Major League Soccer sides will join the US Open Cup this week, entering in the third round, all against lower-division competition.
Tuesday sees nine matches featuring MLS clubs. MLSsoccer.com will have full coverage of the matches, including a live chat with updates and reports from the matches. In the meantime, here's a roundup preview to get you prepared for what could be a wild night of action.
Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) vs. D.C. United (MLS), 7 pm ET
Last season, D.C. needed extra time to defeat Richmond, 2-1, in the U.S. Open Cup. Based on recent results, even extra time might not fend off an upset. United will face their USL PRO affiliate on a 10-game winless streak, while the Kickers haven't lost any of their first eight games. United forward Michael Seaton and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra are cup-tied to Richmond, but United coach Ben Olsen's lineup is anyone's guess as the scuffling first team desperately needs a win, regardless of the competition level.
"I look at it as an opportunity to win a cup," Olsen said after Saturday's 2-0 loss against Portland. "That’s how I always look at the Open Cup and we’ll go after that as vigorously as we can. We’ll evaluate who’s healthy and ready to go. We take that very seriously." – Nick Cammarota
Charleston Battery (USL PRO) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), 7:30 pm ET
With five of their next six MLS matches away from home, the Quakes are looking to end their road futility, and Tuesday's match against a lower-division side could be just what they need. So far in 2013, the Quakes are 0-4-2 outside of Buck Shaw Stadium, including a 1-0 loss at Dallas this past Saturday.
San Jose coach Frank Yallop has said that he’ll likely mix in some reserve players – such as wingers Cordell Cato and Sam Garza – and possibly give ironmen starters lik Jon Busch, Sam Cronin and Chris Wondolowski a break. Regardless, though, the Quakes hope to use the match as a springboard to regaining their ability to grind out results.
“The only way we turn it around is if we continue to try to do the little things,” Wondolowski said. “Finish chances. Track runners. Win our 50-50 battles. Things like that. When we do that, the faith builds. It’ll snowball”
But Charleston are no pushovers. Led by English playmaker Nicholas Paterson and Ugandan scorer Michael Azira, they've won six of their last seven league matches, and bounced the Portland Timbers U-23s in the last round of the USOC. – Geoff Lepper
Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL), 7:30 pm ET
Following the recent trades of Bakary Soumaré and Gabriel Farfan, the Union don’t have any defenders besides their four starters who have played more than three total minutes this season. Could some of their seldom-used defensive backups get their chance Tuesday against their fourth-division opponents?
“I like our depth,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “And certainly we will use some of that as we plan for the Nor’easters.”
Whether it’s veteran Chris Albright or rookie Don Anding, Union fans will probably be anxious to see who can help a reeling unit that surrendered a franchise-worst five goals in this past Saturday’s 5-3 loss to Montreal. – Dave Zeitlin
Orlando City SC (USL PRO) vs. Colorado Rapids (MLS), 7:30 pm ET
This trip to central Florida marks the 11th straight USOC game the Rapids have played on the road. Unlike other times, they enter this one in good form: five wins, one loss and two draws in their last eight league matches.
Rapids head coach Oscar Pareja may not bring all of his starters following Saturday's 2-0 win over Chivas and a looming clash with first-place FC Dallas at home this weekend. New defender Germán Mera, who only arrived in Colorado last Wednesday, could make his Rapids debut.
Meanwhile, OCSC are in great form, sitting atop the USL PRO standings. They are unbeaten at home (5-0-0) with a plus-15 goal differential, and they're energized to host an MLS side at the Citrus Bowl for the first time in franchise history. "No matter who you are [NASL, USL PRO, MLS], it’s not an easy place to play," midfielder Jamie Watson said. “There will always be upsets [in the Open Cup]. Why can’t it be our turn?” – Chris Bianchi
Fort Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) vs. FC Dallas (MLS), 7:30 pm ET
A few West Coast MLS clubs' coaches recently have lamented their teams being forced to travel cross-country for midweek USOC third-round matches. FCD's Schellas Hyndman agrees.
“[Ft. Lauderdale] is a heck of a long way to go for a game when there’s probably other teams they could have played that are a lot closer," he said. "I’m a little surprised how many MLS teams are on the road.”
