The Seattle Sounders, defenders of the U.S. Open Cup, will face Columbus Crew tonight at Qwest Field in front of nearly 30,000 screaming, chanting, cheering fans.
While the Crew are the current holders of the Supporters Shield--meaning they had the best overall record in Major League Soccer last season--Columbus has also lost five of their last ten league matches, and their overloaded schedule is seeming to take its toll on the squad. Seattle, on the other hand, has recorded only one loss in the past twelve matches, while one of their wins includes a 4-0 rout over Columbus.
That's not to say Sounders supporters should be overconfident about winning the trophy. The Crew are likely looking to avenge that humiliating defeat, as well as trying to win back a trophy they haven't held since 2002. Still, the Sounders go into this with a few important factors on their side. First, the squad is healthy, meaning the players we've seen on the pitch since Seattle's great run of form began are likely the ones we will see again tonight. Second, the Sounders are playing in front of their home crowd, an element they all seem to include when asked what they love about this team. Third, Seattle wants this. While the Crew may be saying they want a trophy in their cabinet, so many others have dismissed the idea of the cup. Not so in Seattle, where the competition is on everyone's mind, almost from the day the Sounders entered the tournament. Small fries? Not here.
Just a few quick details: If the score is tied at the end of ninety minutes, two fifteen minute halves will be played. If there is still no winner, the match will be decided via penalty shootout. Oh, and only five international players can be named in each teams squad, meaning the Sounders will have to decide which of Fredy Montero, Blaise Nkufo, Steve Zakuani, Sanna Nyassi, Leo Gonzalez, Alvaro Fernandez, and Miguel Montaño will sit this out. It's fairly evident that Montaño won't make the cut. It's also obvious that this is an antiquated tradition that needs to be axed (in my most humble opinion).
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