1 - This is clearly an important competition for Seattle — but will the lineup reflect that?
Probably not. With the MLS season drifting away Sigi Schmid will have to choose his lineups carefully. Clint Dempsey is certainly out, due to last year's referee assault. Plus Seattle leans a bit on older internationals which makes it easy to rest a few of them. There's also a road game Saturday in Toronto with the team coming back to Seattle in-between the two matches.
All together that looks like a lineup that will either be heavily rotational or just plain B-team.
2 - Your start in MLS has been less than stellar — is there a root cause or a set of concerns?
It's the offense. Sure, the attackers aren't getting off that many shots, but they are about average in that realm. But the shots aren't good ones. Some of that is because the forward band of three is not getting into quality spaces and the rest of it is because the creative forces on the team are the not-really-a-10 Andreas Ivanschitz, fullbacks with poor crosses and longballs from the center mids. Seattle's lack of creativity in the attack compounds an already iffy set of forwards who outside of Jordan Morris are under-performing reasonable expectations.
That's why the organization is looking at adding a classic #10 as well as a hybrid striker/winger who is both creative and can score. But until it happens the Sounders will be a good defense put under duress because they know if they give up a single goal they cannot win.
3 - Will Seattle go for a full-strength lineup in the Cup, or is the focus on turning things around in MLS?
I'm expecting a full B-team. Coaches don't get fired for losing the US Open Cup. They do get fired if they go 1 for 9 two years in a row. That was the low point of 2015 and the Sounders are currently in a 1 for 6 spell right now. After Toronto are home games against the Galaxy and Dallas.
GK: Miller; Fisher, Scott, Alfaro, Jo. Jones; Roldan, Mathers (if signed on callup, if not Sturgis), Farfan; D. Jones, Valdez, Gomez
And yes, that's a B-team with a quite famous Herculez Gomez and a DP at forward. But they are regularly getting beaten for playing time by a left mid/left back prospect who is turning himself into a pretty decent right winger.