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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sounders, suddenly getting hot, set for U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals vs. Sacramento

By Jayda Evans Seattle Times

SEATTLE – The Sounders are still in contention for a fifth U.S. Open Cup trophy. The club traveled to California to play Sacramento Republic FC in the tournament’s quarterfinals on Tuesday.

It is Seattle’s first quarterfinal appearance since 2016 when it lost to the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Escaping the Republic won’t be easy. The USL Championship side played the Sounders to a 2-1 Open Cup Round of 32 win at home in 2018 and won a preseason match 1-0 in February at the Sounders’ training facility in Renton.

Plus, Sacramento advanced to the quarterfinals by beating MLS side San Jose Earthquakes in the Round of 16 in May.

But the Republic, which advanced to their league’s Western Conference finals last year, is playing without key players in midfielder Rodrigo Lopez and highly touted striker Russell Cicerone. Lopez tore his ACL while Cicerone had ankle surgery in May.

Sacramento does have a formidable keeper in Danny Vitiello, who won the 2023 Goalkeeper of the Year award. He’s helped his team hold opponents to a USL Championship-fewest 13 goals this season.

Here are the storylines:

Wake up, they’re winning

It took time and healing, but the Sounders appear to be in good form with a four-game unbeaten streak in MLS competitions. When the past two Open Cup wins are included, they’ve only lost twice in their past 15 matches.

What’s helped is the finishing by forward Jordan Morris, who has seven goals in his past nine MLS matches. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer also diverted from his conservative ways and is willing to bench underperforming players and make halftime substitutions to generate a spark.

The Sounders defeated injury-riddled New England 2-0 on Saturday. Morris netted an early goal and Schmetzer again played designated player Raul Ruidiaz in a sub role, pulled Alex Roldan from the starting right back spot and subbed off winger Leo Chu at halftime.

Plenty of options

More veteran players could make the Sounders gameday roster Tuesday despite the quick turnaround. Schmetzer will likely put importance on having the bulk of the first-choice players available for Saturday’s MLS road match against Austin FC, but Ruidiaz has only logged 90 minutes in his past three matches combined. Roldan and Chu could also contribute because of the light shift against New England. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei might be replaced by Andrew Thomas, who was in goal for the past two Open Cup wins.

Headed to Paris

Sounders midfielder Josh Atencio was named to the U.S. Olympic Men’s Soccer Team headed to the Paris Games, U.S. Soccer announced Monday. He’s listed as an alternate, so his chances of making his Olympic debut are slim.

Atencio will join the Stars and Stripes after Tuesday’s match. The U.S. opens pool play against France on July 24, then faces New Zealand on July 27 and Guinea on July 30. The top two nations advance to the knockout rounds.


“Now we have competition,” said Schmetzer, who entered Saturday’s match with one injured player. “It’s an almost-complete club where everybody is healthy and playing time is going to be dictated by who’s in form.”