The Kitsap Pumas are already the best PDL team in the 2016 US Open Cup, but their goal is to do more than take that $15,000 prize. Up next are the Seattle Sounders FC, a team just across the Puget Sound from the pro PDL team that features two former Sounder Academy players and a former S2 player. Former soccer analyst (SI, soccerwire, Sounder at Heart, others) and now Assistant Coach Liviu Bird told Sounder at Heart on Monday, "It's a good chance for us to show what we can do. It's a good chance for everybody from the top to the bottom. to the front office to everybody to get some more exposure."
There are several players with pro experience and/or familiarity to Seattle Sounders fans.
"Obviously, I work with the goalkeepers," Bird said. "So Matt Grosey is somebody I think is better than a lot of MLS goalkeepers already. We've got Nick Hamer in midfield has been really solid for us, really good, just a reliable consistent player. Joel Waterman is an interesting one, a 20 year old Canadian kid. He tried out for the Whitecaps residency program and didn't make it. But he's a player who we think as a staff is going to be very good in the near future. Players like that. I'll name some more experienced guys. Jesus Sanchez who played with Oklahoma city for a year. Javiar Castro who also played for Oklahoma City and has been around PDL and had some tryouts with the Mexican first and second divisions. A number of players really. Hamza Haddadi who Seattle fans will be familar with. Ian Lange is another one. It's a roster of guys with good potential."
Going up against an MLS side is possibly a one-time chance. While scouts will watch PDL games, there is national media in town because the USMNT is playing in Seattle on Thursday night. Many of those will be in attendance on Wednesday. A strong performance by a Kitsap player will not go unnoticed outside of Seattle's soccersphere.
"I think it's something where the guys will really take a look and try to grasp it firmly and make it there own because for some of us this might be the only chance we get like this. So, you don't want to end up at the end of the day thinking I should have done more or I could have done more. So I don't think our guys will want to come away from the field on Wednesday thinking that."
The Pumas will not be their normal proactive stance. The Sounders are not their normal PDL competition.
"We realize the realities of what we are up against. I mean an MLS team, as a PDL team you're probably not expected to have as much possession as you like. You're probably going to be a bit more defensive. It is what it is."
Coach MacDonald and his staff have a tough job. Seattle has a deep roster, is coming off a two-week break, and varies their lineup greatly in Open Cup matches. In their victory against the Sacramento Republic they had a good idea what they would face. Instead they will focus on themselves, their philosophy and style.
They also know Starfire Sports Stadium. In 2015 they played lost 4-2 (aet) to S2 at Starfire. Back in 2011 they faced the first team and lost 2-1. Kitsap's overall Open Cup record is 5-5-1.
"We're looking forward to it obviously and I think it's going to be a good matchup," Bird ends with some confidence.