With MLS play on the horizon, Sounders look to advance in U.S. Open Cup

Sounders FC vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 5th Round
Tuesday, 7:30 pm PT; Starfire Stadium; Tukwila, Wash.
Webstream: SoundersFC.com

Sounders FC has made clear in its words and actions that the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is something that is coveted within the locker room.

After reaching the final in four consecutive seasons, Seattle was eliminated in the first match of the 2013 tournament after a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League. Now with a 5-0 win over PSA Elite last week under their belt, the Sounders face the San Jose Earthquakes in the fifth round on Tuesday at Starfire Stadium.

“For us it’s about continuing this trend. We exited last year in the first round, but we’re back at home. Our fans deserve it. We deserve it,” Sounders FC captain Brad Evans said. “It’s a must-win.”

This is the second Open Cup match for Seattle during the World Cup break, which was abbreviated to accommodate the knockout tournament. San Jose, on the other hand, opened the tournament just days after the final MLS match leading up to the break and haven’t played in 13 days since ousting Sacramento Republic in the fourth round on June 11.

That rhythm of play could prove to help Seattle, as it was able to shake off the rust of a break against amateur club PSA Elite, while San Jose will face the leaders in the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings.

“It’s good that we’re back into the rhythm of training. I think your first game back after a layoff is a little bit rusty,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I expect them to come out with pretty much a first team lineup. They’ve had some time off so guys that have had little knocks and pains should be healthy. The league hasn’t gone as well as they would have liked so far, so the Open Cup becomes a source of pride. If a team isn’t doing as well, they can put a bit more stock into that.”

San Jose won’t have Chris Wondolowski or Victor Bernardez available, just as Seattle will play without the services of Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin while they are at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. Even without those two catalysts on either side of the ball, San Jose is a team built to compete, while Seattle isn’t about to take the Earthquakes for granted because of their 4-5-4 record this season.

“It’s a strong MLS team. Even though they’re missing a guy like Wondo, they still have a lot of power up front,” Seattle forward Kenny Cooper said. “They’re a really experienced team from back to front, so it’s going to be a good test for us.”

Sounders FC and San Jose have been down this road before. And like their 2012 meeting at San Francisco’s Kezar Stadium, the fifth round match at Starfire sets up to be a physical battle between two proud teams looking to make waves in the tournament.

Those confined spaces play directly into the Earthquakes’ style of play with Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart manning the frontline. And while it’s a strength for San Jose, Seattle knows that it has the ability to play well at Starfire.

“Aerial presence and physical play. This field plays directly into that,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “I think for us you’ll see a lot of big bodies out there tomorrow night and looking to neutralize but also capitalize on set pieces. Those are all things that will play into it.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm PT from Starfire with a live webstream on SoundersFC.com. If Seattle wins it will advance to the quarterfinals to host the winner of Tuesday’s match between Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers. That potential quarterfinal match would take place on July 9 at Starfire.

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