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Five things to know about Sounders’ U.S. Open Cup match vs. Earthquakes

Sounders return to Starfire for the first time in five years.

Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Sounders continue one of the busiest months in team history with a U.S. Open Cup match against the San Jose Earthquakes tonight. How much lineup-juggling there will be is still a very open question. But there are plenty of reasons for the Sounders to want to advance. Here’s what you need to know about the game:

It’s going to be a mixed lineup

The Sounders are obviously coming off of a historic CCL performance. That meant that Brian Schmetzer rotated heavily on the weekend during the 2-0 loss to FC Dallas. Tonight is an opportunity to go stronger than the weekend, but they don’t necessarily need to blow the doors off. Instead of a completely changed lineup like we saw against Dallas, we could see something that resembles something like a B+ lineup.

My guess is that Raul Ruidiaz and Nicolas Lodeiro will probably be enjoying this one from the stands. Other that that, most of the starters will either be in the lineup or on the bench. Cristian Roldan, Obed Vargas, Albert Rusnák and Stefan Frei seem like reasonably good bets to start, since all three should be able to handle the increased workload. - Mark Kastner

Starfire is an absolute fortress

Going back to the USL days, the Sounders have now played 23 U.S. Open Cup matches — including qualifiers — at Starfire Stadium. The only time they lost a match was the infamous Red Card Wedding in 2015 and the only other time they’ve even needed penalties to advance was a match against the Earthquakes in 2014, that culminated with Marcus Hahnemann trading his jersey for a fan’s beer. I don’t have the data to back this up, but I can’t imagine there’s any stadium in North America where the home team wins 93% of their games. - Jeremiah

Big bodies tend to flourish

Part of why the Sounders have been so good at Starfire is that it’s a unique atmosphere. The field itself is a bit small, but it feels even smaller due to the proximity of the stands. There’s often a cage-match feel to the proceedings. One constant over the years has been the advantage that big bodies offer. Whether it was Nate Jaqua, Sammy Ochoa or Kenny Cooper, the Sounders’ best Open Cup teams have boasted imposing No. 9s. Will Bruin and Sam Adeniran fit that mold nicely. - Jeremiah

There’s a losing streak to snap

We are all aware of the Sounders storied history in the Open Cup. Their all-time record in the competition is 23-6-4 since entering MLS. But the most recent years in the competition have not been kind to Seattle. They’re currently nursing a three-game losing streak dating back to 2017, that started with a loss to the Earthquakes. In the broader context of this season the Open Cup is probably the fourth most important competition for the Sounders. However, it’s still a trophy to play for and if the Sounders lose it while fighting, at least you can say they gave account of themselves. - Mark Kastner

Quakes have been good since Almeyda left

No one is going to confuse the Earthquakes for an immediate MLS Cup contender, but they’ve definitely shown some improvement since parting ways with Matias Almeyda. Small sample size and all that, but the Quakes have gone 3-1-0 under interim head coach Alex Covelo, including that come-from-behind win over the Sounders a couple of weeks ago. There are some obvious caveats, though. For one, all three of those wins were at home and one was against a NISA team. In their one road game during that stretch, they were destroyed 3-0 by New York City FC. Still, there’s a good chance the Quakes will use something like a first-choice lineup and they’ll be well organized. The Sounders can not afford to take this game lightly. - Jeremiah

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