Absence from US Open Cup may be blessing for Sounders

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comOctober 2, 2013 

For the first time since 2008, there was a U.S. Open Cup final Tuesday, and Seattle Sounders FC wasn’t part of it.

Instead, D.C. United upset Real Salt Lake, 1-0, at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The goal was scored by Lewis Neal just before halftime. It was D.C.’s third Open Cup title in the 100-year history of the competition.

“It’s kind of a bitter feeling to know that we should be in the final,” Seattle midfielder Lamar Neagle said Tuesday morning after the Sounders went through routine training instead of the cup final. “We usually do well in those kinds of tournaments.”

There’s no doubt about that. The Sounders won the U.S. Open Cup in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and they advanced to the final in 2012 before losing at Kansas City on penalty kicks.

The 2013 Open Cup draw sent them across the country to Tampa Bay to open the tournament, and

the Rowdies eliminated Seattle, 1-0.

At the time, the Sounders expressed hope that their early elimination from the Open Cup – along with their failure to qualify for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League – would lighten their summer and fall schedule in a way that might pay off about this time of the Major League Soccer season.

Coach Sigi Schmid downplayed any such advantages Tuesday.

“I think we were so used to playing Champions League and all that – we were so used to the rhythm of play, we had enough depth that we could take players in and out – that I think it was something that we were comfortable with,” he said. “Like I always say, players would rather play games than practice. So this means more practice time.”

A rush of MLS matches is coming up – three games in nine days, starting Saturday at Colorado. After that, Seattle has a midweek home game against Vancouver on Oct. 9 followed by a visit to Portland on Oct. 13. After that, the regular season concludes with a final road match at Dallas on Oct. 19 and the home finale against Los Angeles on Oct. 27.

Seattle and those opponents all are either playing for the Supporters’ Shield, the Western Conference title or playoff qualification.

“Those teams are still going to be teams looking for points, and we’re looking for points as well,” Schmid said. “We want to make sure we secure the best position that we can secure. They’re all going to be exciting, hard-fought battles that are going to have playoff-type intensity to them.”

ADDED TIME

Clint Dempsey (hamstring) increased his training Tuesday, but neither he nor Schmid were certain of his availability for this weekend.… U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann indicated to reporters Tuesday that if Dempsey is healthy enough to play for the Sounders on Saturday, that he will be expected to report for the USA’s final round of World Cup qualifying Sunday. ... Forward Obafemi Martins (ankle) received a cortisone shot and did not train Tuesday. Schmid indicated he should be available at Colorado. ... Defender Djimi Traore (hamstring) was restricted to light, inside work. ... The Sounders are off Wednesday. They will return to training Thursday and Friday before traveling to Colorado.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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