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Nervous but enough: Sounders into Open Cup quarters

The Sounders came from behind against Phoenix Rising to win 2-1, thanks to a Kalani Kossa-Rienzi stunner as regulation time ran out.

Last Updated
6 min read
Max Aquino / Sounder at Heart

The Seattle Sounders welcomed Phoenix Rising in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 on Wednesday night. The Sounders had to fight their way back from a 1-0 deficit, but were able to claim a 2-1 win and move on to the quarterfinals of the tournament where they’ll play Sacramento Republic.

Danny Musovski had the best look of the first half in the 43rd minute, receiving a perfectly weighted through ball from Cristian Roldan that put him in behind with Georgi Minoungou for company. After cutting back to get room for a shot, he attempted a placed shot to the far post but it was too close to Phoenix goalkeeper Patrick Rakovsky who gathered the ball easily.

Seattle were left paying for that missed opportunity just a few minutes later when Danny Leyva made a completely unnecessary tackle from behind in the penalty area, taking out Panos Armenakas to give Phoenix a penalty. Remi Cabral stepped up to the spot and sent Andrew Thomas one way and finished into the vacated corner to take a 1-0 lead into halftime.

Coming out of halftime the Sounders were on the front foot, pushing for their equalizer. After several exciting moments in Rising’s area during the opening 15 minutes of the half Seattle got a penalty of their own. Alex Roldan, who had entered the game for Cristian only a few minutes earlier, pulled up from outside the area and saw his shot deflected before striking the arm of defender John Stenberg in the 66th minute. Roldan, wearing the captain’s armband, then stepped up to the spot and put his shot into the side netting to level the score.

With regulation time running out and the threat of another 30 minutes ahead, it was Kalani Kossa-Rienzi who turned hero. Having covered the entire pitch from his rightback spot throughout the game, KKR moved up a line and continued to help push for a winner. In the 89th minute the Sounders sent a long throw into the box that was cleared out but set up a shot from outside the area. Danny Musovski headed the ball centrally to Kossa-Rienzi chested the ball down, then dribbled through traffic to create his shot which he sent into the top corner to give Seattle a 2-1 lead.

The Sounders went close to adding to their lead, but a late kick save from the Phoenix GK kept the game at 2-1. Phoenix had a great chance to tie things up again late with a free kick from just outside the box, but the wall did its job and sent the ball out for a corner and the Sounders were able to see the game out. Seattle will now travel to face Republic in the quarterfinals on July 9. Up next, though, the Sounders take on St. Louis CITY FC on the road in league play on Saturday.

Key moments

6 - Remi Cabral forces a diving save with a shot from the left side of Seattle’s area, but Thomas extends to his right and pushes the shot away.

36 - Danny Leyva takes a hard shot from 20 yards out that Rakovsky blocks and bobbles before ultimately gathering the ball.

43 - Cristian Roldan creates a golden opportunity with a beautiful through ball for Danny Musovski, but Musovski’s shot is easily saved.

45+3 - Penalty. Leyva is called for a foul in the box, giving Phoenix a chance from the spot. Remi Cabral steps up and sends Thomas the wrong way. 1-0 Phoenix

58 - Coming off of a corner Seattle get several shots from inside the area but all of them are blocked. They keep pressure up, but eventually the GK collects.

60 - Minoungou weaves his way through several defenders and gets to the end line in the box with the ball, but his last touch leaves the ball too close to the GK.

64 - Another well-crafted moment from Minoungou, this time feeding the ball to Musovski who can’t get a shot off, but Snyder Brunell fires and earns a corner.

66 - Penalty, Seattle! Alex Roldan has a hit from outside the area, and after a deflection it hits defender John Stenberg’s arm.

68 - GOAL! Alex Roldan takes the penalty, and the ‘keeper guesses the right way but can’t keep the shot out of the net as he tucks it in the side to tie it. 1-1

85 - Seattle have a dangerous chance, stringing together passes to put Minoungou in down the right, but his cross to square it is too close to the ‘keeper.

89 - GOAL! Kalani Kossa-Rienzi shows some incredible technique to control the ball in the box and create space, then puts his shot in the roof of the net. 2-1

90 - Musovski nearly ices the game, taking a first-time shot from a great pass by Brunell, but the ‘keeper gets a foot to it to concede a corner instead of a goal.

Quick thoughts

Forcing questions: With mixed lineups like the ones the Sounders have fielded so far during the Open Cup there’s a risk of being caught under-powered, but with that comes a possibly greater opportunity for players that represent the depth within the organization that extends beyond the Sounders roster to prove themselves deserving of increased opportunities. It’s up to those players to make the most of the chance, and against Phoenix several players took that opportunity. Georgi Minoungou and Paul Rothrock were both dynamic out wide, with Minoungou routinely getting the best out of matchups that saw him going 1v2 or 1v3 on his way into the area even if it never produced a goal or assist. Stuart Hawkins had a strong showing, showcasing his ability on the ball while also standing toe-to-toe against the Phoenix attack and giving up very little. Perhaps the player who most took advantage of their chance, though, was Kalani Kossa-Rienzi. Kossa-Rienzi nearly earned a first team deal during preseason, and tonight he was a force to be reckoned with all over the field putting in a performance that would have certainly gotten Brian Schmetzer and his staff’s attention, and then he scored the match winner. The Sounders depth is bubbling up in the Open Cup, and hopefully that will help to lift the team in league play as well.

Taking the tournament seriously: Sounders Head Coach Brian Schmetzer insisted that the team was taking the U.S. Open Cup seriously, acknowledging that his past lineups may not have matched how seriously the organization claims to take it. This time around there was a slightly larger First Team contingent in the gameday roster. Sounders starters Cristian Roldan and Nouhou were both in the starting XI, and Alex Roldan and Jackson Ragen both entered the game and played their part as Seattle advanced the farthest they’ve been in the tournament since 2016. If the team wants to make a real run at the cup, they’ll not only need the depth to step up but to have the core of the team raise the level and tonight they got both.

The value of a tournament run: There hasn’t been any lack of growing pains of frustrating moments for the Sounders in the Open Cup so far. The hiccups and individual errors that have plagued their season so far have shown up in the tournament as well, but they’ve been able to push through and overcome them. That’s one of the benefits of a run in the cup: you get the chance to work through some of those things. It gives you a chance to give players down the depth chart meaningful, high-leverage minutes to test them and further their development. Maybe most importantly, though, it can be a galvanizing force for a team that’s struggling to find or express their identity in the league. While they work to integrate Pedro de la Vega and become the team that all their accumulated talent ought to be, making a run in the U.S. Open Cup could serve as a boost rather than a drain on their energy. Let’s hope that’s the case, and hope that we get to see the team lift a fifth Open Cup trophy.

Notable quote

Player spotlight

Kalani Kossa-Rienzi – Scoring the game-winner in the 89th minute is a pretty good way to cap off your first start with the First Team. KKR would have deserved the spotlight here for his performance in the 88 minutes before that, but the goal and celebration put him clear of all challengers.