After four seasons of long runs through the U.S. Open Cup, Seattle Sounders FC was bounced from the 2013 tournament in its opening match Wednesday.
Seattle gave up a goal in the 75th minute, missed what could have been an equalizing penalty kick in the 85th minute, and was eliminated by the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the second-division NASL, 1-0, at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“We are incredibly disappointed,” said Seattle defender Zach Scott, whose brother, Daniel, started for the Rowdies. “I don’t even know what to say, especially me. I’ve been in this tournament for many, many years, and we have always done really well. This one hurts a little worse for some reason. Credit to Tampa. They played well.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid tried to make do with a lineup that included only one player who had started most of this season’s 11 MLS games: defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (10 starts).
Part of that was to rest regulars in the middle of a stretch of three games in seven days. Seattle also had to do without forward Eddie Johnson and midfielder Brad Evans, who are with the United States national team, and
midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender Patrick Ianni, who were ineligible due to red cards received in the 2012 Open Cup final.
“Obviously, we made the decision that we were going to rest some guys and play some other people,” Schmid said. “... There were a lot of (opportunities) for players to stand up and make a case for themselves. Some guys took advantage of that, some guys didn’t.”
The lone goal came when Rowdies midfielder Luke Mulholland split a pair of Sounders on a run into the penalty area. There, he fired a shot that goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann blocked, but the ball looped past him to the far post where forward Georgi Hristov knocked it in.
“The defense had played really well,” Hahnemann said. “(I’m) disappointed for myself, too, because you make a good save and then it goes right to somebody wide open. It was just frustrating.”
Seattle’s best chance came about 10 minutes later when Tampa Bay defender Jordan Gafa was given a red card for a handball in front of the Rowdies goal. That not only gave the Sounders a one-man advantage for the final minutes, but it awarded them a chance to draw even.
Designated player Obafemi Martins, who had subbed on in the 80th minute, was selected to take the PK. He knocked the ball low and left, where it was stopped by Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo.
The Rowdies held on from there and will advance to the fourth round of the tournament where they will meet the Portland Timbers.
“You have to score the penalty,” Schmid said. “You get a penalty and a red card, that could have equalized 1-1; then I would have felt pretty good about it. ... At the end of the day, tonight, they were better.”
The result eliminated the Sounders, who had won the tournament in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and had advanced to the 2012 final, where they lost to Sporting Kansas City.
“It’ll definitely be strange in that regard because we’ve done well in this tournament,” Schmid said. “For a change, we have no distractions as we move forward. ... Hopefully it will allow us to focus on MLS and be a little fresher when we go into the playoffs.”
The Sounders return to Major League Soccer play at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Chivas USA.More information and reaction is available at blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer.