The chances of qualifying for an eighth straight MLS postseason are getting slimmer with each successive loss. The Seattle Sounders currently sit nine points out of the final playoff spot and will have to leapfrog three teams to get into position.
The path to a MLS record fifth U.S. Open Cup is far more clear, needing just three more wins to secure the trophy.
But, as we’re well aware, all trophies are not created equal. With that in mind, don’t expect the Sounders to put forward a first-choice starting XI. In fact, head coach Sigi Schmid has confirmed as much, telling reporters on Tuesday that some of his veterans would be flying ahead for Sunday’s match against Sporting Kansas City.
So what kind of squad can we expect from the Sounders? A look at their previous lineups should give us a pretty good clue.
Christian Roldan is the only regular Sounders starter to start in their previous two games. He seems like a safe bet to play in this one, too. Erik Friberg and Joevin Jones also played in the previous games, while Jordan Morris played in one and was at least available in the other. Those three at least seem like potential starters in this one. Osvaldo Alonso may also get the starting nod after his yellow card in Sunday’s game against the Portland Timbers meant he’s got a one-game MLS game ban.
If the Sounders go with five of their regular starters, that would basically be par for the course. Here’s the number of regular starters they’ve used in their previous five trips to the Open Cup quarterfinals: 2009: 7; 2010: 4; 2011: 7; 2012: 4; 2014: 8.
This would leave us with an admittedly optimistic starting lineup something like this:
Miller; Remick, Alfaro, Scott, Fisher; Alonso, Friberg, Roldan; Jones, Morris, Gomez.
Although that’s not exactly a fear-inducing lineup, it has accounted for 11 goals in MLS play and that backline has yet to allow a run-of-play goal in their two previous Open Cup games.
The Galaxy, for their part, probably aren’t going to use a first-choice group, either. But they did use something much closer to one in their win over the Timbers in the previous round.
Clement Diop; Ashley Cole*, Jelle Van Damme*, Dave Romney, AJ DeLaGarza*; Jeff Larentowicz, Baggio Husidic*; Emmanuel Boateng, Sebastian Lletget*, Raul Mendiola; Jack McBean. * - signifies at least 10 regular season starts
There’s quite a bit of experience in that group — assuming Bruce Arena doesn’t go much stronger — but it’s also one that hasn’t been especially effective. Although the Galaxy have one of the top offenses in the league, this group has accounted for just three goals and seven assists.
The Galaxy are playing at home — even if it’s one of StubHub Center’s lesser fields — and should be considered favorites. But it might not be the obvious mismatch you’d assume.