TUKWILA, Wash. --—A non-factor for most of the game, University of Washington graduate Kevin Forrest provided the only goal as Seattle Sounders FC defeated the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in a second round U.S. Open Cup play-in game on Tuesday night at the Starfire Sports Complex. With the victory, Sounders FC claimed a spot in the third round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, joining D.C. United as the survivors of the eight-team MLS play-in bracket. The full tournament field will be announced May 27.
After an hour of scoreless soccer, Forrest deftly cut inside his marker and headed home a flick from Roger Levesque from inside the 6-yard box. Jubilant, the native of nearby Edmonds pulled his jersey over his head and ran in front of the cheering crowd to receive his adulation. It proved to be the game-winner, as Seattle retreated into a defensive shell to ensure the victory.
Seattle trotted out four regular starters from that match, with captain Kasey Keller, donning a brilliant orange shirt, taking his place in between the posts. Three other players who started over the weekend -- Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Nathan Sturgis and Sebastien Le Toux -- took the field. Evan Brown and Forrest also earned their first starts in Sounders FC rave green, while the strike partnership of Le Toux and Roger Levesque, which netted Seattle four goals in their previous Open Cup play-in game, once again started up front.
For Colorado, only midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy pulled double duty, with Conor Casey absent from Gary Smith's 18.
With injuries decimating his midfield, Seattle coach Sigi Schmid counted on Nathan Sturgis and Stephen King to act as the midfield fulcrums. In a smaller-than-average field like the one at the Starfire Sports Complex, this can be an exceedingly difficult task -- it was a misplayed exchange between the pair that led to the first opportunity of the match. However, Keller easily saved a weak Colorado effort.
With space at a premium, Colorado attacked primarily via the long ball. Patrick Ianni, playing alongside Hurtado in central defense, was especially active in repelling the aerial threat. Seattle had the better of the first-half chances, with longtime USL Sounders goalkeeper Preston Burpo making two critical saves for the Rapids to deny the first Seattle flurry.
Levesque started that rally by heading to Le Toux, who played the ball back to the onrushing Sanna Nyassi. The Gambian's shot was saved brilliantly by Burpo, who managed to get his right foot in the way. In the ensuing scramble, Levesque unleashed a sizzling drive to Burpo's near post, but the 'keeper was up to the task once again.
Minutes later, Seattle came up empty on what was probably the best chance for either team in the first half. Brown, starting at right back, chipped an insightful ball forward to King. Colorado defender Rob Valentino, covering for Burpo, knocked the ball off the line. Sturgis's follow-up effort was well-struck but went wide of the near post.
The first half action came to a close with a half-chance for either side. Nyassi was called offside as he chased a through ball from Levesque while a Colorado corner kick was headed just wide. Both sides went into the locker room without a goal.
Looking to add an offensive spark, the Rapids inserted Nick LaBrocca in the midfield to start the second half, the only change for either team. Colorado almost opened with a goal, but Ross Schunk's 53rd-minute header off a corner went wide.
By this point, the field started to open up for both sides. For Sounders FC, Nyassi juked Michael Holody a few minutes later, but his knuckling near post drive was blocked and collected by Burpo.
Then came Forrest's goal in the 62nd minute, which changed the tactics for both teams.
Content to hold on the lead, Schmid changed to a five-man midfield to protect the lead. James Riley replaced Forrest to help Seattle maintain possession. Nate Jaqua replaced Nyassi in the 80th minute to act as a target forward, with Levesque taking a more defensive position.
Chasing the equalizer, Colorado nearly tied the game when Rapids defender Holody found himself with space at the top of the area. Holody, who had been pushed forward in pursuit of the tying goal, cracked a rocket that seemed destined for the upper corner. But Keller, off the heels of another fantastic game against Colorado on the weekend, dove to his left and snatched the ball cleanly off its path.
With that save, the resistance was all but killed off and Seattle escaped the two minutes of injury time without further incident.
The two play-in qualifiers from MLS, Sounders FC and D.C. United, join automatic qualifiers Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Houston Dynamo, Kansas City Wizards, Chicago Fire and Chivas USA in the third round of the Open Cup, with those matches set to be played June 30.