Sounders’ Depth to be Tested in Open Cup

After arguably the worst loss in franchise history, the Sounders need a bounce-back game.

And a match against a lower division side in a competition Seattle has historically dominated seems like the perfect opportunity.

But as last night’s upsets showed, early round Open Cup games are no walk in the park for MLS teams. With a quality opponent, cross-country travel and the absence of multiple key players, tonight will be a serious test of the Sounders’ depth. Reserve players have come up big in the past to help Seattle reach four straight US Open Cup finals and that has to be the case once again today.

Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans are away on national team duty, Patrick Ianni and Osvaldo Alonso are suspended due to red cards in last year’s final and Mauro Rosales, Djimi Traore and Leo Gonzalez reportedly flew back to Seattle after Sunday’s game for fitness reasons. For those counting at home, that’s six regular starters (and a starting-quality player in Ianni) who will miss out. Throw in the cross-country travel plus short rest for the guys who are there and it starts to get real messy for Sigi Schmid.

But hey, at least Schmid is actually there to coach.

With all that in mind, here’s my best guess at a Sounders starting XI:

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Bench: Michael Gspurning, Dylan Remick, Alex Caskey, Ashani Fairclough, Philip Lund, Servando Carrasco, Eriq Zavaleta

Breakdown:

Hahnemann is solid even at 40 years young so nothing to worry about there. Yedlin seems to have no end to his energy and although it’s a legitimate concern he could burn out later this summer (especially after the U-20 World Cup), I think Schmid will start him. Scott can be a dominant defender against lower-league opposition and with Tampa Bay featuring his brother, Daniel, he’s a lock to start.

Schmid would be wise to get as many minutes out of Joseph as possible since his red card against LA makes him ineligible for the Chivas game on Saturday. However, it’s doubtful he can go two full games in three days so Carrasco should feature at some point. With Joseph and Rose sitting deep in the center, it will be up to the front four to provide the offensive spark. Fortunately, there’s serious talent available if Schmid does decide to go with Neagle and Martinez on the wings. I expect Martinez will be given a free role to drift and will probably see plenty of the ball in the middle of the field. Yedlin overlapping on the right will provide compensatory width. Estrada probably drops deeper to help with possession while Ochoa stays high.

As far as Tampa Bay, it’s a squad that definitely has the talent to pull the upset. That said, Seattle has enough quality, even without the regular starters, and this should be a comfortable win.

For more specifics on Tampa Bay and to see what Sigi had to say about the game, check out Sounderatheart.com

Vengeance: Carl Froch beats Kessler in an Exciting Rematch

 

Carl Froch v Mikkel Kessler IBF & WBA Super-Middleweight Title'sThe theme of comparing the rematch between Carl “the Cobra” Froch (31-2 22KO) and Danish-born Mikkel Kessler (46-3 35KO) to the old wars between England and the Vikings proved to be an appropriate metaphor for the battle these two fought in London.

In addition to the belts, the number 2 spot (Andre Ward being the lineal champion) in the super middleweight (168 Ibs.) division was at stake.

The fight started off with both guys landing their jabs and power punches. Kessler had success with his hooks and Froch found his range with his jab and right hands.

Froch controlled most of the early rounds as he landed solid combinations due to the use of his jab and Kesslers unwillingness or inability to get his offense going.

Kessler finally began to pick up the pace in round five when he landed several thudding shots on Froch, including an overhand right. Although Froch didn’t seem that hurt by the punches, they scored points for Kessler and he seemed to be gaining momentum.

However, Froch fought back and eventually took back control of the fight by the eighth round. Kessler continued to score with hard punches but he couldn’t keep a consistent pace going and his punches didn’t seem to hurt Froch for the most part.

The only exception was in the 11th round when a solid counter-right and a series of punches staggered Froch momentarily. The British fighter managed to survive the onslaught and actually had his moments of success in the final seconds of the round.

The final round was one of the best of the year so far as both fighters sought to gain knockouts over each other. Froch threw more punches and seemed to overwhelm Kessler with sheer activity in spots, which gave him the edge in the final seconds of the fight.

Froch won by a unanimous decision with scores of 118-110, 116-112, and 115-113.

Kessler looked to be a shadow of his former self and he wasn’t able to keep his offense going and couldn’t keep up with the pace of Froch, although he did show some improvements in defense and power punching. Kessler said he would retire if he lost that fight although nothing is official as of this post. Kessler could still beat most of the super-middleweights and light-heavyweights in the world, but he’ll struggle with the elite of either division.

Froch showed he learned from the first fight with Kessler by taking control of the pace of the fight early and not backing away so much. He also chose to outwork Kessler instead of trying to knock him out with every punch he threw. He expressed desire in a rubbermatch with Kessler if he wants it but he also wants to fight Ward in the United Kingdom. Whatever option he does pick, it’s become clear that Froch is certainly one of the best, if not the best, fighters to come out of Great Britain in quite some time.

Ward said that he’d be willing to fight Froch again but said the only reason he would go to the United Kingdom was if he wanted to rather than being forced to go there.

For now, Carl Froch remains King of the Britons.