TUKWILA — PSA Elite is an amateur soccer club with the mission of developing players for the pros.
Now, those aspiring professionals are about to face the Seattle Sounders — the top-ranked team in Major League Soccer. The match is at 7 tonight at Starfire Sports Stadium.
You don’t need a psychic to understand how much the PSA Elite players wants to prove themselves.
“They’re going to be a team that’s really, really motivated,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “They’re almost like a college all-star team, with guys that are still in college, guys that have just recently left college. For them, this is the game of their lives. Some of them are trying to impresses you, that, ‘Hey I’m a kid you’ve got to draft next year.’ Others guys are saying ‘Hey, I’m somebody that you overlooked.’ So for them it’s a really big contest.”
This is the kind of pairing that can be produced in the U.S. Open Cup — the 101-year-old club championship bringing together all levels of the United States Soccer Federation. Seattle, the three-time Open Cup champion Sounders and all other U.S.-based MLS teams enter in the tournament’s fourth round.
Meanwhile, PSA Elite climbed its way up to the fourth round with victories over the LA Misioneros of the Premier Development League, the San Diego Flash of the National Premier Soccer League, and finally LA Galaxy II of USL Pro.
Now PSA Elite has reached the toughest challenge the tournament can offer: meeting an MLS team on its home pitch.
“I’ve played a lot of cup games in Europe, and it’s the same thing no matter what,” Seattle goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann said. “When we’ve played against the big teams — you’re going to Man United, or you have them coming to your place — they don’t really want to play you. And you go in there cruising, and you’re excited to be there, and you’re buzzing 100 miles an hour and you’re trying to get a result. That’s what they’re going to come here to do.”
Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle of Federal Way also knows what its like. He was playing with the USL-2 Charleston Battery in 2010 when it went to Chicago and eliminated the MLS Fire.
“For a team in a lower league to come up and play an MLS team and to win away was huge,” he said. “… That was a thing that we definitely took seriously.”
For all the Sounders’ success in the U.S. Open Cup — they won the title in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and cruised to the final in 2012 — they also know what it’s like to tumble early to a lower-level team.
Last season, the Sounders opened the tournament at second-division Tampa Bay, and the North American Soccer League team sent them home 1-0 losers. The Sounders say they do not want a repeat this season — especially to an amateur side at home.
“If we enter it we want to do as good as possible and do well and win it,” Schmid said. “Last year was a disappointment for us. … So it’s important for us to get off to a better start. We’ve always done well at Starfire, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start again.”