The Seattle Sounders might like to put memories of the U.S. Open Cup behind them, but the MLS schedule-makers haven’t made it easy.
On Wednesday, the Sounders will visit the Philadelphia Union, the team they beat in the 2014 U.S. Open Cup final. And on Sunday, they’ll visit the Portland Timbers, the team that eliminated them last week from the 2015 U.S. Open Cup.
The more recent match will be far more relevant. Obafemi Martins, who was injured in that game, won’t be back this week. And neither will Clint Dempsey, who will serve out the final two games of the three-game suspension for his actions toward the referee in that game.
Meanwhile, No. 3 forward Chad Barrett and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso remain out with hamstring strains. However, midfielder Gonzalo Pineda (knee) could return.
That’s a long list for a team preparing for its fourth game over 12 days, then its fifth game over 16 days on Sunday.
“The biggest implication is our inability to a certain extent for us to rotate because of the injuries that we have right now,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “Certainly there’s opportunities for players to step up and play. And we’re very confident in the depth of our team. But we’re … rotating some guys probably as we go into the game (Wednesday) and then we’ll rotate some guys are we go into the game on Sunday. It’s just our hands are tied in certain areas of the field and certain positions as to what our options are.”
The Union is coming through a similar stretch, having played an Open Cup match in the middle of last week before a league match on Saturday.
The wild card could be that weekend MLS result: a club-record 5-1 Philadelphia loss at Los Angeles that Schmid believes will assure a motivated Union on Wednesday.
“They’re going to be driven to do better, for sure,” Schmid said. “They have a few injuries as well, which is helpful, and minutes-wise — with the exception of not having a game on the 13th — they’ve played a schedule that’s comparable to ours. We should be somewhat similar, so those are positives. But I think the main thing is they played so poorly in LA they’re going to be highly motivated to make amends.”
The Sounders’ previous visit to Philadelphia — which clinched their fourth U.S. Open Cup championship — is a more distant memory.
The Union scored first in that one before the Sounders equalized early in the second half and then rallied to win with two goals in extra time.
“That seems like so long ago,” Schmid said. “It was a hard-fought game for sure. For their club, that night was a very emotional night for them. It was their first time, first trophy of any sort, and being at home they were a highly motivated and alert team. We did a good job in terms of equalizing the game, in terms of coming back and winning the game; but it was definitely an emotional 120 minutes.”
The Sounders goals that night were scored by Barrett, Dempsey and Martins — all players who will be missing Wednesday.