Eight MLS teams may be out of the US Open Cup, but head coach Robin Fraser believes that the road to the Lamar Hunt Trophy is even more difficult without their MLS counterparts.
The Rojiblancos learned last weekend that they could reach the semifinals of the USOC without having faced MLS competition. But first, they must take care of business against the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks on Tuesday night (7 pm ET, watch via live stream), a team that already dispatched the LA Galaxy in the third round of the competition.
“That is 100 percent not true,” Fraser said of the assumption that Chivas’ road is easier without as many MLS clubs in competition. “I think every year, you see teams that aren't in MLS that get close to getting to the final or being in the final. It's always a dogfight to get there. There are no gimmes.”
The Rojiblancos will look to book passage to the quarterfinals of the Open Cup for the second time in franchise history when they travel to WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. When Chivas line up against the NASL side, there are sure to be few surprises, as one member of their club is uniquely familiar with Carolina.
Chivas’ right back Scott Gordon spent last season with the NASL’s Fort Lauderdale Strikers, where he played alongside a pair of current RailHawks, including forward Brian Shriver, who scored the winning goal in Carolina’s 2-1 upset of the Galaxy last week. Shriver has been the RailHawks' primary scoring threat this season, tallying nine goals in all competitions including five in Open Cup play.
Having played alongside the RailHawks striker since his teenage years, Gordon knows the talented forward is one that the Rojiblancos will need to stay close to.
“He's a tremendous player and very dangerous striker that we will definitely have to keep our eye on tomorrow night,” Gordon told MLSsoccer.com. “He's been scoring goals all year so far for Carolina ... so we know he can finish. We just have to find a way to limit his chances and not let him use his speed to get in behind us.”
But whether Gordon – who has only played in three games this campaign – lines up against his former teammates’ still remains to be seen, as Fraser may choose to use all available first-choice players with a week’s rest and a reserve match on Friday.
Having already selected a near first-team squad for their third-round victory over the Ventura County Fusion last week, Fraser has no qualms about going all out for a victory in Carolina.
“I want to win, I want to win, I want to win and it doesn’t matter who it’s against,” said Fraser. “Really for us, it’s just for us to get to the next round and to get to the ultimate prize.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.