The 101st edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup continues tonight in tiny Starfire Stadium. Nestled at the confluence of the Green and Black Rivers the fortress holds a 13-0-0 record for MLS era Seattle Sounders FC in Open Cup play. The winner of the game between Seattle and the San Jose Earthquakes advances and hosts the winner of Portland v Kansas City.
Both sides return to MLS action on Saturday and Starfire's FieldTurf is pretty worn down so the lineups should be a mix of starters, rotational guys and deep bench for both teams.
Let's check in with CenterLineSoccer and ask Three Questions to get ready for tonight's match. Robert is answering the questions. CLS is everything you loved from BOTH the old CenterLine and the old Quake, Rattle and Goal.
SaH: Will Watson go with the bash brothers up top in non-league play?
CLS: The San Jose Earthquakes have not played since their 2-1 fourth round Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup victory against Sacramento Republic FC almost two weeks ago, so nearly the entire roster is healthy and available for selection against the Seattle Sounders. Head coach Mark Watson elected to start Steven Lenhart alongside Mike Fucito, reserving Alan Gordon on the bench. The two forwards were serviceable against the Republic, but it was the midfield combo of Khari Stephenson and JJ Koval that paced the Quakes offense. Lenhart was his physical self on the cold, Kezar Stadium evening, occupying the Sacramento defenders and collecting them into the center of the pitch, doing enough that Watson was afforded the luxury of resting Gordon for the night. Expect much of the same on the front line against the Sounders, with on-loan to Sacramento striker Fucito possibly replaced by MLS newcomer Billy Schuler.
SaH: What other adjustments might occur due to this being merely the Open Cup?
CLS: The Earthquakes starting eleven versus Sacramento could have easily been a line-up employed in league play, though that was in part due to MLS being on break for the World Cup. This time out, with the game on artificial turf and the team preparing for the LA Galaxy this Saturday at Stanford Stadium, Watson is likely to configure his squad with an emphasis on the upcoming California Clásico. Lenhart may sit, due to his troublesome knee, opening the door for Gordon. It is entirely possible that both Bash Brothers will sit and Schuler will pair with Fucito. The Open Cup presents a great opportunity to qualify for next year's CONCACAF Champions League, assuming the qualification process is not changed by U.S. Soccer, but that might not be enough incentive for the Quakes to comprise their preparation for the Galaxy.
SaH: How are the former Sounders doing this year?
CLS: Cordell Cato and Fucito both started for the Earthquakes against Sacramento, and Cato scored the game winner with an excellent piece of skill at the expense of the Republic 'keeper. The Trinidadian winger has become an integral past of Watson's roster and has featured in almost every MLS game this season. Complemented by Shea Salinas on the left wing, Cato has sprinted the right sideline with purpose in 2014, in some games even starting at full back. Though not has consistent as Salinas, Cato has definitely had the better run of the two former Sounders. Fucito, always a third choice, or worse, at forward, has spent the majority of the season on loan at Sacramento. He has done very well with the USL PRO side, netting the winning goal last weekend against the Colorado Rapids reserves in the debut game at the Republic's new stadium, but that form has not translated to his MLS opportunities.
Significant Absences: Chris Wondolowski is with the U.S. and Victor Bernardez is with Honduras at the World Cup. Yannick Djalo is a question mark due to lingering leg injury issues.
Projected Lineup: Your guess is as good as mine.
There is no reverse.
Here's my lineup guess - Hahnemann; Gonzalez, Scott, Marshall, Anibaba; Kovar, Evans, Azira, Okoli; Barrett, Cooper
That's mixing in a couple more starter than last week's win.