Reeling Sounders look for answers


SEATTLE — If a four-goal loss Sunday to the Los Angeles Galaxy had staggered the Sounders FC fan base, then an upset defeat Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup knocked it to the canvas.

The one-two combination, capped by a 1-0 road loss to the second-division Tampa Bay Rowdies, seemingly came out of nowhere.

Coming into the week, Seattle had been enjoying a three-game winning streak and six-game unbeaten streak, having impressively dug its way out from the worst start in franchise history.

Instead, misery is back, and the Sounders’ roller coaster season has hit another low point.

“We’re incredibly disappointed,” said veteran defender Zach Scott after the Open Cup elimination. “I don’t even know what to say — especially me. I’ve been in this tournament for many, many years and we have always done really well. This one hurts a little worse, for some reason.”

Like Scott, a former lower-league Sounder, Open Cup success had been a Seattle mainstay even before joining MLS in 2009.

Going back to the United Soccer Leagues, the Sounders hadn’t been beaten in the annual knockout-style tournament since 2007 (losses in penalty-kick shootouts, like in last year’s final, technically go into the record book as ties).

Wednesday’s defeat ended an 18-0-4 unbeaten streak, a record for the MLS era of the Open Cup, and the last time a Seattle team didn’t make it past the third round was 2006.

Being spectators the rest of the way, for the three-time champions, will “definitely be strange,” said coach Sigi Schmid heading into an MLS-only summer schedule for the first time.

The Sounders, though, have no time to wallow due to another short turnaround.

And as bad as things have been the past few days, fortunes have been worse for Saturday’s opponent, Chivas USA, which fired coach Jose Luis Sanchez Sola late Thursday night.

The Los Angeles-based team has lost four games in a row by a combined 13-1 score and is in an 0-6-1 drought overall. Off the field, Chivas doesn’t have an English-language television deal, averages a league-low 8,059 fans per game, and was recently sued by a pair of former youth coaches for discrimination.

A popular phrase recently for downtrodden Sounders fans has been, “At least we’re not Chivas,” and Saturday will be Seattle’s chance to prove it belongs in a different class.

“It wasn’t that long ago that we seemed untouchable, and that’s the part that we have to remember,” said goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann. “The hard work that we put in (Wednesday), with a bit more quality, and we’re there again.”


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