TUKWILA – An exciting World Cup continues, but the break is over for Sounders FC.
After a brief respite, the team returns to action Wednesday, not in MLS but the U.S. Open Cup. Three-time tournament champion Seattle enters this year’s knockout-style competition in the fourth round against amateur team PSA Elite, a 7 p.m. home game at a sold-out Starfire Stadium.
The Sounders won their first three Open Cups as an MLS franchise, claiming a historic three-peat from 2009 to 2011, but the past two editions have seen some disappointing ends.
The 2012 final against Sporting Kansas City ended in frustrating road defeat via penalty-kick shootout. Last year, Seattle was upset in its first game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the second-division North American Soccer League.
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Safe to say, the Sounders say it’s time to restore order.
“We definitely want to get our title back,” said midfielder Lamar Neagle, a Federal Way native.
The Sounders will turn to an old hand to lead the trophy pursuit in the Open Cup, as coach Sigi Schmid revealed this week that backup goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann will start throughout the tournament. Hahnemann, a Seattle native who turned 42 Sunday, hasn’t played a minute this season behind Stefan Frei.
“Just the chance to put on the jersey one more time for real, I cherish every moment you get a chance to do that,” said Hahnemann, who began his professional career with the lower-league Sounders in 1994.
Seattle, the top team in MLS by a significant margin, will be a colossal favorite against PSA Elite, which has successfully navigated the tournament’s early rounds.
Schmid likened PSA Elite to a college all-star squad and said the Sounders coaching staff is familiar with 75 percent of the team’s roster from scouting college games and combines.
“This is the game of their lives,” Schmid said of the underdog opponent.
The reality is Seattle blasted the last amateur team it faced in the Open Cup, cruising to a 5-0 win against Cal FC in 2012. The Sounders are also 14-0 in the tournament at home, with a 37-8 goal differential — not ingredients for an upset.
One benefit for Cal FC could be a worn-down artificial turf at Starfire — an intimate, 4,500-seat venue. Schmid said the surface is “matted down” and will play fast.
“It’s not ideal,” the coach added. “It actually becomes an equalizer to a certain extent.”
One benefit for the Sounders is the game isn’t sandwiched between MLS games, which will allow Schmid to field a stronger team and utilize its revamped roster.
“We’re a lot deeper (than last year),” said Hahnemann. “We’re going to have guys who are playing on Wednesday who have already played a lot of league games for us this year.”
• Several injured Sounders will be unavailable: Djimi Traore (adductor), Dylan Remick (adductor), Andy Rose (knee) and Tristan Bowen (concussion). Veterans Obafemi Martins and Osvaldo Alonso aren’t expected to be available so they can rest.
• The winner will face the San Jose Earthquakes in the fifth round Tuesday. If Seattle wins, the game will be at Starfire Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184