The facial expression of Seattle Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid was one of a confounding, “Do I, or do I not?” And who could blame him?
The Sounders were matched against their northwest rival the Portland Timbers in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open competition Wednesday night before a sellout crowd of 15,422 at PGE park.
Seattle came away with an exciting win on penalty kicks 4-3 after the teams had battled for 120 minutes after deadlocking 1-1 at the close of regulation play and 30 minutes more of overtime.
Schmid knows that the host team is a natural rival of the Sounders and that the intensity will increase next season when Portland and Vancouver enter the MLS.
He wanted the victory and yet realized the need to rest players following a game last Sunday back east in intense heat against the Philadelphia Union that resulted in a 3-1 loss as well as an impending important league clash July 4 in Los Angeles against the L.A. Galaxy.
An early goal in the 13th minute—one of the most brilliantly executed this season—made Schmid think that perhaps he could pull off victory without extending his roster.
The goal came as Miguel Montano received the ball from Michael Seamon on the left side and crossed to Sanna Nyasi at the far post. Nyassi flicked the ball across the goal to Nate Jaqua, who executed a nifty header into the net.
This was Jaqua’s first goal since returning last weekend in the Philadelphia game.
Portland drummed home the equalizer in the 38th minute. Bright Dike scored the goal. It was his fourth in the last two Open Cup matches between the teams.
As the 1-1 deadlock persisted Schmid made a move and threw his two speedy scorers into the fray.
Fredy Montero entered action in the 65th minute while Steve Zakuani emerged a short time later in the 69th minute.
The teams continued battling on past the 90 minute regulation time all the way to the concluding 30 minutes of overtime with the score remaining at 1-1. Seattle was compelled to endure the final 19 minutes after Taylor Graham was receipted with a red card at the 101 minute mark.
Playing this many minutes of intense soccer was not what Schmid had in mind as he sought to judiciously rest players while seeking a win.
While Schmid would have preferred not using his two speedsters Montero and Zakuani for better than 50 minutes each, having them on the pitch could have been a major saving element.
Who knows how the penalty kick phase would have gone if Seattle’s top offensive stars known for their cannon legs were not there to successfully bolt two of the penalty kicks into the netting?
Seattle was also benefited in that Captain Kasey Keller played the entire game. The veteran recorded six saves during regulation and overtime along with two vital stops during the penalty kick phase.
Meanwhile, Seattle made good on all of its penalty kick opportunities, save one that soared above the crossbar by Patrick Ianni, who had entered the match at the 102-minute mark.
Sounders nation was delighted that the final penalty boot that sailed into the netting at top right of the area was delivered by Zach Scott. The Hawaiian is the longest-serving Sounder, having initially joined the club in 2002.
The hard-fought win enables Seattle to move on to the quarterfinal round of the U.S. Open Cup against the L.A. Galaxy July 7 at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila, Washington.
A scheduling oddity occurs through the convergence of the tournament mechanics and the MLS schedule, since the first place Galaxy team will host the Sounders July 4 and then travel to face them three days later on July 7 at the Seattle training complex in Tukwila.