The Seattle Sounders entered their Wednesday night U.S. Open match against the Tampa Bay Rowdies short-handed. They came away from St. Petersburg, FL., empty-handed, dropping a 1-0 decision that eliminated them from Open Cup competition to the lower-tier, North American Soccer League team at windy Al Lang Stadium.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid fielded a starting lineup that was nearly unrecognizable and Seattle was shut out for the first time in an Open Cup match since they entered MLS. Missing from the third-round game were defenders Patrick Ianni and Osvaldo Alonso, both of whom were ineligible after Ianni received two yellow cards in the 2012 Open Cup finals and Alonso exceeded the maximum number of yellows allowed in Open Cup competition.
Each would have proved valuable in the 75th minute when Rowdies forward Georgi Hristov streaked through the middle of the Sounders zone and netted what proved the game-winning score. The ball deflected off backup Seattle goalie Marcus Hahnemann and trickled into the back of the net.
“It’s a big week in terms of travel for us,” Schmid said. “Take nothing away from the Rowdies, they played well. Obviously we made the decision that we were going to rest some guys and play some other people.”
The Sounders received a chance at an equalizer in the 85th minute when Rowdies defender Jordan Gafa committed a handball inside the Seattle box. The penalty garnered an ejection, and then a penalty kick chance for Obafemi Martins.
Tampa Bay goalie Diego Restrepo guessed right on Martins’ shot and dove to his left, the ball deflecting off him and wide of the post.
The Sounders pushed hard in the final 15 minutes with a man advantage but couldn’t connect.
They played without forward Eddie Johnson and defender Brad Evans, both having joined the U.S. National Team’s international friendly with Belgium Wednesday night. Mauro Rosales and Steve Zakuani were held out to help heal injuries.
The loss, which followed a 4-0 embarrassment Sunday against the Galaxy, prevented the Sounders from reaching their fifth consecutive Open Cup finals. They return to MLS play Saturday when they continue their road trip against Chivas USA.