The Seattle Sounders celebrate a goal against the Kitsap Pumas in the 2016 US Open Cup. Photo: Seattle Sounders FC
The last amateur team left in the 2016 US Open Cup made the Seattle Sounders sweat for 70 minutes, but its efforts weren’t quite enough to cause what would have been a monumental upset.
Cristian Roldan and Joevin Jones scored second-half goals to send the Sounders past the Kitsap Pumas, 2-0, in a Fourth-Round matchup at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
The Sounders created more chances all night than their in-state opposition, and always looked more likely to score. Kitsap, a member of the fourth-division PDL, defended stoutly for the entire match and were able to fashion a few scoring chances of their own.
“[Kitsap] did a good job of being very organized,” said Sounders assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, filling in as head coach for the suspended Sigi Schmid. “They brought numbers back. It’s hard to play against teams sometimes when they pack it in. After the first goal they had to open up, and that made it easier to get some chances, get some counters.”
The Pumas opted to field a nearly first-choice lineup, while the Sounders, anticipating a cross-country road trip to take on the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, mixed in a large number of reserves. Regulars Roldan, Herculez Gomez and Zach Scott all started on the field for Seattle, but backup goalie Tyler Miller got the call in net, and midfielder Zach Mathers received a start in his first official match as a Sounder.
For the most part, Seattle was held in check in the first half, aside from Scott skimming the crossbar with a contested header. Late in the half Nathan Sturgis was forced off with an injury after colliding with Kitsap keeper Matt Grosey in the air. Erik Friberg replaced Sturgis to start the second half, and he immediately made an impact in midfield.
The game opened up in the second half. Kitsap’s Hamza Haddadi forced Miller into a rare save with a decent shot in the 56th minute. For the most part, Kitsap tried to create chances for a shock goal with their big defenders, sending them forward on set-piece opportunities whenever they could.
“That was a big team,” Schmetzer said. “We were a little concerned about that. We didn’t want to give away any unnecessary corner kicks and set pieces. I thought Tyler [Miller] did a fantastic job commanding his six-yard box, I had no doubt in my mind that he was in control back there.”
Despite Kitsap’s best efforts Seattle began dominating possession, creating a string of crosses and set-piece opportunities that were repeatedly turned away. Finally Roldan was able to break the deadlock.
Roldan, already playing one of his best games for Seattle, got the Sounders on the board in the 71st minute with his first official goal for the team. Aaron Kovar’s cross into the box was deflected by a Kitsap defender and fell to Roldan in the box, who poked the ball up and over Grosey to loop into the back of the net.
“You know what you get out of [Roldan] every single time,” Schmetzer said. “He covers a lot of ground, he wins tackles, and he’s deceptively good in the air.”
Roldan was also influential in the second goal for the Sounders in the 90th minute. With Kitsap pressing forward in search of an equalizer, Roldan bodied a Pumas defender off the ball cleanly to win possession and tap a pass to Friberg. The Swede split the entire Kitsap defense with his pass to a sprinting Joevin Jones, who easily slotted his shot past Grosey to put the game away.
The two teams had faced off in the Cup once before on the very same field in the 2011 edition of the tournament. The Sounders won a close 2-1 contest thanks to a pair of Mike Fucito goals. They won the tournament that year for their third-straight championship.
A silver lining for the Pumas is that they win the tiebreaker with La Maquina for the $15,000 Division 4 (amateur) prize money for the team that advanced the furthest in the tournament. This is despite the fact that Kitsap is the only pro team in the PDL, a fully amateur league. (Kitsap’s professional status was grandfathered in when the league made the change to become all-amateur) They accomplish this because they don’t have any active NCAA players on their roster.