US Open Cup 2013 4th Round: Picking the Outcome of Each Match
For those unfamiliar with the 100 year old competition, the US Open Cup is the oldest ongoing soccer competition in the United States. It's similar in format to many of the more well known cup competitions, such as the FA Cup and Copa del Rey. In short, it's a knockout tournament where losing one game means you're out.
The third round, which took place two weeks ago, pitted all 16 stateside MLS teams against opponents from lower leagues in the US soccer pyramid. As always, there were some upsets, with LA Galaxy, San Jose, Seattle and Colorado losing to clubs farther down the food chain.
Some teams take this competition more seriously than others, but along with it comes $250,000 and a place in next year's CONCACAF Champions League.
The fourth round, which will take place on June 12, will feature 8 matches, and I'll be predicting the result of each. Starting now.
DC United vs Philadelphia Union
DC United have had an abysmal season. They haven't won a game since March and with basically no chance of winning the MLS Cup, the US Open Cup is the only chance they still have for silverware this season. They barely got past NASL side Richmond Kickers in the last round, needing penalties to advance. On the other side, the Philadelphia Union have been inconsistent but showed some promise, unlike their counterparts in the capital. They needed a stoppage time goal to get past the Ocean City Nor'easters in the last round, but weren't fielding their entire first team squad.
The Verdict: DC United have been weak in the back and out of ideas offensively all year long. That doesn't change as Philly's attacking trio of Casey, McInerney and Le Toux score 3 goals in a 3-1 victory. For the second year running, the Union eliminate DC.
Carolina RailHawks vs Chivas USA
Chivas USA has had a rough season. They're at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and their charismatic coach known as Chelis was just fired. The Goats managed a 2-1 comeback win against the USL Pro LA Blues. Goalkeeper Dan Kennedy took the PK that ended up being the game winner (does that say more about his skill or his teammates' lack thereof?).
The Carolina RailHawks of the NASL beat the LA Galaxy in the third round for the second year in a row. They are currently sitting at the top of the table in the NASL and have some skilled players that could cause Chivas problems.
The Verdict: Carolina playmaker Ty Shipalane leads the RailHawks to a 2-1 upset win as Chivas' woes continue.
New England Revolution vs New York Red Bulls
The Red Bulls never took the Open Cup seriously under Hans Backe, but I think Mike Petke won't let an opportunity for silverware pass up so quickly. They easily beat Reading United 2-0 in the last round, and the suddenly surging New England Revolution beat the Rochester Rhinos 5-1. The young guns Fagundez, Rowe and Agudelo have made their attack extremely dangerous. The Red Bulls, of course, have their own attacking threats, such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill.
The Verdict: In an extremely close match, Theirry Henry does something ridiculously awesome and the Red Bulls eek it out 1-0.
Sporting Kansas City vs Orlando City
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The defending US Open Cup champs Sporting KC easily defeated the Des Moines Menace 2-0 in the last round, while Orlando City pulled a 3-1 upset over the visiting Colorado Rapids. This match has had more buildup than any other, because star Orlando City striker Dom Dwyer, who netted twice against Colorado, will be unavailable for selection along with several other Orlando first-teamers because they are on loan from KC.
The Verdict: With Dwyer and several others unavailable for Orlando, Sporting KC dominate them at home 4-0.
Chicago Fire vs Columbus Crew
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The Columbus Crew are coming off of a 2-1 victory over the Dayton Dutch Lions in the third round. The Crew have been inconsistent this season, and are having serious injury problems at the moment and will have a few regulars out of the starting XI. Star playmaker Federico Higuian needs to have a big game if the Crew want to do well.
The Fire got through the third round via a 2-0 win over the Charlotte Eagles of the USL Professional Division. The Fire have also been inconsistent but are on a good run of form and should be feeling confident going in to this fourth round match at home. Newly acquired Mike Magee has been averaging a goal a game since his arrival in Chicago.
The Verdict: In a very close match, the Fire edge the Crew on penalties after a 1-1 draw through regular and extra time.
FC Dallas vs Houston Dynamo
FC Dallas may be the surprise team of the MLS season. They've come out of the gate on fire and are sitting on top of the Western Conference table. They earned a hard fought road victory over the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in the last round, and a team that's playing this well is always a serious contender for a single game knockout tournament like this one.
The Dynamo have made it to the fourth round for the first time since 2010 with a 2-0 win over visiting FC Tucson. They're one of the top teams in the East this season and this matchup may be the most intriguing of them all because these are two rival teams who always produce entertaining contests, including a 3-2 win FC Dallas win in Frisco in March.
The Verdict: FC Dallas do just enough to squeak out a 2-1 win over the Brad Davis-less Houstonians.
Real Salt Lake vs Charleston Battery
Real Salt Lake reached the fourth round after a tough 3-2 home win over the Atlanta Silverbacks which required extra time. However, the club has been on good form recently, coming off a dominant 3-1 performance against the defending MLS Cup champs LA Galaxy. RSL have four different forwards who are all on top form, giving them a plethora of options up front, and with no competitive games for 10 days, they won't need to worry about resting anyone for a weekend MLS match.
The lower league side Charleston Battery recorded an impressive 1-0 win over a 10-man San Jose Earthquakes side in front of their home fans. While it will be a long shot to get a result here, like March Madness, you can never count any team out in a one-off game like this.
The Verdict: RSL's quality shines through in an easy 2-0 win.
Portland Timbers vs Tampa Bay Rowdies
The Portland Timbers easily beat the Wilmington Hammerheads 5-1 in the third round at home. Now they will face the Tampa Bay Rowdies, who pulled off an enormous upset in the third round, beating the Seattle Sounders 1-0 at home. The Sounders had won three of the previous four Open Cups. The Timbers haven't lost in league play for 11 games, but the Rowdies are a solid team and like any other lower league team, will treat this as a final and their biggest opportunity of the season. If they give it their all, the Timbers could easily be worn down with this game sandwiched between two weekend MLS games.
The Verdict: The Timbers want to avoid an embarrassment similar to their home loss to Cal FC last year, and take care of business 2-0.