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 Seattle Sounders FC — the top-ranked team in Major League Soccer.
You don’t need a psychic to understand how much they want 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 impress you, that, ‘Hey, I’m a kid you’ve got to draft next year.’ Other 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.
The three-time champion Sounders and all other U.S.-based teams from MLS enter the tournament in this fourth round.
Meanwhile, PSA Elite climbed its way up with wins 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 they have reached the toughest challenge the tournament can offer: meeting an MLS team on its home pitch, in this case a 7 p.m. Wednesday match against the Sounders at Starfire Sports Stadium.
“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 it’s like. He was playing with the USL-2 Charleston Battery in 2010 when it went to Chicago and eliminated Major League Soccer’s 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 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.”
PSA ELITE (USASA) AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (MLS)
7 p.m., Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila
Broadcast: No radio or TV. Match will be streamed at SoundersFC.com.
Head to head: First meeting.
Notes: This is the fourth round of the 101st U.S. Open Cup, the club championship of club soccer in the United States. The Sounders won the tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and made the final in 2012. Last season they were eliminated in their opening match, 1-0 at Tampa Bay. Premier Soccer Academy Elite is an amateur club based in Irvine, California, and plays in the United States Adult Soccer Association. The roster is comprised of college players who hope to play professionally and former pros who hope to return. The average age is 23.5 years. The club advanced by beating LA Misioneros (PDL) in the first round, San Diego Flash (NPSL) in the second, and LA Galaxy II (USL Pro) in the third. This is Seattle’s first match in the tournament as MLS teams join the competition in the fourth round. The Sounders are expected to field a lineup heavy on reserves, including goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. The match is sold out.
Quotable: “We’re happy to play at Starfire, and it’s a great atmosphere for our crowd. The pitch itself is not the best. It’s pretty flat, it’s pretty matted down. It plays pretty fast. It’s not ideal. It’s actually an equalizer to a certain extent. It helps the team that maybe has a little less experience or a little less quality at times get into the game because the pitch evens it out a little bit.” — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
Next: The loser is eliminated. The winner advances to the fifth round. If the Sounders advance, they would meet the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Starfire.
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer