Tacoma natives Raphael and Jamael Cox usually play their soccer about 2,500 miles apart: Raphael with the Atlanta Silverbacks and Jamael in Pierce County with Sounders U-23.
Tonight they’ll play about 25 miles apart as the Silverbacks meet Sounders FC in a U.S. Open Cup match in Tukwila, while Jamael plays a Premiere Development League match in Tacoma.
“I’m excited,” Raphael Cox said. “I’d love to see his game. I know he’d love to see mine. It’s kind of bad timing. I hope he does well; I hope they win. And I hope we get a good result as well.”
As originally planned, there would have been no conflict. The U.S. Open Cup draw had the Sounders playing Tuesday in Atlanta. But then, the clubs agreed to move the game back a day. Next, the MLS club purchased the right to switch the site to Starfire Sports Stadium.
The moves bought the Sounders an extra day off after their league draw at Chivas USA on Saturday, and saved them two cross-country flights. However, the changes also brought a conflict with a big night for Sounders U-23, which will become the first local club to play at Cheney Stadium since the old Tacoma Tides of the American Soccer League in 1976.
“It should be an experience for us,” Jamael Cox said. “I hope it goes well. … We have a lot of good players. We’re tying to get our bearings right. We haven’t played with each other at all, but we’re trying to find that connection.”
First kick of the U-23 match against Vancouver is scheduled for 6 p.m. Before the game, members of the Sounders Women W-League club will greet fans at Cheney Stadium. United States national team players Megan Rapinoe and Stephanie Cox are expected to attend, although Hope Solo, Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux will not.
Then, at 7 p.m. a few exits up Interstate 5, Sounders FC will begin the defense of its U.S. Open Cup title against the Silverbacks.
The timing forces a choice – for South Sound soccer fans in general, and for the Cox family in particular.
“I’m not sure what they’ve decided on,” Raphael Cox said. “But I don’t play in Seattle much, so I think they might lean toward my way, since he’s got a whole season here. Hopefully, people go to support their game as well. … It’s unlucky that both games are going to be at the same time – drawing a little crowd from each other.”
Raphael Cox played at Stadium High School, Highline Community College, the University of Washington, and with the Tacoma Tide – the Premier Development League club that rebranded this season into Sounders U-23.
He is not the only player on the Atlanta roster with South Sound connections. Midfielder Ciaran O’Brien played for Decatur High School, the Tide, and for the United Soccer League Seattle Sounders under current Sounders assistant Brian Schmetzer.
“I let Ciaran train with the USL team ever since he was 15,” Schmetzer said. “… I always thought he was a good little kid, good little player, and he wasn’t bringing the level of our training down, so I let him train, as long as I can remember. And Raphael, when he played for the UW, I’d let those guys come and train as well.”
Schmetzer also coached those Sounders when they beat the Silverbacks, 4-0, for the 2007 USL championship. Current Sounders Zach Scott and Roger Levesque were part of that team.
“(I remember) Craig Tomlinson scoring a goal and taking his shirt off and whipping it like crazy and getting the fans all hyped up,” Schmetzer said. “Hugo (Alcaraz-Cuellar) scored a real good goal. … And at the end of the day – 4-0 – were we four goals better than them? Maybe on that day. But they were a decent team back then. And we expect they’re going to be a decent team here. But if we play up to our potential I think we’ll give ourselves a good chance to win and more forward.”
ATLANTA SILVERBACKS (0-5-4 IN NASL) AT SOUNDERS FC (7-3-3 IN MLS)
7 p.m., Starfire Sports Stadium, Tukwila.
BROADCAST: No TV or radio. Webcast at SoundersFC.com.
NOTES: This is a third-round match of the U.S. Open Cup. … Seattle has won the past three Open Cup titles. No club has won four in a row. … This is the 99th edition of the tournament, making it the oldest annual team tournament in the United States. It is open to all amateur and professional clubs affiliated with U.S. Soccer. … Raphael Cox of Tacoma and Ciaran O’Brien of Federal Way play for the Silverbacks. … Atlanta plays in the North American Soccer League, one level below MLS. The Silverbacks advanced by beating the Georgia Revolution, 1-0, on a goal by Cox. Seattle and all other U.S.-based MLS clubs automatically join the tournament in the third round. … If the game is tied at the end of regulation, there will be 30 minutes of extra time. If the score remains even, the winner will be determined by penalty kicks. … The referee is Josh Wilkens.
QUOTABLE: “Raphael Cox is obviously a local kid who’s been in the league before with Salt Lake. O’Brien has been in the league, as well, with Colorado. … They’ve got a very experienced player up front in Reinaldo Navia, who’s played a number of times for Chile and is an older player, but is a guy who I think has six or seven goals. … They’ve got quality and a desire to move forward and pull an upset.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid on the Silverbacks.
NEXT: If the Sounders advance, they will move to the fourth round Tuesday against the winner of the match tonight between Cal FC and the Portland Timbers. If the Timbers win, the game would be played in Portland. If Cal FC wins, they would visit Starfire. Seattle’s next MLS match is June 16 at Montreal.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt email@example.com