Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

Sounders ‘at the point’ where Open Cup may take priority

Upside of using mostly reserves for Open Cup is Sounders are well rested for St. Louis.

Last Updated
2 min read

RENTON — Through the first two U.S. Open Cup games, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer admits that he’s prioritized MLS regular-season games. Now that they are through to the quarterfinals for the first time since he took over as head coach, he says that could change.

Schmetzer said players are bought in, and that many of them even campaigned indirectly to participate in the previous two rounds. Among those players was Raúl Ruidíaz, who Schmetzer insisted would have been available off the bench if not for his toe injury. Schmetzer had also wanted to include Reed Baker-Whiting, but was told by the medical staff that he needed to choose between the Open Cup game or Saturday’s match against St. Louis City. Schmetzer chose to hold Baker-Whiting for the St. Louis match.

Schmetzer said he might choose differently going forward.

“We rotated in the early Open Cup matches,” Schmetzer said on Thursday. “We did it throughout our course of time — even when we won four of them — but you get to a point where you put more starters in there. I think we’re at that point.”

Cristian Roldan was one of the players who successfully campaigned to play in the Open Cup.

“It’s a way to get to Champions League,” Roldan explained. “There’s trophies involved, there’s bonuses, there’s legacies. I want to win the Cup.

“I hope we have a roster with a few more first team guys on it. We’re going to be on the road in a tough environment. We’re going to need bodies. I know there’s a risk with injuries and it’s a double-edged sword, but it’s an opportunity for guys to showcase themselves. You want to give guys opportunities, but there’s a fine line between giving opportunities and taking it seriously.”

One of the reasons Schmetzer gave for selecting Roldan as well as his brother Alex was how they’ve demonstrated an ability to log heavy minutes. Cristian said he expects to start against St. Louis City as well.

“This is a chance for me to show that durability,” he said.

Hawkins gets the call

Illustrating the risks of playing in the Open Cup was Jon Bell going down with a hamstring injury. Although Schmetzer doesn't think the injury is as serious as some of the others, Bell will miss the St. Louis game, which leaves the Sounders rather thin at centerback. Replacing Bell on the roster will be 17-year-old centerback Stuart Hawkins.

Hawkins has started both Open Cup games and acquitted himself well and, combined with his time at Tacoma Defiance, already has nearly 3,400 professional minutes under his belt.

Schmetzer was particularly impressed with the way Hawkins looked alongside Jackson Ragen.

“That could be the future,” he said.

Well aware of the stakes

If the Sounders can beat St. Louis City, they’ll jump a spot in the standings and occupy the final playoff spot. It would be mostly symbolic, but significant nonetheless.

“Everyone knows,” Schmetzer said. “We’ve been talking about the positioning for the last month. It’s not good enough. The game against Portland, it was for last place. We talk about it.”