Seattle has never lost a match at Starfire, its secondary home in Tukwila, going 19-0-1 all-time.

Share story

The Seattle Sounders haven’t lost to the Portland Timbers since their 2013 MLS Cup playoff series, a span of five games that includes the quarterfinals of last year’s U.S. Open Cup. Seattle hasn’t allowed a goal from the run of play since May 9, in its 3-2 loss in Columbus, nor lost an MLS match at home since mid-March.

Yet those pale in comparison to the most impressive streak the Sounders will put on the line when they host Portland in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday in Tukwila.

Seattle has never lost at Starfire Stadium, not in 20 tries. The Sounders are 19-0-1 all-time at their secondary stadium, 15-0-1 as an MLS franchise, a run stretching back to a 3-1 victory over the delightfully named Salinas Valley Sambas in the summer of 2005.

U.S. Open Cup

Portland @ Sounders, 7:30 p.m. Starfire Stadium

So what is it about the 4,000-seat stadium squished between interstates 5 and 405 that gives opponents so much trouble?

It certainly doesn’t look all that intimidating, even with the offseason seating upgrades to the home grandstand. It isn’t the playing surface, though that’s an educated guess.

“It’s probably on par” with the turf at CenturyLink Field, Sounders captain Brad Evans said Monday. “It’s not good.”

Though there aren’t many seats, they’re right on top of the action. Unlike, say, Memorial Stadium or even mixed-use CenturyLink, Starfire Stadium was built with soccer – and only soccer – in mind. The stands hug the sideline, and the beer garden behind the goal helps lubricate fans’ vocal cords.

“The best way to describe it is that you feel the game,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “You feel the intensity, the pace, the challenges. You see the physicality that’s there and that sometimes you don’t see when you sit up high. I think our fans get into it and help us.”

Last year’s quarterfinal against the Timbers felt like something out of an especially cheesy sports movie, a nostalgic throwback to an earlier era. Parked cars lined the road to the complex, fans hoofing it toward the stadium in clusters. The scoreboard burned out multiple times, flickering back on in time to record Kenny Cooper and Marco Pappa’s extra-time goals.

“It feels like home, like the place you grew up,” said Scott, who played for the minor-league Sounders for seven seasons and has seen his fair share of makeshift grounds. “That’s always going to be home to you, no matter where you end up in your career. That’s what it feels like for me.”

Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso has already been ruled out with a hamstring strain, and Gonzalo Pineda is also doubtful after hyperextending his knee against Dallas.

Those sturdy fortress Starfire defenses will be tested.

“From day one, we didn’t know what to expect,” Evans said. “Then you walk into an atmosphere like this and it’s something unlike anything anybody has played in before.

“You start to get on a roll, you get a few results and it becomes a fortress. We take pride in playing on this field, and it’s been good to us.”