Sounders FC wants to play for U.S. Open Cup title on home field
Sounders FC will play Chivas USA at Starfire in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal on Wednesday, with the winner advancing to the Open Cup championship at Qwest Field.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Chivas USA @ Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m.
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TUKWILA — A rare chance to play for a trophy at home is one game away for Sounders FC.
After club management submitted a winning bid to host the U.S. Open Cup final, Seattle must get there first. With extra motivation, players and coaches said the prospect of defending their title at Qwest Field is a carrot in front of Wednesday's semifinal against Chivas USA at 7:30 p.m. at the Starfire Sports Stadium.
"To win a championship in front of your home crowd is something I've never had the experience to do," said defender Patrick Ianni. "I'm really excited for that opportunity — if we win on Wednesday."
Seattle is wary about looking past Chivas USA, however, and for good reason. In four league games against the Los Angeles-based side, Sounders FC is winless and curiously hasn't even scored a goal.
"It's a little strange, isn't it?" said goalkeeper Kasey Keller of the struggles. "Hopefully we can end that on Wednesday. We've had a lot of success on this field, and we're looking forward to keeping that going."
Success at Starfire, where Sounders FC is a perfect 5-0, played a huge part in winning last year's Open Cup and has carried over this season. The friendly confines are also cozy confines, as the field is significantly shorter and narrower than Qwest.
The smaller field makes play more physical, because attacking players have less room to evade defenders and create scoring chances.
"You have to do a little bit more of the dirty work, the battling, winning the 50-50s and the second balls, but I enjoy that," said forward Nate Jaqua, who has scored all three of Seattle's Open Cup goals this year.
September is a month packed to the brim with games. After the Open Cup semifinal, Sounders FC flies for a league game against New England on Saturday. Later in the month Seattle has three more MLS games and three group-stage matches in the CONCACAF Champions League, with two on the road against international opponents in Costa Rica and Mexico.
Coach Sigi Schmid said the heavy workload wouldn't affect lineup decisions against Chivas USA.
"We're not thinking like that," Schmid said. "If we think a guy's ready, we're going to play him. ... It's going to be our best team that we put out there."
• Schmid said the new artificial turf at Starfire "puddled" during a rainy training session Tuesday. The ground staff will work on it, but Schmid offered another cure-all. "Hopefully the rain will stay away," he said.
• General manager Adrian Hanauer said a conflict with the Mariners' MLB schedule might have kept Seattle from winning the bid to host the Open Cup last year. Sounders FC won the 2009 title on the road, beating D.C. United 2-1 at RFK Stadium.
• No team in the MLS era has won back to back USOC titles. The last repeat winner was the New York Pancyprian-Freedoms in 1982-83.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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