Kick Off: Underdogs eye more MLS upsets in US Open Cup

Kick Off, June 5, 2012: Cal FC

Photo Credit: 
Ethan Erickson/PortlandTimbers.com

Who will survive another night? That’s the question everyone is asking after the US Open Cup third round took its fair share of MLS casualties a week ago.

On Tuesday, the eight MLS sides remaining in the field will take the field with just 90 minutes separating them from the quarterfinals. Four clubs will take on lower-division sides, while Sporting KC and Colorado and D.C. United and Philadelphia will meet in all-MLS affairs. See the full schedule here and follow along with all the action tonight during MLSsoccer.com’s live chat.

The game claiming the most column inches pits the three-time defending US Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders against Cal FC, an amateur side led by Eric Wynalda that upset the Portland Timbers last week. The game will be televised on Fox Soccer at 10 pm ET.

And although Cal FC find themselves in unfamiliar territory, they have no doubts that their run can continue with another unlikely upset against the Sounders: "We're probably far more suited to play against Seattle than Portland," said Wynalda.

Regardless of when their run ends, the tournament has given Cal FC’s players the opportunity to prove themselves against MLS competition with an eye toward playing professionally, a dream which will likely come to fruition for more than a handful, according to Wynalda. Familiarize yourself with a breakdown of Cal FC's roster from Soccer America, and read why one reporter compares this fairytale story to cinema classics like Hoosiers, Rocky and Rudy.

Meanwhile, Seattle may be the favorites, but head coach Sigi Schmid knows better than to overlook an opponent in the competition the Sounders have made their own for the past three seasons: "It's not a Sunday-morning pub team," Schmid said. "It's not a bunch of guys who roll out of the bar and walk out onto the field to play. These are all guys who still see soccer in their future."

If Seattle win, Schmid isn't happy that the club's quarterfinal will come on the road. The Sounders' head man had some interesting things to say about the draw process, telling the ExtraTime Radio podcast he'd like to see the coin toss turned into an event.

In the night's first game, Chivas USA travels to Cary, N.C., to take on the Carolina RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park (7 pm ET, watch via live stream). Chivas have plenty of reason to be wary of the RailHawks, who defeated the LA Galaxy to make it this far and certainly have the ability to take down the Goats if given the chance: “I think over the course of a season, there's probably a difference [between MLS and the NASL], but on any given day — we've seen these guys are good players," coach Robin Fraser said. "They were in MLS for a reason and they're successful players for a reason. On any given day, they have enough quality.”

New York will also go on the road to take on the Harrisburg City Islanders (7 pm ET, watch via live stream). Unlike in years past, Red Bulls manager Hans Backe seems to be putting more emphasis on the competition that could earn his side a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League. Still, New York will take a pared down roster to Harrisburg, Pa., with Designated Player Thierry Henry one of those who will stay home.

Don't tell the Islanders that, however. Harrisburg expects to get New York's best shot, and coach Bill Bechner told MLSsoccer.com that they are preparing as if the legendary French striker will take the field: "We'd like to see him. As great as he is and as much of a challenge he would present, our players would be excited and it would lift us even more when we play them."

In a bizarre note, former Islanders defender and current Red Bulls player Tyler Ruthven will be suspended for tonight's match despite not playing in New York's last USOC match. Ruthven recieved a red card in his last Open Cup match with Harrisburg, meaning he should not have been on the bench last week in the Red Bulls match vs. the Charleston Battery: “I had no idea, the fact that I didn’t play and that I’m suspended again is beyond frustrating," he said.

In the first of two all-MLS matchups, D.C. United will host the Philadelphia Union at the Maryland SoccerPlex at 7:30 pm ET. D.C. head coach Ben Olsen said his team is ready for anything: “It’s always wild. The Open Cup is a trip," he said.

From the Philadelphia perspective, it's pretty simple according to one local columnist: If you don't take the tournament seriously, you will lose. Philadelphia are likely to have a number of midfield converts in defense as they attempt to move past United into the quarterfinals.

The other MLS-centric match of the night is between Sporting KC and the Colorado Rapids at Livestrong Sporting Park (8:30 pm ET, watch via live stream). Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said he plans on sending his best team out to meet the Rapids. Still, that team could include 19-year-old goalkeeper Jon Kempin, who started against Orlando City SC last week: “I feel confident. If I had to go into a first-team, regular-season game, I think I’d be fine,” he said.

On the other side, Rapids center back Drew Moor says he hopes both sides, which have gotten very familiar in the past year, bring all their weapons to the table: “When you have two MLS teams going at each other, it becomes a very important game, and I hope both teams play a strong lineup.”

Speaking of Livestrong Sporting Park, US Soccer announced on Monday that the facility will host the Americans World Cup qualifier against Guatemala on October 16. All part of the longterm plan for the building, according to Sporting KC president Robb Heineman: “Obviously, it’s huge, and it’s the reason we built Livestrong Sporting Park the way we did — to try to attract the top events in the world,” Heineman said.

In the final match of the night, the San Jose Earthquakes host the NASL’s Minnesota Stars FC at Stanford University's Cagan Stadium (11 pm ET, streamed live at sjearthquakes.com). And while some discount the tournament's importance, goalkeeper Jon Busch says otherwise:  “I think it’s always been important,” Busch said. “It’s another championship. It’s another cup. ... As a player, you want to win trophies, period, no matter if it’s Open Cup or MLS Cup.”

San Jose will welcome a former player when the Stars take the field, although Manny Lagos will be on the sideline coaching rather than lacing up his boots.

In the night's other matches, the Michigan Bucks will host the Dayton Dutch Lions at 7:30 pm ET, while the San Antonio Scorpions welcome the Charlotte Eagles to Heroes Stadium at 8:30 pm ET.

As the US men's national team prepares for Friday's match against Antigua and Barbuda, one reporter hammers out a list of the MLS players with the best chance to break into Jurgen Klinsmann's team.

Wrapping up the soccer news from around the US, Alex Morgan led the Seattle Sounders women to a 3-0 victory vs. the Colorado Rapids. Morgan had a goal and an assist in a 3-0 victory that preserved the Sounders unblemished record.

MLSsoccer.com Must-Reads:

Seattle’s Sigi Schmid and Jason deVos on the latest edition of ExtraTime Radio

Euro suitors lining up for American youth defender

The Sideline: Welcome to Thunder Castle, Anthony Ampaipitakwong


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