By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — Three days after his 42nd birthday, Marcus Hahnemann will be in goal Wednesday when Seattle Sounders FC opens U.S. Open Cup play against PSA Elite.
This week, Hahnemann greeted the assignment like a gift.
“Just the chance to put on the jersey one more time for real — I cherish every moment you get a chance to do that,” he said. “There’s not going to be that many more, so you’re trying to enjoy everything you can and have as much fun as possible.”
Hahnemann’s resume includes more than 300 appearances with English clubs Everton, Wolverhampton, Reading and Fulham; and he has nine caps for the United States national team. But so far, his 21st professional season has been limited to a handful of appearances in the MLS Reserve League.
Stefan Frei has been the Sounders’ goalkeeper for every minute of their regular season. However, coach Sigi Schmid said Monday that he plans to ride Hahnemann through the Open Cup.
“We expect his experience and his abilities in goal to help us and help carry us in those games,” Schmid said. “It’s something that I know he’s looking forward to, and we’re looking forward to as well. Like I’ve said all along, we’ve got two quality goalkeepers, and it’s good for Marcus to get the opportunity to play here.”
U.S. Open Cup annually provides a chance for little-used Sounders to pick up minutes of meaningful loser-out competition.
The dynamic is different this year because this fourth round of the tournament — and the fifth round next week — come during Major League Soccer’s World Cup break. That could lessen the need of coaches to rest players at midweek because there are no league games on these weekends.
But even at that, Schmid continues to value the opportunity to get rest for his usual starters and starts for his usual reserves.
“You have to manage your team for the whole season,” he said. “… So you’re going to look at the Open Cup games as is this a window where a guy who’s got maybe a nagging injury, can I rest him during this window? Can a guy who’s played a lot of minutes, can I back off on some minutes here? You try to take that into account.”
It is a balancing act the Sounders have successfully negotiated while winning the 2009, 2010 and 2011 tournaments and advancing to the 2012 final.
However, last season Seattle was one and done, as Schmid started a reserve-heavy lineup — including Hahnemann — at Tampa Bay and left with a 1-0 loss.
“It’s tough when you get in the Open Cup because guys are swapping and changing … and then you’ve got some guys playing out of position, and it makes it very difficult,” Hahnemann said. “I think the benefit we have this year is I think our team is way stronger. We’re a lot deeper, and we’re going to have guys who are playing on Wednesday who have already played a lot of league games for us this year.”
Schmid agreed that Seattle depth is better this season. And even at that, he notes that the lineup he used at Tampa Bay was just a couple of missed opportunities away from getting the job done.
“We had the chances, but we didn’t necessarily play our best game,” he said, “So it was more a disappointment of how we played than really the lineup we put out there. The lineup we put out was strong enough, but considering the travel and everything else, it was difficult.”