Boise State Broncos rose through conference play and inexplicable BCS algorithm to appear in the 2007 NCAA Fiesta Bowl. They were paired with College Football giants Oklahoma Sooners. Las Vegas odds were outwitted by tongue-in-cheek play-calling (see statue of liberty). The mighty Sooners fell 43 – 42. Sometimes fun match-ups like that happen in college sports. It happens every year in the US Open Cup. Tomorrow, raise a toast to sporting Underdogs. Ah, Soccer. The one lush place where the wide world of David and Goliath meet. No draws. One lives. One dies. Annual, not occasional sports classics. Eight MLS teams face lower league teams in US Open Cup play. For the Rave Green Sounders, David is a Puma from Bremerton, Washington. Seattle Sounders FC face the Kitsap Pumas.
Kitsap Pumas formed in 2008. One year before Seattle was promoted from USL to MLS. Their home is Bremerton, Washington. Most Seattle area fans traveling to Bremerton for Pumas matches, or Bremerton fans traveling to Sounders match-day include a ferry ride. Kitsap Pumas are an amateur team playing in the Premier Development League (PDL). Part of the larger United Soccer League (USL). USL is the league all Cascadia rivals emerged from. (Vancouver Whitecaps, Portland Timbers, & Seattle Sounders FC)
Pete Fewing, Kitsap Pumas coach, has been a coach at Seattle University, and has direct ties to Sounders FC as a Broadcaster. He led his men through preliminary US Open Cup stages to reach the first round. Only to face two-time defending champions, and the regions most populated soccer franchise, Sounders FC. This is David vs Goliath. This will certainly be the Puma’s most historic match.
For Sounders FC this match becomes their fourth in ten days. It must be mid-season. They have amazingly won their last three regular season matches in eight days. A significant statement in their 2011 Major League Soccer playoff quest. Now comes their first effort to defend their two consecutive US Open Cup titles. With every starter and most reserves seeing significant playing time in the 8-day, 3-match affair many regulars will be sitting. No forgiveness. It is Cup play to the death. Is Kitsap tasting Rave Green blood?
Tuesday’s US Open Cup will be held at intimate Starfire Stadium. Starfire is the Sounders training facility in Tukwilla, WA. US Open Cup matches are not new for Sounders and Starfire. One memorable US Open Cup, and Sounders FC match happened in 2009 in a semi-final match with Houston Dynamo. Sounders FC won on an overtime goal by Nate Jaqua. Whose head was wrapped in a wide white bandage from an earlier foul. Not long after he was given the name “Zombie Jaqua”. His game winning goal helped guide the Sounders to their first US Open Cup.
I believe the US Open Cup is the reason to love Soccer. It began in 1914. You can not find a competitive format like it in any US team sport. A competitive match between amateur, semi-pro, or top-level professional teams. Teams from every US region and every backyard. If you have read, Sales on Sounders before you will remember Real Madrid recently collapsed to lower a level Spanish team. Agrupación Deportiva Alcorcón defeated Real Madrid 4-nil in Spain’s, Copa del Rey. Similar to our US Open Cup. There is not only domestic precedent for David’s soccer upsets, but the beautiful game has a precedent of more global David’s than any other team sport.
Before the Sounders went MLS, they were that same David. Crushing teams like Chivas-USA and knocking out Kansas City on penalty kicks.
I will wear Rave Green, but my heart beats to David’s drum. Being 42, this is the first time I’ve been a true Goliath. It does feel like being a king in giants clothing. Easy to trip. Sounders sage, and Assistant Coach, Brian Schmetzer summed up how a top tier team prepares for a lower tier team. ”it’s tough guy Tuesday. Tough guys persevere. Tough times don’t last, tough people do”.
The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation I participated in on a social network group, “Sounders FC vs Portland Timbers Rivalry”.
Ryan: I will make my US Open Cup pitch for the 100th time, and I’m probably not done yet. It is competitive soccer!!! IF, teams are expansion, or going through a rebuilding phase, the US Open Cup should be a massive priority from Front Office to reserves. I think John Spencer & the Timbers need to put it high on their off-season priority list. I guarantee, even making it to Quarter-finals will make the Timbers better. Guaranteed!!! Too many people, and I mean MLS owners, coaches, and players do not get what this competition does that NO regular season match could EVER do. Until that realization is league wide, mid-season play like yesterday (Timber 4-nil loss to FC Dallas) will be an ongoing norm for new/rebuilding teams. It is 3rd kit, crazy field locations, bizzaro world match-ups, and no-draws allowed. That factor, makes players earn victory vs get lucky. It forces them to not play park-the-bus-defense. Yes, I’m talking to you FC Dallas. Just because Mourinho has done it, doesn’t make it good for MLS. LA, you can also hear me sing!!! To put my bold point on this, I’d rather fall to the Kitsap Pumas, than the San Jose Earthquakes. It makes players play better. Our late season run last year was in no small part due to CONCACAF and US Open Cup play. Now forget us, that could be, and should be said of more, if not every MLS squad. Now I will shut up . . . until next time.
Todd: Preach it, brother!
Christopher: I long for the day where every club who participates in the US Open Cup makes it a high priority to win that hardware. That’s our national championship at the club level, people. It’s a really big deal. Professional clubs, especially, should be trying to win the cup every year. I am tired of watching the B squad vying for such an important trophy.
Todd: Win the USOC, get to CONCACAF, get exposed to international teams and get better. ‘Nuff said, right?
Christopher: In a nutshell, North American soccer has come a long way…..but we have a long way to go
Contributions: My social network friends and rivals from the Sounders FC vs Portland Timbers Rivalry page.
Please visit thecup.us, for the most thorough coverage of the US Open Cup.
Thank you to Josh Hakala for his tireless work on the site, knowledge of the cup, and dedication to grow its recognition and tell its story. And for introducing me to its growing exposure.
© 2011 by Ryan Sales – Sales on Sounders