Hyndman is expected to make some lineup decisions based on how players feel after Saturday's home win over San Jose, but he is not taking the Strikers – coached by former longtime Chicago Fire assistant Daryl Shore – lightly.
"They’ve got three to four ex-MLS players," he said, in reference to Shavar Thomas, Iván Guerrero, Andy Herron and Toni Stahl. "They are well-coached and they are playing at home. I think it’s going to be a good matchup, especially with us having that quick of a turnaround and having to travel.” – Matt Barbour
Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) vs. New England Revolution (MLS), 7:35 pm ET
Gabe Latigue and Tyler Polak could play for the Revs on Tuesday night after they were recalled from a loan spell with the Rhinos on Monday. Both players have spent the duration of the USL PRO season in central New York but the terms of their loan deal allow them to be recalled at any time. Latigue and Polak will resume their temporary spell with the Rhinos after the match concludes.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps is expected to leave several regulars – including the suspended Diego Fagundez – at home ahead of Sunday's league match against LA. The game, however, could present an opportunity for the likes of Chad Barrett, Darrius Barnes, and Andy Dorman to feature from the start as the Revs seek to replicate the last meeting between the teams – a 4-2 win at Rochester in 2007.
The Rhinos, who topped GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL) in the previous round, are struggling this year. The 1999 Cup winners – the only non-MLS side to win it since MLS's founding in 1996 – have only one league victory and they are languishing second from the bottom in the USL PRO standings. – Kyle McCarthy
Sporting Kansas City (MLS) vs. Des Moines Menace (PDL), 8:30 pm ET
It would be easy to forgive Sporting Kansas City for keeping one collective eye on Tuesday's Cup opener and the other on a possible matchup in the next round against USL PRO affiliate Orlando City. The club has won both of its previous USOC matches against the fourth-tier Iowa side, although it took extra time to pull out a victory when the two clubs last met in 2006.
But the potential pitfalls are there for Sporting, as they open their defense of the 2012 Cup title. International absences (Matt Besler, Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara) and injuries have the lineup in a jumble, and they're coming off a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Houston on Sunday. Plus Des Moines, who boast former SKC goalkeeper Scott Angevine, are one of this year's Cinderellas after taking down NASL side Minnesota United in the second round. – Steve Brisendine
Real Salt Lake (MLS) vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL), 9:30 pm ET
The men on the sidelines for this one will have plenty of familiarity. RSL coach Jason Kreis, GM Garth Lagerwey, and assistant coach Jeff Cassar were all teammates of Atlanta coach Brian Haynes nearly a decade-and-a-half ago. In fact, the four won this same tournament together, with the Dallas Burn in 1997.
"Brian and I started out at Dallas the first year of the league in 1996, and quickly became good friends," Kreis said. "Our families were very, very close. I don't consider him just a comrade or a coaching partner, but a friend. I'm hopeful to welcome him in, and then send him away with a loss."
Kreis said he will "take a very aggressive approach" to the USOC this year following last year's early exit, so expect to see a relatively strong squad against a Silverbacks side that jumped into first place in the NASL with a win over San Antonio over the weekend. – Michael Black
LA Blues (USL PRO) vs. Chivas USA (MLS), 10:30 pm ET
A reeling Chivas USA squad enters USOC play on Tuesday with six losses in their past seven league matches. But they should walk into Cal State Fullerton’s Titan Stadium with confidence after defeating the USL PRO side, 5-1, in the preseason.
Head coach José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá tried to generate an offensive spark – the Rojiblancos were outscored 13-1 in May – by slotting forward José Correa alone up top in Saturday’s 2-0 loss at Colorado. If Tristan Bowen (hamstring) is unavailable, Correa – who scored twice in the quarterfinals last year to give the Goats a thrilling 2-1 victory against the Charlotte Eagles – will need help.
"We've got to look at that tournament as a new season and really turn the page as far as getting our confidence and togetherness back," defender Bobby Burling said. "Our mentality doesn't change. We're still going to go in wanting to fight for every ball and every opportunity. Hopefully we'll finish with a little more quality and pick it up defensively, as well." – Blair Angulo