Kick Off: In USOC, it's David, Goliath & all those cliches
The US Open Cup Round of 32 gets under way on Tuesday night, and Tampa Bay Rowdies coach Ricky Hill encapsulates the spirit with his comments ahead of his side’s big home match against the Colorado Rapids. “Cup football, I always believe, is 11 versus 11, David versus Goliath and all those clichés,” he said. “Underdogs always seem to beat top sides, so there's no reason why we should go into it with any trepidation.”
Tampa-Colorado is just one of 14 David-and-Goliath clashes taking place on Tuesday, as the US-based MLS sides join the tournament. (The final two Round of 32 matches take place on Wednesday.) Fans can follow along live on MLSsoccer.com, plus quite a few matches will be streamed live on MLS club sites.
Many MLS clubs will field largely reserve squads in their USOC matches. But that won’t reduce the pressure on strugglers like the Philadelphia Union, who face the USL PRO’s Rochester Rhinos. "It's simple, we all know each other," forward Danny Mwanga said. "We had a good look in each others' eyes and know that it just wasn't good enough [in Saturday’s loss to Toronto]."
The LA Galaxy, who are 0-5-2 in their last seven, will be without their big stars when they travel to the Carolina RailHawks, who don’t seem intimidated by the MLS Cup champions. “We have a lot of guys who played in MLS,” midfielder Amir Lowery said. “We’re not necessarily strangers to that level, so we’re not afraid of anybody.”
The first-year NASL side San Antonio Scorpions have as much MLS experience in their ranks as any lower-division side, including coach Tim Hankinson and MLS vets Ryan Cochrane and Kevin Harmse. “[The players] would like to find a way to get back to MLS,” Hankinson said, “… to show that the coaches who didn't offer them a contract were wrong.”
After playing three matches in eight days, the Columbus Crew will rest a few starters against the Dayton Dutch Lions. Plus, a onetime regular looks set to return from a long-term injury.
One story getting plenty of ink this year in the USOC is the buying of a home match by some MLS sides. Portland, Real Salt Lake and Seattle all purchased the right to host their Round of 16 match from their opponents. Some pundits have criticized the practice, but Seattle coach Sigi Schmid sees it as mutually beneficial. “It’s to our benefit because of the amount of miles that we travel,” he said. “… It’s to their benefit as well because they got something out of the deal in terms of cash. … That’s sort of a win-win situation.”
The San Jose Earthquakes didn’t have to pay for their home match against the Fort Lauderdale Strikers; they got it through the draw, and now they will host former MLS forward Andy Herron, among ex-MLSers. Wonder if Chris Wondolowski will call the Quakes supporters from US national team camp?
Good segue into the USMNT, who held an open practice on Monday in front of about 1,000 fans at the Maryland Soccer Complex. Coming off the 5-1 trouncing of Scotland, the US side views Wednesday’s match at FedEx Field against Brazil as something very different (8 pm ET, ESPN2, live chat on MLSsoccer.com). “This is what we need to see where we really are,” manager Jurgen Klinsmann said.
Forward Clint Dempsey seems to know where he really is — not in the starting XI. A nagging right-groin injury will keep him in a reserve role. “I don’t think you should put yourself in the position to take up a spot of a guy who has more fitness than you,” he said.
Herculez Gomez is fit and ready to go. He spent some time reflecting on his MLS career, before he left for Mexico and saw his career take off. “I felt I got lost in the shuffle,” Gomez told Goal.com. “I'm not the only player in MLS that's happened to and hopefully it doesn't happen to many others, but I don't think I'll be the last.”
The Canadian national team has often gotten lost in the shuffle, failing to qualify for the World Cup since 1986. Getting “off to a good start” — something the Canadians have rarely done during qualifying — should help, according to midfielder Atiba Hutchinson.
And you can’t say the Canadians aren’t feeling confident about their upcoming qualifiers against Cuba and Honduras. “Bring it on,” says Canada defender Ashtone Morgan.
New Montreal striker Marco Di Vaio is ready to bring it on, too. He was introduced to the local media on Monday, and compared an expansion team to a “relegation-battling team,” something he’s familiar with during his four seasons at Italian side Bologna.
Montreal sporting director Nick De Santis thinks Di Vaio is just what the club needs. "MLS forwards need to have a certain type of profile," he said. "They need good movement and warrior mentality. They have to fight every day and have the ability to score goals in all different positions, in the box, outside the box, with his head, with his right foot or left foot."
That description sounds like a dead-ringer for Mexican forward Giovani dos Santos. Out of favor for years at Tottenham Hotspur, he could be on the move soon.
US midfielder Maurice Edu hasn’t said if he’ll leave Rangers this summer. But he has explained why he didn’t leave in March, when the club’s finances collapsed. “Imagine what would have happened if we all just decided that we all just walk away. What happens to the club?”
Something might happen for D.C. United if a proposed soccer-specific stadium in Maryland were completed. A study is under way and moving forward.
No need to do a study as to why PPL Park has already become a hotspot for some of the world's top clubs. A great field and fantastic fans make it a terrific venue. And it looks like this summer it will welcome two European league champions for a high-profile friendly.
Finally, we return to David Beckham, who is set to be first solo male to grace the cover of Elle UK. Check out the image.