Kick Off: RSL's loss the costliest on night of USOC upsets
You couldn’t pay us enough money to play for Jason Kreis right now.
Of all the MLS teams who went down in the third round of the US Open Cup on Tuesday night (and there were more than a few, seven in all), there was perhaps no more pressure leaguewide than on Real Salt Lake.
RSL were, of course, one of three MLS teams who came to a financial agreement with their opponents before the match to host the third-round game, welcome their own fans through the gates and capitalize on the home-field advantage that would push them through to the next round of the tournament.
The Minnesota Stars, however, had other ideas. And after RSL was bounced from the tournament in a 3-1 loss in front of a staggering crowd of more than 17,000 fans Rio Tinto Stadium, Kreis made it clear: "We owe an apology, first and foremost, to our ownership and management."
Kreis went on to state the obvious, if you’ve followed him at all since he took the reins at RSL in 2007. After a costly loss like the one suffered Tuesday, Kreis insisted: "I would not want to be a player under me right now.”
As for the Stars, who scored early to put RSL on their heels and then held on for an emphatic win, here’s a look at how they got it done, and how the fans back home in Minnesota reacted.
The Galaxy didn’t pay to lose in front of their own fans on Tuesday. But they lost in front of someone else’s. LA’s sobering season took another hit at the hands of the Carolina RailHawks and a player who wears his shorts backward.
The side note here? Railhawks coach and former MLS manager Colin Clarke was also the man behind the Puerto Rico Islanders’ stunning upset of the Galaxy during the group stage of the CONCACAF Champions League in 2010-11.
The only bright spot of LA’s loss was the return of center back Leonardo, who went 90 minutes in the loss.
The wildest game of the night certainly belonged to the Harrisburg City Islanders and New England Revolution, who slugged it out for 90 scoreless minutes before the match exploded in overtime. The Revs built a 3-0 lead in the first period of extra time, then stunningly lost their grip and went down in flames. The hero in this one was Islanders goalkeeper Nick Noble, an MLS castaway who once suited up for the Chicago Fire and LA Galaxy.
Next door in Ohio, it was the Columbus Crew who crashed out against the Dayton Dutch Lions in a battle for the Buckeye State. This was the second straight year the Crew lost to lower-level competition in the tournament.
One team with a storied USOC history is the Chicago Fire, who reached the final last year and opened their 2012 cause with a seemingly favorable matchup against the Michigan Bucks. But this one went awry as well, as more than 2,000 fans packed an indoor facility to watch the first win for a Detroit metro area team over an MLS team. The quote of the night comes from Bucks owner Dan Duggan: “There's a lot of days when you wake up and wonder why you do this. It's expensive. You wonder where the support is. But then you get a day like this."
Two more MLS losses, both in Texas. First up is the Houston Dynamo, who stumbled on the road against the San Antonio Scorpions despite head coach Dominic Kinnear’s insistence that his club “expected to win.”
And last but certainly not least, how about FC Dallas? Stuck in a terrible rut on the MLS schedule and with injuries piling up, the 2-0 loss to the Charlotte Eagles didn’t go unnoticed by fans in Frisco. “When I came off the field, I think a fan said it to me best,” Dallas coach Schellas Hyndman said. “And it was the same word I used with the team. Unacceptable. That was an unacceptable performance by professional players.”
It wasn't all doom and gloom for MLS sides. Seven clubs did win on Thursday, including the Philadelphia Union, who are struggling in the league but got a strong performance from Freddy Adu to thump onetime USOC champions Rochester Rhinos, 3-0, at PPL Park. The New York Red Bulls got goals from Kenny Cooper and Heath Pearce in a 3-0 romp over hosts Charleston Battery. And the Colorado Rapids rolled over the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 3-1, on the strength of a goal from Kamani Hill. Click here to see all the third-round results and the USOC bracket.
So what about the pressure on the two MLS teams in action tonight? There’s nowhere better to start than Seattle, where the three-time defending champion Sounders are at home against the Atlanta Silverbacks after coming to a financial agreement of their own to host the game (10 pm ET).
Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer sums up the bonus for the Silverbacks like this: “It’s a matter of survival. And sometimes taking a check helps you survive and thrive better than the purity of whatever was envisioned by the bureaucrats [making] the structural decisions.”
One of the storylines to watch in Tukwila will certainly be the homecoming of two Atlanta players: Washington natives Ciaran O’Brien and Raphael Cox.
Down I-5, the pressure’s on in Portland as well. The Timbers are set to host Los Angeles-area amateur team Cal FC, who are coached by former MLS and USMNT great Eric Wynalda (10:30 pm ET).
Here’s another look at some of the players for Cal FC, who are looking to spring the biggest upset of the tourney so far.
How big of an upset would it be if the US national team topped Brazil? We might find out on Wednesday night at FedEx Field, when the two sides clash in the second friendly in five days for head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s team (8 pm ET, ESPN2).
Klinsmann met the media on Tuesday and said, among other things, that he expects the Americans to “suffer and chase those yellow shirts” in the game, and that he won’t have Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore as starting options in the match.
Klinsmann also added that he was “very angry” about the situation involving Altidore and why he wasn’t released until recently.
Klinsmann also took a shot that reverberated across the pond, especially as Euro 2012 creeps closer: "England often beats itself. It's not the opponents necessarily.”
One of the stars from Saturday night’s romp over Scotland was Jose Francisco Torres, who will likely play a major part in the US’ plans again on Wednesday night. Here’s a profile of how he got to this point in his career.
And lastly, here’s a look at the other side of the coin. Brazil manager Mano Menezes laid out his expectations for the match in this video [VIDEO].
And as the aforementioned Euro 2012 tournament closes in, here’s a couple storylines to follow.
Mario Balotelli is geared up for the tournament as well, it appears. He made headlines on Tuesday by telling the media that “I will not accept racism at all. It's unacceptable. If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them."
Racism is a serious concern, but what about Legionnaires' disease? That’s what the Czech team is evidently trying to avoid, and they may be staying elsewhere if their hotel isn’t up to snuff.
And last but not least, Galaxy and Irish national team star Robbie Keane tuned up for the tournament in style on Tuesday, scoring two goals in a “gentle run-out” for Giovanni Trappatoni’s group.
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