Zach Scott was admittedly conflicted when following the US Open Cup second round match between VSI Tampa Bay FC and the Tampa Bay Rowdies on Tuesday.
A win for VSI Tampa Bay would mean a home match for the Sounders FC when they enter the tournament in the third round. A win for the Tampa Bay Rowdies would force the Sounders to fly across the country as part of a nine-day road trip that would put them against the LA Galaxy and Chivas USA in MLS play and the Rowdies in the Open Cup, all on the road. It would also mean Scott would face his younger brother Daniel, a defender for the Rowdies.
With the Rowdies taking the match with a 2-1 win, that means the latter will be the case, as the Sounders FC and Rowdies will meet on Wednesday, May 29, at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I’d love the opportunity to play my brother, but an eight-day road trip isn’t ideal,” the Sounders FC defender said on Wednesday. “My wife and kids aren’t very happy.”
It’s not the first time the Scott brothers have met in the Open Cup, either. In 2011, the Sounders beat the Kitsap Pumas 2-1 at Starfire Stadium, with Daniel Scott captaining Kitsap and Zach Scott captaining Seattle. The Pumas went on to win the PDL championship that year and Daniel Scott repeated the feat with an NASL title in 2012 with Tampa Bay.
It may present a difficult travel schedule for the Sounders, who travel to California to face the LA Galaxy on Sunday in a nationally televised match (8 pm PT, ESPN 2), then to Florida to face the Rowdies on Wednesday, only to return to California to face Chivas USA on Saturday, June 1. Add in an MLS Reserve League match on Sunday, June 2, and the full Sounders squad will be tested with the rigorous week.
“Guys are going to have to step up. Whenever you have three games in seven days, it’s a test,” said midfielder Servando Carrasco, who has started the last four matches for the Sounders. “It’s a challenge to all of us. We know we have the depth to handle those three matches.”
The Sounders are no strangers to three-game weeks. They recently went 2-0-1 when traveling to face the Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City before returning home against the San Jose Earthquakes from May 4-11.
The fact that the middle game in the stretch is a US Open Cup game against a second-division opponent doesn’t change their strategy entering the week.
“It’s the same when we enter anything – we want to win,” Scott said. “We just find a group of guys that are there and healthy and approach it with the right mentality. These are quality players the same way the Sounders in USL times entered the tournament. We loved the opportunity to knock off MLS guys who came in confident and cocky. That’s definitely not going to be our approach when we go down to Tampa. We’re playing to win and we’re playing with respect.”
After being presented with their travel schedule, the players had no choice but to face the challenge head-on. And playing on the road in the Open Cup is nothing new for the Sounders, either. Last year, they played a road match against the Portland Timbers on a Sunday, then flew to San Francisco to meet the San Jose Earthquakes on a Tuesday, topping the Earthquakes 1-0 in the quarterfinal meeting.
Over the four years of the MLS franchise, the Sounders have played five road matches in the US Open Cup, more than all but one MLS side, and their four wins – one in a shootout – are more victories away from home than any other team in that time, too.
“In the end, we know what we’re getting into when we enter this tournament. There’s always that possibility of a long travel week,” Scott said. “We’ve won on the road before – we won a championship on the road. At this point, we expect nothing less. We’re going to take it like professionals and go in there and hopefully get a result.”
If the Sounders win in the third round, they will advance to meet the winner between the Portland Timbers (MLS) and Wilmington Hammerheads (USL-Pro). Portland and Wilmington meet on May 29 at JELD-WEN Field in Portland. The fourth round match, should the Sounders advance, would be at Starfire on June 12.