The Seattle Sounders will face the Kitsap Pumas tonight at Starfire Sports complex in Tukwila in the third round of the US Open Cup, a local derby being referred to as "the Battle For Bainbridge" by people the world over (or me and me alone, if you want to get all technical about things.) The Pumas compete in the USL Premier Development League's Northwest division and they're currently dominating, sitting five points ahead of the second place Victoria Highlanders with two games in hand. The Pumas employ several players that are likely more than qualified to play at a higher level including goalkeeper Bryan Meredith, a 22-year-old who was drafted by the Sounders in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft and may very well be part of the team's long-term plans.
Sounder At Heart has a great Q&A with David Falk of GoalWA.net that takes a far more in-depth look at the Pumas than anything I could hope to offer, but the take away is that the Pumas bring a bit more talent than one might expect from a team playing at the PDL level. Kitsap's first-choice team could give some decent MLS Reserve League sides a run for their money on any given day. Unfortunately for the underdogs, Seattle's Reserves are a few ticks above decent. Currently sitting on top of the Western Conference standings at a perfect 6-0-0 with a point total double that of second place San Jose, the Sounders Reserves have a +7 goal differential and boast several players that could likely work their way into the regular rotation on more than a few MLS sides. What's more, Seattle rested a few first choice players for Sunday's game against the New England Revolution and with the next MLS contest six days away it wouldn't be a surprise in the least to see a few of them in Seattle's starting XI. Fredy Montero is still nursing a quad injury and will likely not be included in the 18, but Mike Fucito, Nate Jaqua, Osvaldo Alonso and Leo Gonzalez could all get significant playing time. Jeff Parke is a possibility as well. With promising young players such as Miguel Montaño, Michael Tetteh, David Estrada and Mike Seamon likely to start, Seattle won't be fielding an MLS quality side, but it might not be too drastically far off.
Still, games like this can (and likely should, to some extent) be a bit of a nervous experience. As two-time defending US Open Cup Champions, the Sounders washing out to Little Brother in their first game of the competition would be a pretty massive embarrassment. Such a disaster would be made all the worse by the schadenfreude likely to be reveled in by those that love to see the Sounders fail. There's undoubtedly some trap potential here, and it's not at all hyperbole to say that should such a thing come to pass it would be the worst loss in MLS-era Sounders history by several orders of magnitude.
Thankfully, the risk of such an occurrence is minimal. The Sounders take this competition seriously and are capable of unleashing a not-insignificant amount of firepower on the Pumas. Kitsap are a very good PDL club, but they're still a PDL club. It shouldn't be a surprise to anyone if this one stays close for a bit, but the Pumas are lacking the quality and the depth to hang with an MLS side for a full 90. Having said that, if Seattle doesn't come out and take control early (both in terms of the run of play and the scoreboard) I'll likely be a nervous wreck.
The Sounders are going to be live-streaming this game on SoundersFC.Com, and as of last check ECS still has a few (but likely fewer than 25) tickets remaining that are being sold to the general public.
For more in-depth coverage of this match, head over to Sounder At Heart.