Sam Rogers S2 vs. Portland 2017-06-27
Mike Fiechtner

Seattle Sounders’ Round of 16 U.S. Open Cup match a chance for younger players to step up, impress

TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders accomplished their objective of their 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run with a 2-1 fourth-round victory over the Portland Timbers at Starfire Sports Complex on June 13.

They’ll now turn their focus to the USOC Round of 16, which will pit the Rave Green against the San Jose Earthquakes in a road matchup at Avaya Stadium on Wednesday (7:30 p.m. PT; Live stream on SoundersFC.com; KIRO Radio 97.3 FM). A victory would put Seattle through to the tournament’s quarterfinals for the seventh time in nine MLS seasons and inch the club one step closer to its fifth USOC title.

The first order of business, however, will be contending with a San Jose side that has historically given the Sounders trouble at home and will be playing its first competitive match since parting ways with third-year head coach Dominic Kinnear on Monday.

“San Jose’s the same [as Portland], a legitimate MLS opponent,” Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer told reporters following Seattle’s practice at Starfire on Tuesday. “[They have] a new coach, so I’m sure they’ll be fired up. It’s the Round of 16, we win one more game, we get a little closer. The guys are ready.”

With a Western Conference matchup in MLS play against the Colorado Rapids looming on July 4, the Sounders may field a young, reserve-heavy side for the match, similar to the one they trotted out in the previous round against Portland.

But while youthful faces will likely make up most of the lineup, they won’t necessarily comprise all of it, with Schmetzer saying the Sounders “will have some first-team players available for selection.”

For the young players who do see the field Wednesday, though, the match is a chance to showcase their skills and impress Schmetzer and his coaching staff. It’s a golden opportunity for those looking to show they deserve more first-team minutes and one that Schmetzer said he expects his players to do what they can to maximize.

“That group is hungry,” Schmetzer said. “That’s the benefit of playing maybe guys who don’t see regular playing time [with the first team]… I’ll use every single advantage I can to get them mentally prepared to play.”

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