In two weeks, the Sounders FC will enter the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in the third round, drawing a lower-division team as an opponent. On Sunday at Cheney Stadium they got a bit of a tune-up for that game when the Sounders reserves met Orlando City SC in the first match they have played in the Reserve League against USL Pro opposition.
The resulting 2-0 defeat wasn’t what the Sounders were hoping for, but the reception from the 2,174 in attendance at Cheney Stadium – the home to the Seattle Mariners Triple-A affiliate Tacoma Rainiers – left a good impression as Seattle looks to possibly partner with a USL club in the near future.
“It was nice to give our fans down here a chance to see us play. Unfortunately we didn’t perform well today,” Sounders FC reserve coach Ezra Hendrickson said. “We didn’t give them a good showing at all.”
This is the first year of a partnership between Major League Soccer and the USL and teams around the league have partnered with second-division clubs in an effort to create a more competitive environment for younger players who wouldn’t otherwise see first-team minutes. Seattle owner and general manager Adrian Hanuaer is exploring Tacoma as an option for that affiliate club, but may also partner with an existing USL club.
On the field, the Sounders got a bit of what they wanted despite the defeat. Patrick Ianni and Shalrie Joseph played 90 minutes and Steve Zakuani saw extended time as those three come back after missing time to injuries.
After posting a 4-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field to cap a stretch of three games in eight days that saw the Sounders go 2-0-1, Seattle is getting stronger as their team gets healthier.
“The boys didn’t need me, which was great,” said Joseph, who was available on the bench on Saturday. “It felt good playing today. It felt good getting the 90 minutes. I think that’s what they intended – just get that little bit of rust out and playing today definitely helped.”
Orlando City is affiliated with Sporting Kansas City and that relationship paid off for them on Sunday, as both goals were scored by Dom Dwyer, a forward on loan from the MLS club that was a first-round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
In addition to Dwyer, Christian Duke and Yann Songo’o, all on loan from Kansas City, Orlando City had others with MLS experience and several more gunning for opportunities to play in MLS.
“Those guys want to be in MLS. They come out hungry with everything to prove,” Joseph said. “They come out firing on all cylinders. They’re hungry and it’s a battle.”
This is similar to what the Sounders will face in the Open Cup when they enter the tournament beginning May 29. They have had success previously in the Open Cup, winning three straight titles and reaching the final in 2012, and have had their share of lower-division opponents.
“Every year in the Open Cup there is an MLS team that gets knocked off by a lower division team. We don’t want it to happen to us, certainly,” Hendrickson said. “We know what to expect. They always come with a little more energy and a little more effort.”