By JASON MITCHELL
Leave it to the Seattle Sounders, winners of three straight U.S. Open Cups, to at least momentarily restore a semblance of order to what has been an unpredictable tournament.
A night after lower-tier teams massacred MLS sides, the Sounders dominated the NASL's Atlanta Silverbacks in a 5-1 rout. Four second-half goals, including a pair from Sammy Ochoa, led the way to a thrashing at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
The victory slots Seattle through to host Cal FC, the fifth-tier team that shocked the Portland Timbers later Wednesday night. The amateur side out of Thousand Oaks, Calif., will visit Starfire Tuesday night.
Ochoa capped the scoring with his brace, but rookie Andy Rose opened it just before half, ripping a shot from the top of the box past a helpless Joe Nasco in the 44th minute. It was the first career goal for the rookie out of UCLA, who appears to have earned the role of first alternate behind Brad Evans in the central midfield.
Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso added an insurance goal just as the second half got underway, taking a beautifully weighted ball from Cordell Cato and slapping it across the face of the goal into the far-side netting in the 47th minute.
It looked for a moment like the Silverbacks might still make a match of it, as former Chilean international Reinaldo Navia fired a rocket from the top of the box in the 53rd minute to pull the Silverbacks within a goal.
The Sounders, however, answered less than a minute later. Alex Caskey ripped a left-footer past two defenders and Nasco to restore the two-goal lead. As with Rose, it was Caskey's first goal in a Seattle uniform.
Ochoa then put the match beyond all doubt, racking up his brace in less than five minutes. In the 62nd minute, Ochoa received a beautiful through-ball from Alonso before whizzing a shot past Nasco. Just four minutes later, he fielded a deflected David Estrada shot at the top of the box and buried a powerful one-touch shot into the right-side of the net.
Ochoa, acquired via the allocation order process last August, looked promising in scoring two goals for Seattle late last season. But he has barely stepped on the pitch this year, earning just 53 minutes across three MLS appearances.
The Silverbacks came out looking for the win in an aggressive 4-3-3 that left Seattle plenty of room for through-balls and overlapping attacks. Seattle, fielding a mixed but strong lineup featuring several regulars, threatened early and often.
Only solid work from Nasco kept the match from getting out of hand earlier than it did. The Sounders outshot the Silverbacks 10-5 and forced Nasco into four saves in the first half alone, including a beautiful fingertip stop on Caskey just moments before Rose opened the scoring.
The Silverbacks managed a couple of half-chances against the run of play in the first half, but never seriously threatened.