Monday Postgame: Beginning for USMNT, end for Cal FC
Do you miss the MLS regular season?
For the second week in a row, there was just one league game on the schedule. But rest easy — a full slate of league action will return next weekend. And in the meantime, there was plenty of action, both on the field and off it, in the league and out of it, for US soccer fans to hang their collective hat on this week.
Five MLS teams advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup, several MLS players were involved as both Canada and US opened World Cup qualifying, and LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane took the field at Euro 2012.
Off the field, MLS teams learned their group-stage foes for the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League, an embattled coach was dismissed, two teams swapped strikers and a third swooped for a Honduran international, making him the second Designated Player in club history.
Let’s take another look.
Ready or Not
After nearly a year in charge of the US national team, Jurgen Klinsmann finally coached the side in a truly meaningful match on Friday night, leading the Americans’ into their 2014 World Cup qualifying opener against Antigua and Barbuda in Tampa, Fla.
His CONCACAF debut may not have gone as smoothly as he would have hoped, but it did yield three points, as the US got goals from MLS alums Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey and Herculez Gomez to down the tiny island nation (pop. 81,799) 3-1.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
The Benna Boys even made US fans uneasy in the 65th minute, when Peter Byers beat Oguchi Onyewu to the ball, turned and charged in on Tim Howard to cut the US lead to 2-1.
Gomez answered just minutes later to restore the two-goal advantage, but the visitors’ goal, the multiple squandered chances by the US, and the Americans’ general inconsistency produced a less-than-convincing impression.
What was worse for US fans, Jose Torres — who was tapped to play left back after both Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo went down with injuries before the game — was injured and left the game in the 55th minute.
The US looked like they had plenty of Klinsmann’s two-a-days in their legs, and they face a much tougher test on Tuesday night, when they take on Guatemala in Guatemala City (10 pm ET, pay-per-view).
Three from the Road
Canada also launched their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign this week, snatching a 1-0 win over Cuba in Havana on Friday afternoon.
With five MLS players in their starting lineup, the Canucks took it to the hosts from the opening whistle. They broke through in the 54th minute, when Olivier Occean headed home a cross from David Edgar (not to be confused with Edgar Davids).
After goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld was shown a straight red card in the 64th minute, his teammates held on to their slim lead and headed back north with a valuable three points. They also return to action on Tuesday, when Honduras come calling at BMO Field.
Midnight in Tukwila
Back in the States, the fourth round of the nation’s longest-running tournament, the US Open Cup, kicked off on Tuesday night.
Unlike the previous round, when upsets ruled the day, favorites took control of the Round of 16 — most notably in the Seattle suburb of Tukwila, the defending USOC champion Sounders ended the storybook run of amateur side Cal FC.
The team from Thousand Oaks, Calif., had knocked off three consecutive higher-division teams, including MLS’s Portland Timbers, to reach the Round of 16. With former US and MLS standout Eric Wynalda pacing the sidelines as their coach, they held the Sounders scoreless for nearly 50 minutes.
But early in the second half an unlucky handball in the box opened the floodgates. Sounders midfielder Osvaldo Alonso put away the spot kick, and the Sounders reeled off four more goals in the next 20 minutes to walk off 5-0 winners.
Of all the fourth-round matches, there was only one defeat of an MLS team by a lower-division side. That came in Harrisburg, where the USL Pro City Islanders knocked off the New York Red Bulls 3-1 in extra time, getting two goals from former Red Bull Sainey Touray.
Turnover in Toronto
From the Red Bulls, who have never won a US trophy, to Toronto FC, who have never been to the MLS Cup Playoffs in their six years of existence. On Thursday, TFC dismissed coach Aron Winter, who oversaw the worst start in league history as the Reds stumbled out of the gate to an 0-9-0 record.
WATCH: Mariner reacts to new post
They did pick up their first win of the year on May 26, edging Philadelphia 1-0, but it was too little, too late for the Dutchman. He exits Toronto with just seven wins in 44 MLS matches, while his teams were outscored 80-44.
Toronto named director of player development Paul Mariner as Winter’s replacement. The former New England Revolution assistant becomes the club’s seventh coach in six years.
In other league news, the Philadelphia Union traded striker and former No. 1 SuperDraft pick Danny Mwanga to Portland in exchange for striker Jorge Perlaza, while Houston signed Honduran international Oscar Boniek García as the club’s second-ever DP, and five MLS sides learned their group-stage opponents in the 2012-13 CONCACAF Champions League.
Vancouver won’t be in that competition, but they looked like a team that could be going places on Sunday night against Houston in the only MLS game of the week.
Rookie speedster Darren Mattocks led the way, busting out for two goals, and Joe Cannon preserved the 3-1 win with some terrific goalkeeping.
With the victory at BC Place, the Caps improved to 6-3-4, ended a three-match winless run — and equaled their win total for the entire 2011 season.