Seattle expected to play plenty of reserve players as it begins defense of its 2009 title against the longtime-rival Timbers.
Despite foundering through the first half of the MLS season, there is still one competition in which Sounders FC is the team to beat: the U.S. Open Cup.
And Seattle’s defense of its 2009 trophy will begin in hostile territory Wednesday in a third-round match against rival Portland at 7:30 p.m. at PGE Park.
A 3-1 loser at Philadelphia on Sunday, the Sounders have already matched their Year One total of seven league losses. Amid a span of three straight road games in eight days, they are desperate for anything positive.
“We need to go win in Portland to bounce back,” said forward Pat Noonan. “That’s about it.”
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Seattle will likely be in new-look mode against the Timbers. Not only is the team expected to field a lineup of reserves to rest its starters, but the Sounders will wear their all-yellow alternate uniforms called “Electricity.”
Last year Seattle hardly needed a spark in a 2-1 third-round win against Portland in the Open Cup — the first of four straight wins en route to the championship.
The road back to the top won’t be easy.
The Timbers, a hardened Northwest rival dating to the 1970s, have won three straight games in all competitions and beat the Sounders 1-0 in a March exhibition.
If Seattle wins Wednesday, it will host the MLS-leading Los Angeles Galaxy in a quarterfinal at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. While projecting a Sounders FC win is increasingly more difficult following the team’s struggles, coach Sigi Schmid said his team isn’t lacking self-confidence.
“That’s what we talked about,” Schmid said. “We have an Open Cup game midweek, and then we play on the weekend against L.A. We still believe in ourselves as a unit.”
• Michael Seamon made his MLS debut for Seattle in front of family and friends Sunday, but the rookie midfielder called the homecoming “bittersweet” in defeat.
“It was good to get in, but tough to take that result,” said Seamon, who made a goal-scoring Sounders FC debut against Boca Juniors in May. “It’s nice that it’s on the minds of the coaches to get me in there.”
• Nate Jaqua also made his season debut, playing 18 minutes as a second-half substitute. The 6-foot-3 forward had been recovering from a lower abdominal injury.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org