With the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title in sight, talk of “giving players minutes” and “testing formations” are fading with the summer sun.
The Seattle Sounders FC-Chicago Fire semifinal on Wednesday will be the “Game of the Round,” live on ussoccer.com, with both teams looking to reignite their season.
“My approach in Seattle, or whether it was in LA or Columbus, has been, if you’re in this thing, you try to win it,” said Seattle manager Sigi Schmid, who has won the Open Cup four times – once with the Galaxy and three times with the Sounders. “Some may view it as ‘This isn’t your first team.’ I’ve always gone with the team I think I have the best chance to win. Any time I’ve put a lineup out there, it’s the best I have available.
“The issue with the Open Cup, it’s in midweek in between league games, so you end up platooning.”
For Seattle, Sunday’s 2-0 win against the Houston Dynamo ended a two-game losing streak – its longest slide of the year, but also was the first of five games in 14 days.
Similarly for the Fire, Sunday’s 1-0 win against the New York Red Bulls ended a four-game winless skid and was the first of four games in 13 days.
“We have three games in six days, so there is no chance we’ll go with the same group three games in row,” Chicago coach Frank Yallop said. “We’ll use different lineups for different scenarios and make sure we have some fresh legs so we can be competitive.
“We need to get going in the league, but there’s no chance we’re going to throw one away.”
Seattle has never lost to Chicago in a combined 10 meetings between league play and the U.S. Open Cup, winning seven times including the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final (2-0).
It is a meaningless factoid according to Seattle defender and midfielder Zach Scott, who has been a member of all three of the Sounders’ Open Cup title teams (2009-2011).
“I’d guess 99 percent (of my teammates) don’t know those stats,” he said. “We realize every single team is good in this league. We ran into a team, San Jose (on Aug. 8), that isn’t in the playoff race, yet they won. If Chicago hasn’t beat us, they can easily turn it on.”
The winner will face either Philadelphia or FC Dallas. And Wednesday’s meeting will have a new twist, being played at the Starfire Sports Complex, the Sounders’ home when they played in the USL about 11 miles south of CenturyLink Field in Tukwila, Washington. Chicago has never faced Seattle at the 4,500-capacity facility in the 10 times they have played, and Scott knows the atmosphere is different from the ballyhooed crowds of 30,000-70,000 the Sounders attract at their regular home.
“It’s a very unique atmosphere,” Scott said. “CenturyLink is huge, but when you’re in Starfire, it’s a smaller venue. The fans are closer to the field, where they’re topping out at 5,000. It’s more intimate. The fans like it. You can shut out the crowd at CenturyLink. At Starfire, you hear every word.”