While the US Open Cup might be overlooked at times, this week highlighted just how entertaining a tournament it can be. The Fourth Round saw the MLS’ 19 US teams enter the Cup, now in its 104th year as the oldest ongoing competition in American soccer. Many tune in at this stage in the hope of seeing a “Cupset" as sides from the lower divisions in US soccer finally go up against the big hitters of 1st division, and there were certainly a few results that raised eyebrows. After all, anything can happen in the Cup...
FC Cincinnati 1-0 Columbus Crew
With Cleveland still reeling from the Cavaliers’ defeat to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, Ohio’s two other major cities battled it out on the soccer field for the first time. The first ever Ohio Derby between the USL’s FC Cincinnati and MLS’ Columbus Crew drew an impressive crowd of 30,160 to Cincy’s Nippert Stadium. Not only is this a modern era attendance record for a non-Final in the Open Cup, it’s also larger than any crowd Columbus have played in front of this season.
Rising to the occasion, Cincinnati undoubtedly pulled off one of the shocks of the round with striker Djiby Fall scoring the only goal of the game. This was Fall’s ninth goal of the season, and his presence in the box proved too much for his MLS opposition to handle.
This game may also hold a glimpse of what is to come for Cincy. The club has made no secret of its MLS ambitions, and with new stadium plans unveiled on Tuesday — inspired by their sister city Munich’s Allianz Arena — the future looks bright for a club who have proven they can compete with the MLS on the pitch and in the stands.
Sacramento Republic 4-1 Real Salt Lake
Another USL club with MLS aspirations is Sacramento Republic, and the Californian side comprehensively defeated 10th-place-in-the-East Real Salt Lake 4-1. Sacramento made an aggressive start to the game and never let up, embarrassing the MLS side on their way to reaching the Open Cup Round of 16 for the first time in their history.
Captain Danny Barrera has had a stop-start career so far, but this round he showcased what he is capable of. The Colombian-born number 10 got two assists and added the fourth goal himself in a man-of-the-match display for Sacramento in front of a passionate home crowd.
DC United 4-1 Christos FC
Sadly the fairytale of Christos FC came to end in DC on Tuesday night, but it was not without one last memorable moment. The amateur Baltimore side run out of a liquor store, who’ve captured the hearts of many soccer fans, lead their MLS opponents for 12 magical minutes. Christos took a decent following to the game and when Mamadou Kansaye’s free kick hit the back of the net, a sea of fluorescent yellow shirts descended on the celebrating team.
While DC United would go on to win the game 4-1, Christos’ Cup run should serve as an example to smaller clubs around the country and also highlights the depth of talent in US amateur leagues — even those that don’t train.
Seattle Sounders 2-1 Portland Timbers
Much of the discussion ahead of this Pacific Northwest Derby had focused on the line-ups, with both clubs deciding to rest first team players; so deep was the rotation that Portland’s kit man allegedly spent the week ironing on new names and numbers to the Timbers’ shirts.
Among the nine players signed up to the first team for the Sounders was 18-year-old defender Sam Rogers, who is certainly having a week to remember. On Tuesday, Rogers went into his local Ballard High School to collect his yearbook before arriving at his club to sign a pro contract and make his first start for the Sounders, an assured performance against their Cascadia rivals.
And it doesn’t stop there – Rogers is back at school Wednesday through Friday to finish his finals.
Orlando City 1-3 Miami FC
Soccer in Miami has been making headlines recently after David Beckham’s project finally got the land deal needed to build an MLS stadium. But Beckham et al. should be wary of Miami FC, who are already making waves of their own in the city.
Alessandro Nesta’s side are top of NASL, having only lost once this season, and the ease with which they dispatched Orlando City will come as little surprise to other supporters in the US second tier. Brazilian striker Stefano Pinha scored a hat-trick and stole the show, with his compatriot and opponent Kaka an underwhelming second half substitute for Orlando.
You can follow Hugo on Twitter at @HugoGreenhalgh