By John Boyle Herald Writer
TUKWILA — If history wasn’t motivation enough for the Seattle Sounders, a wild day of upsets in the U.S. Open Cup certainly reminded the three-time tournament champions that no competition, regardless of the league it plays in, should be taken lightly.
And a night after seven Major League Soccer teams were bounced from the Open Cup by lower-division teams, the Sounders made sure they didn’t suffer the same fate, rolling rolled to a 5-1 victory over the Atlanta Silverbacks in front of 3,703 at Starfire Stadium.
Seattle is trying to become the first team in the history of the Open Cup — which dates back to 1914 — to win four straight titles. So, players certainly should have been up for Wednesday night’s game anyway, but they were reminded of just how unpredictable the tournament can be a night earlier when half of the 14 MSL teams in action lost, including three that were playing at home.
“It was obviously good, because we talked about it,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said of the previous night’s results. “We said, ‘Last night 14 MLS teams played and seven went home.’ … It’s a game that you can never take too lightly, because the moment you take lightly, that’s when you’re going to get caught.”
And Schmid’s warning didn’t fall on deaf ears.
“I got up this morning and saw that seven teams went down,” said defender Jeff Parke, one of several regular starters in Schmid’s lineup. “You keep thinking to yourself that you know it’s going to be a tough game, but it’s important that we take this tournament seriously.”
Seattle’s next Open Cup game is 7 p.m. Tuesday against Cal FC, an amateur team based out of Thousand Oaks, Calif., that is coached by former U.S. National Team player Eric Wynalda. Cal became the latest, and perhaps least likely, team to knock off an MLS side, beating the Portland Timbers Wednesday in Portland. Had the Timbers beaten Cal FC, which plays in the United State Adult Soccer Association — yes, a league so far down the U.S. Soccer food chain that it has to specify that it’s for adults — they would have hosted Seattle next week.
While the final score indicated an easy victory for Seattle, there were plenty of tense moments in the first half as Seattle dominated possession, but failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities. Eddie Johnson failed to convert a pair of chances early and Osvaldo Alonso had a shot from beyond midfield barely batted away by Atlanta goalkeeper Joe Nasco, who was way out of position after running into one of his own defenders. Nasco then came up with a diving save in the 43rd minute to knock an Alex Caskey shot just wide of the post.
Moments later, however, Seattle finally broke through with a goal just before halftime. Parke passed to Andy Rose, who fired a low drive from the top of the box and into the back of the net. Parke admitted that he considered taking a shot himself before remembering that he was a defender who isn’t the most adept finisher.
“I was going to volley it and then I see Rose lining it up, so I was like, I’ll give him the shot,” Parke said. “It’d have to be a 1-in-a-100 shot for me to side volley it. I just took it off the chest and gave it too him. I thought he took too much time on it and then he poked it. It was a good goal for him.”
Once Rose put Seattle ahead, the flood gates opened, and what had been a scoreless game through almost a half was 5-1 midway through the second half. Alonso opened the scoring barrage in the 47th minute, finishing a nice through ball from Cordell Cato, who was dangerous all night on the right flank.
Atlanta made it a one-goal game in the 53rd minute when Reinaldo Navia curled a low shot from the top of the box past a diving Bryan Meredith. Seattle was back on top by two goals again quickly, however, when Caskey scored in the 54th minute to give the momentum back to Seattle.
“You never know what’s going to happen in these games,” Schmid said. “I watched a lot of the games last night. I watched part of Columbus’ game, I saw Dallas’ game in part, I saw Chicago’s game, so you saw a lot of teams that came to battle. If Caskey doesn’t respond with a third goal after they make it 2-1, maybe the game changes a little bit.”
Up by a pair of goals, Seattle continued to create scoring chances, and forward Sammy Ochoa turned the game into a blowout with goals in the 62nd and 66th minutes. It was an important game for Ochoa, who has seen little action in league games this season — he has played just 53 minutes over the course of three games — while sitting behind Fredy Montero, Eddie Johnson and David Estrada on the depth chart.
“(Schmid) told us this was an opportunity for us to play well,” Ochoa said. “I take whatever. Five minutes, 10 minutes — I take every opportunity. We haven’t been doing well the last four games, but this game is going to help us out a lot.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.