Coaches and athletes aren’t crazy about the which-game-would-you-rather-win question. They almost inevitability must pick “the next game,” or are wired to say they will do all they can to win both.
Sportswriters not so much. I always thought – and still do – that if the Sounders were going to win one and lose one over on their recent two-games-in-three-days pairings against MLS Portland and USOC San Jose, that the Open Cup game was the one to win.
That, of course, is the way it turned out.
Losing to Portland certainly is painful to the Sounders and their fans. Bragging rights are important – especially against Rival No. 1. However, the fact of the matter is that nothing substantive need have been lost Sunday in the Rose City. By any objective definition, Sounders FC remains the better team and the better franchise. Win Cascadia Cup, win Supporters Shield, win MLS Cup, even just make the playoffs while the Timbers watch and then June 24, 2012, becomes a footnote.
On the other hand, a loss to San Jose last night would have eliminated the Sounders from the U.S. Open Cup – the franchise’s No. 1 bragging right over its short history. It would have ended their unbeaten run in the tournament, would have ended their defense of the title, would have ended their chance at becoming the first club over the 99-year run of the tournament to win four Cups in a row.
The loss to Portland stung. A loss to San Jose would have killed.
At least, that’s the way it looks now. The equation changes if the Sounders lose to Chivas in the semifinal – maybe even to Philadelphia or Kansas City in the final. A loss at Portland is too high a price to pay for whatever added value that comes from being eliminated a little further down the Open Cup road.
But, of course, the Sounders aren’t thinking that way. They’re thinking they’re going to win two more Open Cup games. And I think it’s a good trade off that they won the game that lets them try … and lets us watch.