The Seattle Sounders took their first step toward claiming a third consecutive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title on Tuesday night, in front of over 3,800 fans at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington. But the adversity they faced in doing so was certainly greater than anticipated, as their lower-division rivals, the Kitsap Pumas, brought the difference to within one goal in the second half and nearly equalized on multiple occasions.
The Pumas, a USL Premier Development club coached by Seattle soccer hero (and member of the Sounders broadcast team) Pete Fewing, were surprisingly resilient through most of the match, attacking hard and defending well, save for two brilliant goals by Seattle forward Mike Fucito.
The first goal came in the 39th minute, when Fucito collected a cross headed down by Nate Jaqua and slipped it past Kitsap goalkeeper Bryan Meredith off the volley.
Then, in the second half, Fucito received a good ball all alone in the box and danced around Meredith and several defenders before firing a rocket into the back of the net.
But the Pumas were far from giving up. In the 71st minute, off a perfect corner feed, Pumas midfielder Nik Besagno got a touch to slide the ball through, past Seattle goalkeeper Terry Boss to bring the goal difference to one. And they weren't done yet.
Among the nail-biting moments for Seattle was a missed opportunity by the Pumas in the 83rd minute, when Brazilian-born Kitsap forward Warlen Silva got a breakaway opportunity that caused a gasp in the crowd as it hit the side of the netting. But Seattle were able to hang on and secure their spot in the quarterfinals of the nation's longest-running soccer tournament for the third consecutive year.
The Sounders next Open Cup match will be held again at the Starfire Sports Complex against the Los Angeles Galaxy at a date to be determined.