In one sense, Seattle’s U.S. Open Cup semifinal match against the Chicago Fire at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday night is straightforward.
“If you win, you’re in. If you lose, you’re out,” Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda said.
One side will burnish its U.S. Open Cup history — Chicago has won a record four titles, Seattle is in a tie for second with three — the other will trip on the penultimate hurdle.
Still, it’s a bit more complicated than that.
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The backlog of games being crammed into August will force Chicago to fly nearly 5,000 miles this week, with trips to Seattle, to Montreal for an MLS game and then back home.
Seattle, meanwhile, is in the midst of five matches in a two-week span. Waiting on the other side of the semifinal Wednesday is a visit to Salt Lake City to play Real Salt Lake, the second-place team in the MLS Western Conference.
For the Sounders, increased depth will help with most of their all-stars fully integrated back into the team and an injury report getting shorter by the day.
“It’s good to have options, that there’s different solutions to a problem,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “You can evaluate it and pick the best solution instead of just picking the solution you have to pick because the options are eliminated.”
Yet even those options come with complications.
Attacker Lamar Neagle, who had missed the San Jose defeat with a hamstring injury, played 68 minutes of Seattle’s 1-0 victory over Houston on Sunday night. Chad Marshall, after car-accident-induced back spasms, played the full 90, as did Djimi Traore in his first league appearance since May.
“Some guys, coming off injury, it isn’t the best,” Schmid said. “You don’t know if they’re 90-minutes-game fit or how much they can bring.
“You also have to go into games without four or five guys that can’t get through 90 minutes — or in an Open Cup game, possibly 120.”
DeAndre Yedlin’s status for Wednesday is as muddied as his potential transfer move, though “our expectation is that he’ll start,” Schmid said Tuesday.
Obafemi Martins, who is suspended for the match Saturday after picking up a pair of yellow cards against Houston, likely will slot in up top.
Keeping the midfield fresh is a priority, but so is allowing it to keep rebuilding chemistry in the wake of its subpar performance in the team’s 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy a few weeks ago.
“We tried to move on and get better every day,” Pineda said. “I think the last two games, we did good in that area. The last game was a good match for us.”
Decisions, decisions — all of which will have to be considered anew ahead of the weekend showdown between the top teams in the West.
Any thoughts on the possible lineup against RSL, coach?
“Right now, I couldn’t even give you a wild guess,” Schmid said.