There's a big game tonight. A really big game. Anytime a cup is on the line, nothing can be taken for granted. When it's the U.S. Open Cup -- one of highest achievements in North American soccer -- that is even more true.
But tonight's game is not just about winning a single cup. It's not even about the Seattle Sounders potentially tying the MLS record for most cups won or moving within one cup of tying the all-time record.
Tonight is when the Sounders can start their run at history. Sigi Schmid often talks about how great it is to the first to do something. No MLS team has ever won a Treble. Several have come close and two teams even held the MLS Cup, Supporters' Shield and U.S. Open Cup at the same time -- due to the final being played at the end of the season in the early years -- but no one has ended their season being able to claim themselves the absolutely undisputed champion of American soccer.
By beating the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday at PPL Park, the Sounders can officially start setting that as their goal. The Sounders seem well aware of this.
"We're dancing at a lot of weddings right now," Schmid told ExtraTime Radio on Monday. "We want to get as many things as we can this year. We've talked about it being a special year for us. It could be one of those years that's unique that you look back in 10 or 15 years as very special. But it could all go up in a puff of smoke. If you relax a little bit, it can all disappear on you.
"We're going to keep fighting. I think we showed that in the Salt Lake game. I know I've won the Supporters Shield and MLS cup in the same year (with the Galaxy in 2002 and the Crew in 2008), but I know I've never done all three. We'll try to get one of these out of the way and then we can start dreaming about taking all three."
There's certainly a danger of flying a bit too close to the sun. The Sounders, after all, have yet to win any silverware in MLS competitions. The idea of even talking about winning the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield in the same season may seem like overreaching. And it should be said, this was something we've kicked around a bit around these parts in seasons past as well.
But no team has ever accomplished anything historic without being bold. Bold accomplishment require bold dreams. The Sounders have never resisted those urges.
It should also be said that this team feels different than past iterations. Sure, we can find weaknesses; the defense has looked shaky at times, the midfield could use a bit for width, the scoring tends to come in bunches. But MLS is a league full of flawed teams and the Sounders' strengths are as good as anyone's. They also have no shortage of players who have competed at the highest levels and under the most intense pressures. Gonzalo Pineda, Clint Dempsey, DeAndre Yedlin and Obafemi Martins have all played in World Cups. Chad Marshall, Brad Evans and Chad Barrett have all won MLS Cups. Osvaldo Alonso, Leo Gonzalez and Zach Scott have all won Open Cups. Applying a "little" extra pressure of making history shouldn't overwhelm them.
But it needs to start here. It needs to start now.