Weary Sounders face rugged U.S. Open Cup challenge

Jun 26, 2012, 9:05 AM | Updated: 10:20 am
San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, pictured during the Canadian Soccer Association's Centennial friendly earlier this month, is the MLS' leading scorer. (AP)

While the Seattle Sounders have floundered in their last seven Major League Soccer games, they have rolled through the competition en route to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. That match takes place tonight at archaic Kezar Stadium in San Francisco against the San Jose Earthquakes.

The Sounders are motivated to win an unprecedented fourth straight Open Cup, but are playing on just one day rest. San Jose has two days rest after beating Real Salt Lake 2-1.

Seattle coach Sigi Schmid says the extra day to recuperate could be a huge advantage for the opponent.

“It’s a tournament we’ve done well in the past three years, and this is probably our most difficult challenge,” Schmid said after Monday’s practice in San Francisco. “It’s a challenge we have to rise up to.”

Which Sounders players are healthy enough to answer the bell is a huge issue. Schmid might be forced to dip deep into the roster to give weary starters a rest. Roger Levesque, Cordell Cato and Alvaro Fernandez are possible candidates for more playing time.

Fernandez missed the Portland game with a red-card suspension. Fredy Montero will sit out Saturday’s contest in New England after his shoving match and red card at the end of the Timbers game.

The Sounders have trailed in all seven matches during their June MLS tailspin. Schmid says not surrendering an early goal will be a key to beating San Jose tonight.

“We need to play better soccer,” he said. “The guys know that, and we’re capable of it. It’s difficult when you’re playing from behind. That’s the first thing we’ve got to correct.”

San Jose has awesome firepower led by the league’s top scorer, Chris Wondolowski. He has scored four goals in seven matches against Seattle. Steven Lenhart is a big striker who can cause major problems for opposing defenses.

A few of the Sounders coaches have played in the 87-year-old Kezar Stadium. Schmid recalls his UCLA squad losing an NCAA playoff game to the University of San Francisco in that building some 30 years ago. He’d love to walk away from Golden Gate Park with much better memories tonight.

Matt Johnson and company have the pregame show at 7 p.m. Ross Fletcher is joined by former Sounders defender Taylor Graham for play-by-play at 7:30 on 97.3 KIRO FM.

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