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Tuesday, July 12, 2011
GALAXY: Starfire is sweet for Sounders

By Scott French

The Galaxy knows the perils of playing Seattle in the U.S. Open Cup.

The Sounders, benefiting greatly from home games, over and over again, have won the last two titles in America's oldest soccer competition, and a triumph Wednesday night over L.A. in Tukwila, Wash., will again send them to the final four.

It's U.S. Soccer's dirty little ... well, it's not exactly a secret: The Open Cup is many things -- and has been since the first ball was kicked back in 1914 -- but as national cup competitions go, it's hardly the most equitable.

“It's interesting the way it works,” says Galaxy captain Landon Donovan, who hopes to lead L.A. to its third Open Cup crown and first since it won the “double” in 2005. “It's not a typical tournament in that way, where you just get drawn home or away. You make a bid to host the games, so Seattle over the years has been willing to put together a more impressive bid than other teams, and they get home games, and they've benefited from it.

“All that being said, it's a team that's playing very well right not, but it's a team we know we can beat, and we're going to go there with the intention of trying to win.”

Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, whose reserve-heavy lineup lost to Seattle, at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, at this stage in last year's tournament, said when asked if he would play as close to a first-choice lineup as he could that he would field “a team that, hopefully, can win the game.”

Would that team include Donovan and David Beckham?

“I would expect that they're going to get strong consideration.”

Beckham might be a surprise. He's got a new baby in the house -- daughter Harper Seven was born Sunday at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center -- and is still dealing with a minor spinal fracture. He played the full 90, scoring one goal and assisting the other, in L.A.'s victory Saturday over Chicago and plans to be on the field this weekend against Real Madrid.

Donovan, one of those who skipped the 2-0 loss last year, wants to be on the field.

“It's up to Bruce,” he said. “We want to take this thing seriously. The reality is there are three more games to win, and if we win three games, we win a championship. [Seattle] isn't an easy place to play, but it's a game I want to be a part of.”

The Sounders have the best support in Major League Soccer, averaging more than 36,000 for league games at CenturyLink Field, and the intensity of their following is amplified at 4,500-seat Starfire, with the fans right on top of the field.

Seattle has been home for 13 of 18 Open Cup games the past four years, using its home-field advantage to reach the semifinals in 2007 and 2008, when it played in the second-tier USL First Division. The Sounders have won or advanced on penalties in all but one of those games -- falling in overtime to FC Dallas in the 2007 quarterfinals at CenturyLink -- and are 8-0-1 in Tukwila, outscoring foes, 24-5.

“It's certainly an advantage,” Arena acknowledged. “Having said that, you still have to win the game. It's an advantage. What more can we say?”

The winner will meet FC Dallas in the Aug. 30 semifinals. The Hoops, who beat Real Salt Lake, 2-0, Tuesday night on goals by Jair Benitez and Jackson Goncalves, would be home if the Galaxy wins and play at Seattle if L.A. doesn't.

The Chicago Fire will face the Richmond Kickers in the other semifinal.

Woodland Hills' Orr Barouch scored twice as the Chicago routed New York, 4-0. Richmond Kickers, from the USL Pro, became the second third-division team to reach the semifinals during the MLS era, stunning host Sporting Kansas City, 2-0.

Tuesday's results: