The US Open Cup fourth round kicks off this week, and this year, that means 16 US-based MLS teams will be entering the competition. The fourth-round games are spread between June 11, 14, 17 and 18. The Houston Dynamo and San Jose Earthquakes start the round out on Wednesday, so you can check out outlooks for games below and be sure to check back on MLSsoccer.com for more US Open Cup previews and headlines.
Wednesday, June 11, 10 pm ET
BBVA Compass Stadium, Houston, Texas
Watch FREE on HoustonDynamo.com
It’s been a rough stretch for the Houston Dynamo, who have lost their last four games by a combined 10-0 score. On Wednesday evening, they have a prime opportunity to turn things around and will look to establish a shred of momentum when they host the Laredo Heat of the USL Premier Development League (PDL).
“Things aren’t going good, and Open Cup is a game away from league play, which I think we need right now,” said forward Will Bruin. “We can go out and try and just get out of the rut that we’re in.”
Injuries have once again caught up to Houston, with defenders Corey Ashe and David Horst missing all or part of last Friday’s 2-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City. The pair joins a list of players unavailable that now reaches eight, including key midfielder Ricardo Clark.
Although they have never played a competitive match against each other, the clubs played spring scrimmages in 2009 and 2013 and played a 2010 friendly in Corpus Christi, Texas, during the last World Cup, with Houston rallying in the second half for a 2-1 win (watch highlights). Laredo's top attacking threats are former San Antonio Scorpion Esteban Bayona and former US U-20 international Felix Garcia, both of whom featured in that 2010 game.
Wednesday, June 11, 10:30 pm ET
Kezar Stadium, San Francisco, Calif.
Watch FREE on SJEarthquakes.com
Connections abound in this matchup between affiliated clubs – including, most notably, the fact that Quakes forwards Mike Fucito and Adam Jahn and goalkeeper Billy Knutsen have all spent time on loan with the USL PRO's Sacramento Republic this year. Jahn had two goals in as many appearances for Sacramento, while Fucito notched a goal and an assist in three matches.
“It’s just another game,” Jahn told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I mean, I’ll know everyone on the field, but I’ve played games where I’ve known everyone before. I know how to approach it. ... We’re just going to try as hard as we can to win.”
San Jose coach Mark Watson intimated that the quirk of the schedule – the fact that the Open Cup’s fourth- and fifth-round dates bracket an open weekend in the MLS docket thanks to the World Cup break – might mean more veterans will be at his disposal Wednesday.
“Quite often, these [USOC] games are sandwiched in between Saturday league games and travel,” Watson told MLSsoccer.com. “Any time you have that scenario, you have to manage all the different factors. I think the fact that we do not have a weekend game and we have a little break after changes, maybe, the availability of some of the players.”
There also would be an embarrassment factor if an upstart Sacramento side adds to their potential MLS expansion credibility by taking out of the league’s current members.
“There’s always more on the line when it’s a local rival,” Watson said. “There’s local bragging rights, and they are an affiliate club and at a lower level. All of those things factored in, we maybe want to win a little bit more [than normal].” – GEOFF LEPPER