura County Fusion, Carolina Railhawks and Charlotte Eagles in that span, putting them into the semifinal for the second time in the last three years.
The Sounders are approaching Wednesday’s match against a team that has just one loss in their last 11 competitive matches more than they are for a team that is the lowest-scoring team in the league that is sitting toward the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
“We know every single game is different. We have to do what we need to do to score goals to get the victory,” said forward Fredy Montero, who has five goals in his last four US Open Cup appearances. “It doesn’t matter who the team is in front of you. You have to give 100%, always.”
If Chivas can’t start climbing the table, the Open Cup could be their best chance at earning a trophy in 2012 and qualifying for the CONCACAF Champions League. That makes Wednesday’s meeting at Starfire vital to their season.
“Anytime you have a chance to advance to a final you’re going to go out and put everything you have into it,” Roger Levesque said. “It’s just going to be a battle. Regardless of what people’s records are and momentum going into it, on the field is what matters in a game like this.”
While Chivas has struggled to put goals on the board, they certainly have players capable of scoring. That includes MLS veterans Juan Pablo Angel, who has 71 goals in 142 career MLS appearances, and Alejandro Moreno, who has 52 career goals in 262 appearances.
Add to that Agudelo and newcomer Jose Correa and Chivas also has some rising talent to put alongside their experienced powerhouses. Agudelo has seven goals in 38 career MLS matches, including six goals for the New York Red Bulls last year. Correa has two goals in six matches this season, but also added both goals in a 2-1 win over the Charlotte Eagles in the quarterfinals to earn Player of the Round honors.
They also have one of the league’s top defenses, backed by goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and a defense that includes Califf and former Sounders right back James Riley. With former MLS Defender of the Year Robin Fraser pulling the strings as head coach, their defensive prowess comes as no surprise.
“We know that they’re a different team,” Seattle defender Zach Scott said. “They’re a disciplined team, as well. They’re a solid defensive team and they’re well-coached.”
The Sounders have history on their side though.
As a USL franchise, the Sounders topped Chivas in the 2007 and 2008 tournaments and also got the best of them as an MLS franchise in the 2010 semifinals.
That long-standing success in the tournament is a testament to the team’s mindset entering Open Cup matches.
“It’s just a mentality thing. The thing we’ve stressed all year is how we approach every game,” Scott said. “I think we approach the Open Cup the same way we do league games, the same way we do CONCACAF. Every game is a must-win for us. We don’t take anything lightly. We don’t put a second team or a B team or whatever you want to call it out there. We put out the team that is going to be the best team for us and the team that we think is going to get a victory.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 pm Pacific with a live web stream on SoundersFC.com and the audio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.