Sounders FC goes into every match with expectations to win. When pitted against PSA Elite, an amateur club from California, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, that expectation was as prevalent as ever. Even still, the team felt rewarded with a 5-0 win at Starfire Stadium after playing just one Open Cup match last year – a loss to the NASL's Tampa Bay Rowdies.
"We weren't happy with the way we started the Open Cup last year so we wanted to make sure we got off to a better start this year. Playing at home is certainly easier, but we wanted to go with a strong and experienced defensive group and then give some of our younger guys a chance," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "Our expectation going into the game was this was a game we were going to win. We talked about not giving them a chance to hang around during the game, getting some goals in the first half and putting it away."
Seattle used a mixed lineup that included captain Brad Evans and World Cup veterans Marcus Hahnemann and Leo Gonzalez, as well as first-year players Micheal Azira, Sean Okoli and Aaron Kovar.
That mixture of youth and experience served them well as the Sounders got back on the winning track in the Open Cup, after winning the tournament three consecutive times from 2009-2011 and reaching the final in 2012.
"We wanted to have enough experience on the field," Schmid said. "It's mentality, but you also have to have some experience on the field."
Seattle opened scoring when Kovar earned a penalty and Evans converted in the 23rd minute. Zach Scott and Kenny Cooper scored two goals in quick succession off of crosses from Kovar and David Estrada, respectively, and Sounders FC went into halftime leading 3-0.
Cooper added a second goal off an acrobatic bicycle kick and Okoli scored his first professional goal to close out the match while the defense limited PSA Elite to just one shot during the match.
"Everyone put in a professional, hard-working, quality performance and that's what every game takes. We reaped the rewards of that effort," Cooper said. "It's a deep team and I think we have a lot of confidence in whoever steps in to the starting 11. I think some of those young players showed why."
Even with the mixed lineup, Seattle commanded the game even while it took several minutes before it garnered an offensive flow.
"It's very easy to let your guard down with teams like this. Once we kept possession with the intent to get behind them, we did a good job and then the goals started to come," Scott said. "The biggest thing was to keep a zero on the board. We didn't want them to get any confidence and I thought everyone did a good job of defending first."
Next up for Seattle is a fifth-round match with the San Jose Earthquakes at Starfire on Tuesday. As Sounders FC builds back toward the next MLS match on June 28 against D.C. United, Schmid intends to work more of his starters into the lineup and expects the same from the Earthquakes. The meeting marks the second in three years between the two sides after Seattle took home a 1-0 win at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco in 2012.
"You're going to see teams probably throwing out close to first team lineups," Schmid said. "Those are things we have to weigh as we go into that game."
Tickets to the match against the Earthquakes go on sale on Friday at 10 am PT and can be purchased by visiting SoundersFC.com/tickets.