By AVI CREDITOR
Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid's assertion that U.S. Soccer is on a calculated mission to halt the Sounders' success in the U.S. Open Cup has made its way to U.S. Soccer's highest-ranking personnel, and it was not received with open arms.
In comments made to the Seattle Times on Sunday, Schmid implied that some sort of conspiracy theory was in the cards after the draw for the next round has the three-time defending champion Sounders on the road should they get by upstart Cal FC Tuesday night. U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati offered a strong retort to Schmid's remarks to SBI on Monday.
"Sigi's comments are completely inappropriate and frankly quite offensive," Gulati told SBI in a phone interview on Monday. "The fact that you lose a few coin flips in a row, that can happen, and that's what's happened here. To imply any kind of conspiracy against Seattle or in favor of D.C. or Kansas City is nonsense.
"In the same set of comments, Sigi points out that he's been a part of three finals when he hosted a game, including the last two in Seattle. It's nonsense."
Schmid stirred the pot by offering that there is not enough transparency in the coin flip process to determine host sites, a new wrinkle in the tournament this year after teams previously bid for the right to host Open Cup matches. Seattle initially lost the right to host its third round match against the Atlanta Silverbacks but came to an agreement with the NASL side to shift venues. Had Cal FC not upset the Portland Timbers last week, Seattle would have had to go to Jeld-Wen Field for Tuesday's fourth-round match.
Gulati said that there are witnesses and U.S. officials on hand for the coin flip, which is conducted at U.S. Soccer headquarters, and that neither conspiracy nor foul play is a part of the process.
"Obviously the coin is not favorable to us," Schmid told The Times. "It seems to land on the right side for K.C. and for D.C. United, whose president of one club and coach of the other (club) have been on the executive committee of U.S. Soccer — surprisingly.
"Being very frank, I think U.S. Soccer is trying to make it difficult for us to win an Open Cup. It's almost like sometimes I get the feeling like they'd rather not see us win it again, for whatever reasons. Maybe they think it dilutes the value of the cup, or they're getting pressure from others that think Seattle can only win it because they're playing at home.
"All that I know is you compare us and D.C., I mean D.C. has played one away game since 2007. We've played a lot more away games with the second-division Sounders and first division. I know we were in Portland twice, just to think of that one. So it's just something that's there. I think they're making it difficult for us, but it's like, 'OK, they can throw obstacles in the way. We're going to try to jump over each of those hurdles,' and I think we can. And maybe it gives us an 'us against the world' mentality a little bit, because I really think that they would prefer for somebody else to win it."
What did you think of Schmid's comments? What do you make of Gulati's response? Do you think there's any logic behind what Schmid had to say?
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