Sounders U-23s readying for U.S. Open Cup test

Doxa Italia will be the opponent for the Sounders U-23 squad in the U.S. Open Cup.

When the Sounders FC enters the 100th edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup in the third round later this month, it will be with four months into the regular season. In that time, they will have played 11 MLS regular season matches, four matches in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League, six preseason matches and four MLS Reserve League games.

Which is to say, they will be in full-swing with the 2013 season.

Contrast that with the Sounders FC U23's, who open the US Open Cup on Tuesday night at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner against Doxa Italia, a US Adult Soccer Association team from Southern California.

Most of the Sounders FC U23 players flew in from colleges all around the country on Sunday and Monday to play in Tuesday night’s match, making survival to get into the second round quite the formidable task.

“If we can get out of the first game with all of these kids learning each other’s names during the first game, we would fly down to North Carolina to play Charlotte, which is a pro team,” said coach and general manager Darren Sawatzky, who also serves as the Sounders FC director of youth development. “It would be upset time.”

While Doxa Italia may be an adult league team, they are no slouches. Along with a perfect 16-0-0 record in the CSL Premier Division last year, they were also runners-up for the 2011 USASA National Amateur Cup.

They are led by forward Bryan Byrne, who co-captained the University of California-Santa Barbara to the 2006 NCAA title and played briefly with the New England Revolution.

The Sounders U23's, meanwhile, will be made up mostly of Sounders FC Academy alums who are playing collegiately around the country. However, many of the top players like Aaron Kovar and Jordan Schweitzer won’t join the team until June.

They qualified for the tournament by finishing first in the PDL’s Northwest Division last year, however they were led at that time by Sounders FC standout and US U20 National Teamer DeAndre Yedlin, as well as Houston Dynamo defender Anthony Arena and MLS pool goalkeeper Doug Herrick.

Those players won’t be around this time, but there are certainly some quality players to speak of, including Akron University standouts Aodhan Quinn and Eric Stevenson as well as PDL veterans Mark Lee, Steve Mohn and Ben West.

“These are good soccer players,” Sawatzky said of Lee, Mohn and West. “They’re becoming veterans and they’re very good.”

The match kicks off at 7 pm PT at Sunset Chevrolet Stadium in Sumner, Wash.. If the Sounders U23's advance, they will meet the Charlotte Eagles of the USL Pro on May 21st in Charlotte.

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