Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire
Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal
Wednesday, 7:30 pm PT; Starfire Stadium; Tukwila, Wash.
Over the years, Sounders FC has been no stranger to big matches. Wednesday’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal matchup with the Chicago Fire certainly qualifies as Seattle looks to reach the Open Cup final for the fifth time in six seasons.
“It’s an Open Cup game. It’s a semifinal. So players should all be motivated and eager,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “We’re looking forward to playing a good game.”
Both teams are contending with a difficult schedule that will see them play three games in seven days. And while Sounders FC is getting players back from injury to help round out the roster, the Fire will be playing without 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee, who will serve a red card suspension in the semifinal.
While Chicago’s 4-5-13 record this season does little to strike fear in its opponents, the Fire has done well to reach the Open Cup semifinal. Last season, D.C. United won just three matches all season, but still emerged as Open Cup champions, proving that anything can happen in the knockout tournament.
Seattle knows not to take Chicago lightly and is glad to have the backing of its home crowd at Starfire Stadium.
“It’s going to be a difficult game, but we’re with our fans at home,” said midfielder Marco Pappa, who scored in Seattle’s 3-1 extra time win over Portland in the quarterfinal last month. “We hope to take advantage of that.”
Sounders FC is 14-0-1 at Starfire Stadium in the Open Cup and holds an all-time overall record of 19-1-3 in the tournament. With three titles from 2009-2011 to its credit and another championship game appearance in 2012, Seattle has been synonymous with success in the Open Cup.
A fourth tournament championship would move Sounders FC level with the Fire atop the MLS leaderboard with four Open Cup titles. However, Seattle knows that to reach that goal, it takes focus on the first task against Chicago on Wednesday.
“We want to win the Open Cup but we have to take it step by step. The next game is against Chicago and we have to win that game,” said defender Leo Gonzalez, who started in three of Seattle’s four finals appearances. “We are happy about that game and we think we can have a good game.”
While the busy stretch on the calendar and Saturday’s meeting with Western Conference foes Real Salt Lake on the horizon provide challenges to Schmid, he won’t look past the Chicago match when picking his lineup for the crucial game.
“Saturday is important as well. After this game tomorrow night, we’ll evaluate the troops again and see who’s up for this next battle and how we’re going to approach it and how we’re going to play,” Schmid said. “We’re going to want to get a result in Salt Lake because that’s how we approach every game, home or away. But right now I couldn’t give you a wild guess as to the lineup. We’re going to have to see how things turn out.”
Meanwhile, there is the story of DeAndre Yedlin’s status with the team. Last week, he was in Europe discussing a future transfer with a club abroad and Schmid held him out of the lineup against the Houston Dynamo to avoid the risk of injury while that deal is completed. On Tuesday, he was back training with the team and the U.S. National Teamer could feature for Seattle on Wednesday.
“He trained with us today. We think everything is going to be finished and done so our expectation is that he’ll start tomorrow,” Schmid said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 pm with a live webcast on SoundersFC.com. The winner will advance to the final to meet the winner of Tuesday’s match between the Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas.