Monday Postgame: A break from MLS, but not from mayhem
There was only one MLS game on the schedule this week as the league paused for international friendlies and the third round of the US Open Cup.
But MLS players were heavily involved in all of the above, and the Open Cup, as if to make up for the lack of league action, went buck wild with upsets and a pair of downright freakish results.
Let’s take another look at an unusual, up-and-down week.
US Open – Wide Open – Cup
Upsets were the order of the day in the third round of the Open Cup, as eight of 16 MLS teams were eliminated by lower-division foes. None was more shocking than the Portland Timbers, who fielded a mostly first-choice team at home, yet fell 1-0 to Cal FC, an amateur team from Thousand Oaks, Calif.
WATCH: Spencer, Boyd react to loss
Coached by former MLS and US national team star Eric Wynalda, Cal FC currently sit ninth in the 12-team Gran Liga de Oxnard, a fifth-tier circuit in Southern California.
But humble amateur-league form aside, they are on a Cinderella run worthy of Carl Spackler: They defeated the fourth-tier Kitsap Pumas in the first round of the USOC, then routed the third-tier Wilmington Hammerheads in the second, earning a trip to JELD-WEN Field for a meeting with the top-flight Timbers last Wednesday night.
After withstanding an onslaught from their hosts for 90 minutes, including a missed penalty by designated player Kris Boyd, Wynalda’s men snatched a goal of their own in the fifth minute of extra time, when Artur Aghasyan chipped the keeper on a breakaway (“It’s in the hole!”).
The 1-0 win marked the first time an amateur side has scored against an MLS team in the USOC.
One day earlier, on an island in the Susquehanna River, another shocker unfolded in even more astounding fashion as the Harrisburg City Islanders, a USL Pro side, eliminated the New England Revolution in penalties after trailing 3-0 in extra time.
The first 90 minutes featured a red card for New England youngster Diego Fagundez, a shot off the crossbar for each team and … not much else.
But the offensive spigot loosened at the start of extra time, as the Revs exploded for three goals in the first 13 minutes. Kelyn Rowe, Lee Nguyen and Benny Feilhaber did the damage – which seemed irreversible as the teams changed sides for the second extra period.
Yet Harrisburg pulled one back in minute 111, then added two more – from Sainey Touray and J.T. Noone – to send the match to penalties.
Having scored three goals in nine minutes to get there, Harrisburg were not about to lose the shootout: Goalkeeper Nick Noble stopped Feilhaber’s effort in the fifth round to clinch a 4-3 shootout win for the hosts.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
Feilhaber and Rowe would shake off the US Open Cup collapse in their return to MLS play on Saturday, when they linked up twice to blank Chicago 2-0 at a rainy Gillette Stadium in the only MLS game of the week.
Rowe came on as a sub in the 64th minute and just five minutes later flicked home a pass from Feilhaber to put the Revs up 1-0. Four minutes after that, Rowe returned the favor, sending Feilhaber behind the Fire defense with a through ball into the box.
Feilhaber coolly finished for his first league goal of the season, which nailed down New England’s first win over Chicago since May 2007 – an 0-7-3 run for the Revs.
Road to Brazil 2014
The United States national team brought a similar record of futility to its friendly against Brazil on Wednesday night, having played the Seleção 16 times and lost 15.
This time, though, the Yanks were basking in the glow of a 5-1 thrashing of Scotland, and may have harbored hopes of getting a result against a youthful Brazilian side. Those hopes were dampened inside the first half hour as Brazil scored a 12th-minute penalty and a 26th-minute header off a corner kick to take a 2-0 lead.
The US rallied with a goal from MLS alum Herculez Gomez just before halftime, and they created several more chances, but unfortunately for them, Brazil finished two more to walk off 4-1 winners.
WATCH: Howard, Bocanegra react to draw
That scoreline was a bit unfair to the Americans, who could find many positive takeaways from the match in Landover, Md.
You couldn’t say the same of the USMNT’s final World Cup qualifying tuneup, against Canada on Sunday night at Toronto FC’s BMO Field. Playing their third game in three days, the US looked listless and uninterested, struggling to a 0-0 draw.
The Canadians, who started five MLS players, had a goal called back by the referee’s assistant in the 34th minute and missed a sitter in the 91st. They outplayed, and shut down, an American side that featured Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey in the starting lineup for the first time in the Jurgen Klinsmann era.
Both teams open World Cup qualifying on Friday, when the US meet Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa, Fla., and the Canucks travel to Havana to take on Cuba.