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Practice Notes: U.S. Open Cup preparations

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Several regular starters should be in the mix.

TUKWILA, Wash. — The Seattle Sounders may be off from league competition for three weeks, but an important game looms on the horizon nonetheless. The U.S. Open Cup begins the fourth round of play this week, with the Sounders taking on eternal rivals Portland Timbers Wednesday. That matchup was confirmed during a (non-televised) “random draw” after the conclusion of the third-round games.

Coming on the heels of a disappointing road stretch where the Sounders collected only one point in four games, head coach Brian Schmetzer noted the importance of getting a positive result.

“The results have not been good the last three games,” Schmetzer said “We have used various exhibition matches, Open Cup matches to springboard some seasons in the past.”

The game is being played at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, where both the Tacoma Defiance and Reign FC now play. It will be the first time that the Sounders have played a competitive first team match there, though Schmetzer said that will not cause any issues.

“It’s a baseball configuration, how it lays out is a little different than Starfire,” he said. “The difference in the two stadiums is not the real issue.

“The one consistent theme has been the fans who have come out to support us in Open Cup, whether it’s here at Starfire, whether it’s down at Cheney, whether it’s a full game at CenturyLink. They’ve always taken that competition seriously. I have no reason to believe that the stadium down south in Cheney is not going to be full.” As of publishing, there were only about 500 tickets left for the game, meaning this will almost certainly set a Sounders record for Open Cup attendance for a non-final.

“I’m expecting a good soccer game,” Schmetzer said. “We have an advantage because we’re at home.”

It appears that every player not on international duty will be available for selection. One player returning from international duty was left back Brad Smith, who just got back from his first international appearance for Australia since 2017. Smith logged about 13 minutes in the friendly versus South Korea and just returned to Seattle in the last day or so.

“It’s been a long time, but it was nice to be called back in,” Smith says. “It just shows [I’m] doing well with the club and I was honored to be called back up and be apart of the team again.”

As it pertains to the game Wednesday, Smith noted the game is essentially a derby game, and it’s important for the team to put on a good performance.

“Rival games are always important, you need to show what you’re about and get the win,” he said.

Given the number of players missing on international duty, Smith said he is looking forward to seeing what some of the lesser-used players have to offer, including Danny Leyva who saw his first professional minutes for Sounders versus Montreal.

“I’m excited to see Danny [Leyva] play, hopefully he gets the start. He’s a very good player and I’m excited to watch him.”