tBG) What has changed with the Sounders since the teams last met back on May 3?
SAH) A few personnel things are different. Dylan Remick and Djimi Traore have both been in and out of injury and are unlikely to start. Gonzalo Pineda may be getting pushed out of the starting lineup by Andy Rose. More significant than the changes in players is how Seattle is playing. Back then Seattle's only hope was outscoring the opposition. They only had two shutouts in the eight matches prior to the May 3rd game. While now they have three shutouts in their last eight, the club is a bit more confident in their defensive abilities. There aren't the clearly exploitable gaps when DeAndre Yedlin charges forward. The space behind Osvaldo Alonso isn't a gaping shot generating dimensional hole. The offense is basically what it was - potent.
tBG) Seattle's last US Open Cup win away from home was in 2012 against the San Jose Earthquakes, and the last US Open Cup win on the East Coast was when they beat D.C. United at RFK Stadium. How confident are you that Seattle can come out and return with the trophy?
SAH) Regular reader and away supporter @bmvaughn: You can look at the past six years of Open Cup history for the Sounders and see an away form that is quite good (3-1-2 IIRC); although the 2012 final still stings for many fans, our sole away loss in the MLS era was to Tampa last year. That loss featured one - maybe two - starters and we saw Obafemi Martins come off the bench in 81' minute as we shifted to a quasi 3-3-4 (by natural positions) to attempt an equalizer. It wasn't meant to be; the patchwork reserve team didn't know how to connect.
But why focus on our USOC away form? The team that won the Cup at RFK is no more. The team that draw-lost at Sporting Park in 2012 won't appear - though we may still see Zach Scott, Alonso, Rose, and Brad Evans. The team you'll see on Tuesday will be as strong as any MLS fixture this season. This Sounders team has the third best road goal differential in the League (+2) against the Union's middle-of-the-road home goal differential of +4 (tied for eleventh). Make no mistake, this will play as a league match. It will feature the Sounders top lineup perhaps minus one or two key players (Rose instead of Pineda given current form).
How confident am I we'll return with the trophy? I'm confident we'll put out a top team that will only have themselves to blame if they don't come away with silverware after 90 minutes (please not 120 though.. we want to leave SOME time for partying after the match).
tBG) It didn't appear that Seattle rested many of their regular starters on Friday against Real Salt Lake. What kind of effect will that have on them when they play a mere four days later?
SAH) Tuesday's match is almost certainly going to feature a first choice lineup. Sounders FC is just coming off of a nine-day break. During that break Clint Dempsey took complete time away from the game (Yedlin had an extra day too). The biggest questions about fitness rather than health are at left back where Leo Gonzalez probably starts anyway and with Alonso's partner in midfield. Pineda is a bit older and Rose is very hot. Outside of that, everything should be exactly what you expect.
tBG) Since these teams don't play each other very often, what can you tell the Union fans about the Seattle Sounders? (Feel free to be as specific or as general as you'd like).
SAH) The quick guide to Seattle is simple - pace and hydra.
Sounders FC play at a rapid tempo. They try to push the action from defense to attack as quickly as possible, while jamming it right down the middle of the pitch. It reduces the value of a single goal, because more goals are scored in Sounders games.
Hail Hydra: Dempsey and Martins get all the attention, but there's some serious scoring depth here. Kenny Cooper is Open Cup gold. Chad Barrett is looking like the player everyone thought he should be. Lamar Neagle has six goals. Pappa, Pineda and Rose all have three goals. That's a lot of firepower.
Predicted lineup: Frei; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Yedlin; Neagle, Rose, Alonso, Evans; Dempsey, Martins
Predicted score: 3-1 and a fourth Open Cup
So while this is where we usually end, however the good folks at Sounder At Heart published the questions they sent to me along with these. Then someone pointed out that this was four questions and therefore must foreshadow a fourth US Open Cup for Seattle. Now while Seattle didn't invent winning four cups - that would be Bethlehem Steel who won their fourth in 1919 - they had a point, and I surely didn't want to be blamed for us not winning. So I did this:
A fifth question - five, like the number of trophies Bethlehem Steel won in all - is there. EBFG means eternal blue, forever green.
Hey - it's for the Cup.