By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUKWILA — The difference between top-level amateurs and professionals was on display Wednesday as the Seattle Sounders opened U.S. Open Cup play with a 5-0 pounding of PSA Elite.
Premier Soccer Academy Elite is a California-based amateur club that plays in the U.S. Adult Soccer Association. Its roster is made up primary of college-level players, and the average age of that roster is 23.5 years. It is among the top teams in the country at its level but came up empty against the top-ranked team in Major League Soccer — even with a Sounders’ lineup heavy with reserves.
Kenny Cooper led the way with two goals. The others came from Zach Scott, Brad Evans and Sean Okoli. Marcus Hahnemann kept the clean sheet in back, facing only one shot.
“Our expectation going into the game was this was a game we were going to win,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We talked about not giving them a chance, not allowing them to hang around during the game, and getting some goals in the first half and putting it away.”
PSA Elite began the match tightly packed in a defensive shell. Its players seldom strung completed passes together, and rarely controlled the ball in their attacking third.
Still, that defensive cluster parked in front of their goal kept the Sounders off the scoreboard for 22 minutes.
“I think at the very beginning we were a little frustrated with the way that they played,” Scott said. “They kept us wide on a very narrow field, so it was very difficult to find those penetrating balls. … Then the goals started to come a little bit better. The biggest thing was just
to keep a zero on the board. We didn’t want them to get any confidence.”
Seattle’s first goal came in the 23rd minute on an Evans penalty kick. Rookie Aaron Kovar drew the PK after intercepting a pass and carrying the ball into the penalty area, where he was knocked down.
That opened the floodgates as the Sounder stuck again in the 40th minute, with Scott heading in a corner kick from Kovar. Five minutes later, Cooper knocked in a header of his own, giving the Sounders a 3-0 halftime advantage. Cooper also opened the scoring in the second half, using a bicycle kick to send a high-bouncing ball into the net after a scramble in front. The final goal came late from rookie Okoli, who swept in a rolling pass from Chad Barrett.
Three-time Open Cup champion Seattle had been swept out of the 2013 tournament with an opening-match loss at second-division Tampa Bay, so they expressed only satisfaction about rolling up the five-goal margin against PSA before a sellout crowd of 3,718 at Starfire Sports Stadium.
“Winning’s winning,” Scott said. “It’s been fun to get to watch some (World Cup) soccer on TV, but it’s even funner to get back there on the field playing with your friends. So I think we were excited during this break to get a little rest, but also to get these Open Cup games in. We gave a lot of guys who haven’t played a lot of minutes this year an opportunity to show their stuff.”
The Sounders moved to 13-0 in Open Cup games at Starfire, with a combined score of 38-7 and six shutouts.
The Sounders will return at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, meeting the San Jose Earthquakes in the fifth round of the loser-out Open Cup.
“We’ve got to step up now,” Schmid said. “… San Jose’s going to come with the Bruise Brothers up front. On this field out there it’s going to be a smash-smash game. I think you’re going to see two teams coming out with probably close to first-team lineups.”