This season has not been a good one for the Sounders. Fifteen games into MLS play, Seattle sit ninth in the Western Conference, hold a league-worst 13 goals scored, and are ranked last on goal differential in all their conference. If a trophy is coming to CenturyLink this year, it likely isn’t going to be coming from league play.
Despite this, Sigi Schmid elected to put out a mostly second-choice roster for the team’s Open Cup Round of 16 game against Real Salt Lake. Schmid started S2 mainstays Tyler Miller, Zach Mathers, and Oalex Anderson, against Jeff Cassar’s mostly first-choice squad. Although the Sounders were perhaps a bit lucky to get to the penalty shootout, they were stellar once there. Miller stopped a pair of attempts and the Sounders converted all four of their chances, with Erik Friberg icing it away for a 1(4)-1(1) victory on Tuesday.
The Sounders opened the game well, pushing play quickly from end to end, with Dylan Remick and Oalex Anderson combining to attack through the left wing. When the game settled down around the 15th minute, RSL managed to claim most of the possession and pursuant opportunities. The Claret and Cobalt created chances through the middle of the park, cutting passes in to their forwards on the run. They scored in the 41st minute when Sounders centerback Tony Alfaro was called for a penalty in his own box, which Joao Plata rocketed past Seattle goalkeeper Miller.
The Sounders conceded much of the possession to RSL in the second half, but that didn’t stop Nelson Valdez from scoring in the 52nd minute. Salt Lake defender Justen Glad bobbled a clearance from the Sounders’ defense, which Valdez darted toward, and poked into the goal. Regular time ended 1-1, with the Sounders lucky to to see Salt Lake miss a number of good opportunities, and even luckier to have Miller in goal when RSL managed to put those opportunities on goal.
In extra time Seattle again allowed Jeff Cassar’s side to play through the middle of the field while trying to push up on the wings and through counters. In the 99th Valdez was subbed out due to what appeared to be a hamstring injury. No goals were scored in extra time.
Just as he’d been the hero of regular time, Miller managed to save the day during penalties. The 23-year-old goalkeeper saved two of RSL’s three penalties, leaving the shootout with a scoreline of 4-1.
The Sounders will face the winner of Wednesday's LA Galaxy-Portland Timbers match.