Sounders open USOC play with match at Tampa Bay Rowdies

The old rivals will do battle again in Florida as the Sounders look to get another big U.S. Open Cup run going.

Sounders FC @ Tampa Bay Rowdies
Third Round; Lamar Hunt US Open Cup
Wednesday, May 29, 2013; 4:30 pm PT; Al Lang Stadium, St. Petersburg, Florida
Video: Live stream at www.SoundersFC.com

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – The last time the Sounders met the Tampa Bay Rowdies, only seven players on the current Sounders FC roster were born. The date was July 1, 1983, and the Sounders were in the middle of their final season in the North American Soccer League.

Now, nearly 30 years later, they meet again in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup as the Sounders embark on their fifth entry into the tournament that they have reached the final in all four previous years, winning three straight titles from 2009-2011. They will look to maintain that Open Cup dominance starting Wednesday night at Al Lang Stadium when they face the Rowdies, now of the second division NASL.

It’s a sturdy test for the Sounders, to be sure, as the Rowdies won the NASL title in 2012 and look to have a strong team in 2013, where they sit third in the NASL at 3-2-2.

“They’re a good team,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’ve got a lot of solid players and they’ve built a solid team there.”

Like the Sounders, they are also a team of proud tradition.

When the NASL folded in 1984, many iterations of the Tampa Bay Rowdies continued playing in various indoor and outdoor leagues until finally folding themselves in 1994. They made their return in 2010 in the newly-formed USSF Division 2 as FC Tampa Bay, playing under that moniker for two seasons before returning to the Tampa Bay Rowdies name that had become synonymous with pro soccer in the area for decades.

They moved to the NASL in 2011 and quickly built a winning brand, taking home the NASL title in 2012, just their third year since returning.

They bring back many players from that championship squad, including centerback Daniel Scott, the younger brother of Sounders FC defender Zach Scott, and brought in University of Washington product Raphael Cox.

For all of their successes, though, the Sounders are focused on their own squad. And while they’ve found success in the tournament over the years, they are faced with a difficult task on Wednesday because of injuries, suspensions and a busy MLS schedule.

Patrick Ianni and Osvaldo Alonso are unavailable to the Sounders because of disciplinary matters from previous Open Cup matches – Ianni for getting two yellow cards in the championship match last year and Alonso for card accumulation. Schmid also sent Leo Gonzalez, Mauro Rosales and Djimi Traore back to Seattle after the match on Sunday against the LA Galaxy and all three are expected to rejoin the team before Saturday’s match against Chivas USA. In addition, Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans both left on Monday to join the U.S. National Team in their preparation for World Cup qualifying matches in June.

With those seven players unavailable, Schmid will look further down the roster to compete against Tampa Bay.

“For our guys, it’s a great opportunity because there’s going to be some guys on the field who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time recently, so it’s a chance for them to show in a meaningful competition and a meaningful game exactly that they’re somebody that wants to be back into that mix in the 18, especially in the upcoming weeks with the guys missing for national teams,” he said.

Utilizing the depth of the squad in the Open Cup has never been a problem for the Sounders in past years, in large part because of the impetus placed on the tournament. That club pride has never been more prevalent than in the Open Cup tournament and it is a byproduct of the team’s success in the USL era, where they reached the tournament semifinals in 2007 and 2008.

They will also have the added motivation of returning to the form of their previous six matches before suffering a 4-0 defeat to the LA Galaxy on Sunday.

“All cup games have been exciting for us because like we’ve always said as a team, when we enter something we try to win it,” Schmid said. “I don’t think anybody was happy with the last performance. If you want to make it a one-off, you have to step on the field and play well tomorrow.”

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