By JASON MITCHELL
TUKWILA, Wash. – Much that unfolded Tuesday night at Starfire Sports Stadium eerily echoed Cal FC’s match just a week earlier, three hours down the road in Portland.
Until it didn’t.
A pair of second-half braces fueled the Seattle Sounders to a 5-0 U.S. Open Cup romp that ended with Seattle fans chanting, "This ain't Portland."
The victory advances the Sounders through to the quarterfinals, which slate them to visit the San Jose Earthquakes on June 26.
But for 49 minutes the fifth-tier amateur side once again stymied a much more pedigreed MLS team that controlled the run of play and pounded shot after shot toward the Cal FC goal.
For 49 minutes the Sounders couldn’t translate possession and shots into a goal, struggling to penetrate Cal FC’s 3-5-2. And as the match neared halftime, the Sounders' inability to find the back of the net caused a palpable frustration both on the pitch and among the 3,894 Seattle fans packing tiny Starfire. A frustration the Portland Timbers and their army would surely find familiar.
How quickly things changed.
Just four minutes after the break referee Daniel Radford called a handball in the box on Cal FC midfielder Jesus Gonzalez. Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso calmly drilled the ensuing penalty low into the left corner, nabbing the first of his two goals, opening the onslaught, and shattering Cal FC's celebrated glass boot.
"I think the first goal really was a punch in the gut" said Cal FC coach Eric Wynalda. "Because it was a penalty kick again. It felt like we were reliving Portland again. But Alonso didn’t make a mistake."
With rare exception, the game barely left the Sounders’ attacking third for the rest of the match. Seattle would end up outshooting Cal FC 28-4.
More goals seemed inevitable, and the first came in the 59th minute, courtesy of Fredy Montero on a snazzy assist from Cordell Cato.
A flurry of three goals in five minutes then buried Cal FC, the sudden sweethearts of the American soccer community.
Joked Wynalda: ”I thought we were OK after four, but the fifth one got us.”
Andy Rose knocked in the first of the three in the 67th minute, off a corner kick that pingponged dangerously around the box before inadvertently finding Rose. It was just his second goal in a Sounders' uniform, but also his second in a week.
“He’s done very, very well," Sounders' coach Sigi Schmid said of the rookie from UCLA, "and he’s added an important piece to us. He’s come through with some goals here and there, but he’s really helped us in terms of just linking play together."
Fredy Montero then completed his brace in the 69th minute, scoring off a bending free kick from about 23 yards out that, unfortunately for Cal FC, Sammy Ochoa just missed redirecting with his head.
Referee Daniel Radford ruled, after a lengthy conference, that while Ochoa was offside he didn't influence the play. It appeared, however, that Ochoa's attempted header may have briefly frozen goalkeeper Derby Carillo.
Alonso capped both his brace and the scoring with the goal of the night in the 70th minute. Striding up the center of the pitch, Alonso received a crisp pass from Alex Caskey and without hesitation catapulted a 35-yard shot that soared over Carillo before ducking under the crossbar.
Alonso, who usually answers questions through a translator, needed no assistance when asked if it was the best goal of his career.
"Yep," he replied with a smile.
"Even I stood up and applauded it," said Wynalda. "It was probably one of the best goals I've seen in awhile."
With MLS sides falling all around them, Seattle has outscored its two Open Cup opponents 10-1, utilizing mixed but strong lineups in both matches.
“The Open Cup the last two weeks has been good for us," said Schmid, "because we had a bit of a struggle, and it’s allowed us to rest some people, to get some people’s legs back under them. [It's] given a chance for some other people to step out and play. And obviously the confidence of the team when you score goals always improves.”
For Cal FC, the loss ends a wondrous run and leaves the team—put together for the purposes of entering the U.S. Open Cup—with an uncertain future.
Wynalda put much of the blame for the loss on himself, saying, "I’ll stay true to my word that players win games and coaches lose them. This one goes on my shoulders, I think we could have been a little more offensive-minded, and I could have trusted them a little bit more. ‘Cause we really just were chasing the game after about 55 minutes."
"We just wanted to get to about the 60th minute and then throw some forwards on the field," he added later, "but we never got there."
Nonetheless, the American soccer legend was happy with the run his team put together, and optimistic about what it might mean for his players' futures.
"I think they've proven they can play," he said, "and hopefully they'll get to play at a better address."