Kick Off: USOC semifinals offer up sweet storylines

Kick Off: July 11

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And then there were four.

The US Open Cup resumes on Wednesday night with a quartet of MLS teams in action in the semifinals, including the three-time defending champion Seattle Sounders vying for the chance to move one step closer to history.

They’ll once again get to prove their worth at home, this time against upset-minded Chivas USA (10 pm ET, streamed live at SoundersFC.com).

"We haven't talked a lot about winning four — that's a game away — but we're talking about getting the opportunity to get that," says head coach Sigi Schmid. "Certainly the history ... and to win four is something that hasn't been accomplished before. All that makes it unique, makes it special."

There’s evidently good news for the Sounders beyond the USOC matchup as well, as goalkeeper Michael Gspurning inches closer to health and could return to the lineup soon.

Despite some tough odds to make it to their first USOC final, there’s no quit in Chivas USA. The Goats head to Starfire with former Sounders defender James Riley in tow, and he’s more than familiar with the challenges ahead, especially if Chivas play without forward Juan Agudelo, as expected.

To do it at Starfire isn't going to be easy,” Riley said, “and I think we're up for the challenge, for sure.”

There’s plenty at stake on the other side of the bracket as well, as the Philadelphia Union host Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park (7:30 pm ET, live stream at PhiladelphiaUnion.com). It’s rematch of sorts from a one-sided match earlier this season that the Union dominated, but don’t expect Sporting Kansas City to be out for revenge, necessarily.

“I’m religious, and revenge – that’s against religion,” SKC center back Aurelien Collin said.  “But it definitely gives us some motivation to go there and get the most goals possible, to make them believe and make them know that it was an error, what happened last time.”

The match is crucial for a Union team still gelling under interim head coach John Hackworth, who has stressed the importance of the tournament as a way of making history for a club still finding its feet. “For a third-year club to be in position to win that thing is pretty amazing,” Hackworth said, “so we have to put the emphasis on that, for sure.”

There’s a league game on the docket on Wednesday night as well, and it’s not too shabby. Toronto FC host the Vancouver Whitecaps in an all-Canada clash at BMO Field (7 pm ET, TSN in Canada, MLS LIVE in the US).  Check out the match preview here.

This rivalry already has some bad blood dating back to the teams’ dramatic Canadian Championship second leg earlier this year, when both TFC’s Julian de Guzman and Vancouver’s Sebastien Le Toux were sent off before the Reds went on to win the game.

Still, that’s not bothering Whitecaps defender Jay DeMerit, who played down the rivalry before his team boarded the plane. “I think that chirping stuff kind of got out of hand a little bit and made the game what it shouldn’t be,” DeMerit said. “Any time the game’s get like that, you don’t want that. You want to play and you want to compete the way it’s meant to be played.

At least some of the attention in Toronto these days, meanwhile, is still focused on wayward forward Joao Plata, who won’t play tonight or possibly again for the Reds. This reporter takes the club to task with how its handled Plata’s request to return to his native Ecuador, saying that conceding to his wishes “gives the impression that TFC is a patsy organization that allows players to walk all over them.”

Switching briefly to the top international news of the day, it appears Liverpool are back in the running for US star Clint Dempsey. The internet was abuzz on Tuesday with news that Deuce is on his way to one of England’s top clubs, and that the deal could come as soon as Wednesday. Think you’ve heard it all before? Check it out.

The big news breaking in Houston, meanwhile, is that Dynamo center back Geoff Cameron appears to be one step closer to a transfer to Stoke City. This report indicates that both Stoke and Houston have agreed on the terms of the transfer, but that Cameron will face a hurdle getting his work permit because of a lack of US caps.

In the nation’s capital, D.C. United ushered in a new era with a pair of optimistic investors on Tuesday. MLSsoccer.com has you covered on all that went down in Washington, from a breakdown of who the new investors are to their thoughts on RFK Stadium.

Tuesday also marked the first day of workouts in the post-John Spencer era for the Portland Timbers, and it was in interesting one. Striker Kris Boyd banned a certain reporter from his interview, and it's possible that Jack Jewsbury might be stripped of his captain’s armband. Here’s the report.

Boyd, for his part, towed the company line on Tuesday and said he’d have to ante up and kick in just like all the others, even though the deposed Spencer was one of the biggest reasons he joined the club.

The Spencer saga has reverberated around the league in the past two days, including to Real Salt Lake camp. That’s where we find veteran midfielder Kyle Beckerman offering up his thoughts: "I think it’s quite early for him to be let go."

There’s disciplinary news to report this Wednesday, and it involves two of the best young players in the league. The Disciplinary Committee came down on Revs rookie Kelyn Rowe for a collision with Red Bulls newcomer Ryan Meara during their game on Sunday, and handed the UCLA alum a one-game suspension for his actions.

Tressor Moreno is out in San Jose, but it doesn’t appear all bad for the first-place Quakes. His departure means there is money to burn by the Bay.

The Colorado Rapids have reached the midway point of the season with mixed reviews, and work to be done. But head coach Oscar Pareja seems devoted to staying the course, and offers up one of the best quotes of the year to The Denver Post.

"I play to win," Pareja said. "For me, that's my nature. Is it costing me points? Yes, but that's just what I am. And I will win or I will die with it."

There could be a controversy brewing, meanwhile, in Columbus. That’s where we get head coach Robert Warzycha’s explanation for taking Milovan Mirosevic out of the team’s matchup with Montreal over the weekend, which they eventually lost.

And last but not least, there’s no news on the player fate of US international defender Carlos Bocanegra, but at least you can see him naked. The former MLSer is joined by US women’s national team star Abby Wambach in the latest edition of ESPN the Magazine’s body issue.

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