Thanks to some special roster rules MLS teams can use players from their USL affiliate to help them in the US Open Cup for up to 4 matches each. Seattle Sounders FC used these special short-term loans heavily in the 4th and 5th round of the 2017 Open Cup and it is likely they will do so again for their 2018 4th round matchup against unaffiliated USL side Sacramento Republic FC. The other US Open Cup rule to keep in mind is that only 5 players in the game day 18 can be international players, which will limit the Seattle Sounders FC 2 players they can use.
Here are the players most likely to see minutes on Wednesday night listed roughly from most to least likely:
Ray Saari (Defensive Midfielder)
The 23-year-old from Kansas City was pulled from Saturday’s S2 match at half and will almost certainly start Wednesday. He played 177 minutes for the Sounders in the 2017 Open Cup and performed the best out of the S2 players who featured. He should have no problem picking up his Open Cup journey where he left it against a USL side.
Saari is very much S2’s own version of Cristian Roldan. He is stronger than he looks so he can do the hard, gritty defensive work in midfield and is excellent at clogging the opponents passing lanes. He has sped up his passing nicely this year so he not only helps in possession but can be dangerous in transition. If he can get involved in the scoring through his late runs into the box the Sounders should have a great chance at beating Sacramento.
Nick Hinds (Attacking Midfielder/Left Wing)
Hinds was also pulled at half on Saturday so he is also likely to start on Wednesday. This would be his Open Cup debut and his first official game with the First Team of what will hopefully be many. He did play in the midfield a fair amount when he was at Akron but he is still learning how to effectively play the position at a professional level. His positioning and final ball still need some work but his pure speed is already a debilitatingly elite skill. He isn’t just fast, he is faster than Jordan Morris fast, maybe as fast as DeAndre Yedlin fast.
Even though he has some work to do his speed and pretty decent one on one skills mean he can put immense pressure on any defense. He isn’t going to provide consistent offensive pressure at this point in his career but he will have moments where the defense will have no way to deal with him, and if the Sounders can get him help when he has those moments he will have a good chance to contribute to a goal.
Rodrigue Ele (Centerback)
Ele has been S2’s best Centerback this season. He played 90 minutes in the 2017 Open Cup so this won’t be a new experience for him. There are some questions about his health, he had hand surgery two weeks ago, but he practiced all last week and was on the bench Saturday. He is an aggressive defender who rarely gets beat one one one. His defensive style is most similar to Kim Kee-Hee of the First Team’s centerbacks. Ele is also a good to great passer from the back who occasionally beats the opponents whole defense with one through ball.
Francisco Narbon (Defensive Midfielder)
Narbon played in the 2017 Open Cup for the Sounders. Unfortunately his 125 minutes ended when he got a Red Card in the first half of the 4th round. He just couldn’t quite keep up with the speed of the game against an MLS side and payed for it. Narbon is a prototypical number 6 who plays right in front of the CBs, much the way the First Team uses Jordy Delem. He should give the Sounders good possession passing but he rarely breaks down the opposing defense with a pass.
Denso Ulysse (Right Back)
Ulysse would be an Open Cup debutant, but he is the returning S2 player who has improved the most over last year. He has been S2’s best player for the last 6 weeks. He brings excellent positioning and good one on one defending to the table and has enough speed to cover up for any mistakes he does make. He is also very good getting forward. He is a solid passer both in the back and during build-up play and is the best crosser on S2. When he plays his best he can lockdown the right side while also being one of S2’s more dangerous attackers. There is no reason why he shouldn’t be able to bring that against Sacramento.
David Estrada (Forward/Attacking Midfielder)
Estrada has a ton of Open Cup experience, 469 minutes in total, and has actually won it twice, both times with the Sounders. He would be a good option off the bench against Sacramento as he brings everything you need from a late forward sub. He is active and presses relentlessly to great effect. He has proven with S2 this year that all he needs is one chance in front of net to make a deference in a game. Bringing him in late against tired defenders limits the effect of some of his lacking physical tools and he has shown he can be very dangerous in late game situations.
Sam Rogers would have been on the list but he has been suffering from an undisclosed injury and is unlikely to be available.