Rowdies knock Sounders out of US Open Cup

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — For the first time in five years, Sounders FC will have to watch the U.S. Open Cup final from home — crashing out 1-0 to the North American Soccer League’s Tampa Bay Rowdies in the third round Wednesday.

Forward Obafemi Martins’ potential game-tying penalty kick in the 86th minute was saved by Tampa Bay goalkeeper Diego Restrepo, dooming the Sounders’ hopes of forcing extra time and eventually winning the game.

“Tonight, (the Rowdies) were better,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “(The players) should be pissed off. There were a lot of opportunities out there for players to make a case for themselves. Some guys took advantage of that, some guys didn’t. At the end of the day, we fell short.”

After an uneventful first 75 minutes, Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov gave the Rowdies a surprise lead, cleaning up a rebound off the hands of Sounders goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann, putting Seattle behind by a goal.

Desperate to force extra time, the Sounders pushed forward, inserting Martins into the game, and nearly got their equalizing goal.

Tampa Bay defender Jordan Gafa, standing on the goal line after Restrepo had been caught out of position, blocked a shot with his hands.

Gafa was issued an immediate red card for the infraction and gave the Sounders a penalty kick, but, crucially, he had kept the ball out of the net, preserving the Rowdies’ lead.

Martins shot his ensuing penalty low and to the left, but Restrepo guessed correctly and saved the shot in the 86th minute.

“I just put it where I put it and the goalkeeper was there,” Martins said. “What can I say? I tried to score and I didn’t. ... We needed a goal so bad and we tried to score. We had the penalty and we lost.”

With this game bookended by a pair of weekend games in Los Angeles, Schmid fielded a somewhat weakened lineup.

“It’s a big week in terms of travel for us, but take nothing away from the Rowdies, they played well,” Schmid said. “Obviously, we made a decision that we were going to rest some guys, and really, I thought in the second half, we pretty much had control of the game. They had one shot and they scored on that and then we come back and we’ve got to score that penalty.”

A difficult travel schedule wasn’t the only adversity the Sounders faced Wednesday, as they also struggled to adapt to a field much bumpier and smaller than their home field at CenturyLink Field.

“This is a hard field to play on it because it’s small,” Schmid said. “(The Rowdies) know how to play on it. ... Those aren’t the reasons we lost the game. We still should have won the game if we played better.”

While Schmid acknowledged the unfamiliarity of exiting the Open Cup early, he also hinted at a silver lining for the reeling Sounders, who have now lost two games in four days.

“For a change, we’ll have no distractions as we move forward,” he said. “Without those distractions, hopefully it’ll allow us to focus on MLS and allow us to be a little fresher when we go into the playoffs.”

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