Part of the beauty and excitement of tournaments such as the US Open Cup is the cinderella stories and upsets that happen on a weekly basis. In the MLS era, it’s almost a mathematical guarantee that eventually, it will only be MLS teams left. But that still leaves the first few rounds eligible for those upsets. MLS is just entering the tournament so now the profile of the matches and surprises is heightened. We’ve already seen many teams punch above their weight, and there are a few matchups coming this week that certainly have potential to elate one fanbase, and infinitely disappoint and shame another. Here I’m going to assess, on a 1-5 scale the threat of the upset, and evaluate which teams need to be on alert.
* = I’m not entirely sure the underdog would win here once in a thousand tries.
** = The MLS Side should handle this easily, but if they don’t take it seriously they may have trouble.
*** = Standard Fare. The underdog can win if they catch fire, and the other team has an off day.
**** = The MLS side cannot underestimate this team or fail to prepare or their tournament is done.
***** = Wait, who’s the favorite here?
The favorites will be in bold. Or they’ll say MLS if you’re not too lazy to read.
Tuesday May 28th
Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. Ocean City Nor’easters (PDL)
Ocean City topped the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in the last round 2-1, but I don’t really like their chances here. The Union are having league troubles, particularly in the back, but they should still handle the amateur Nor’easters easily. They’ve had offense at least. The Union have one of the nicer draws here, and if they at least place normal bench players, they should win this one. I also think the Union would do themselves a favor to take this tournament very seriously. With the playoffs not being promised, and consistent inconsistency on the field, this may be their best chance at a trophy this year.
Union Threat Advisory: **
Richmond Kickers (USLPRO) vs. DC United (MLS)
Is this technically a conflict of interests? Is there potential of DC using it’s affiliate clout to try and have the Kickers throw the game? Probably not, but they may not actually need it. DC has been absolutely abysmal, and the Kickers have been one of the more exciting teams in USLPRO so far. DC could either be of two minds here. They could put everything into the Open Cup because their season in unsalvageable, or they could still have belief in at least a last place playoff spot and throw the cup away. Either way, Richmond will not make this one easy for them. The Kickers have done well in this tournament in recent years, and they’ll have the home crowd behind them here. DC is still the favorite, but only slightly.
United Threat Advisory: ****
Rochester Rhinos (USLPRO) vs. New England Revolution (MLS)
The Revs may have turned a corner here. They’ve got a few wins, and Diego Fagundez has been finding the back of the net. I don’t think the Revs will play an entirely first team here though, as the league games are a little more important and this will give the Rhinos a chance to steal one. The Rhinos though have been mostly terrible in USLPRO league play. This is a trap game for the Revs. They should win, but they need to be careful. I know the Rhinos have been pretty bad, but I can’t overlook them. Just feels weird.
Revolution Threat Advisory: ***
Charlotte Eagles (USLPRO) vs. Chicago Fire (MLS)
The Eagles were impressive in their 3-0 win against the Sounders U23s last round, and they’ve gotten what appears to be a very favorable draw against a struggling Chicago Fire. The Fire do like this tournament though, and will sprinkle a few starters in with the reserves. The Eagles had a long weekend on the west coast, and will be very tired and road weary coming into this match. This is Chicago’s game to lose. And they shouldn’t.
Fire Threat Advisory: **
Orlando City SC (USLPRO) vs. Colorado Rapids (MLS)
Orlando is mad. Why mad? They won’t have that MLS franchise anytime soon. How best to take that frustration out? Beat an MLS side. They’ll get Colorado at home, and they’ve got a few of the KC reserve guys on their side. I don’t expect the Rapids to play their A squad, which is a group that is doing well for a team that I’ve only heard of a couple players on. Orlando will. Colorado drew the best non-MLS side on the road. I fully expect this game to be well attended and vocally supported. If the Rapids don’t come prepared, they may find themselves as the underdogs.
Rapids Threat Advisory: *****
Fort Lauderdale Strikers (USLPRO) vs. FC Dallas (MLS)
I don’t care for the Strikers. They haven’t done much this season to impress me. Dallas on the other hand, has. They had a rough game in Seattle, but got right back onto against San Jose. The Strikers got a win against Edmonton over the weekend, and they’ll have home field advantage, but Dallas should make quick work here, even with a B team.
Dallas Threat Advisory: **
Charleston Battery (USLPRO) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (MLS)
The Quakes usually take this tournament seriously. Till they meet the Sounders. But the draw here was not kind to them. They take on the defending USLPRO champs, and a damn good team at that. The Battery will have home field advantage, and the Quakes are something of a mess in the early going here. If there is one thing the Quakes are though, it’s physically tough. Starters play often, and they play hard, so I fully expect to see a couple of the San Jose mainstays, including Wondolowski. Battery still could win this one if they play their best.
Earthquakes Threat Advisory: ****
Sporting Kansas City (MLS) vs. Des Moines Menace (PDL)
The defending champs are at home against an amateur squad. This one is as good as done. If you can find a bookie to take a bet on this one, put your house up.
Kansas City Threat Advisory: *
Real Salt Lake (MLS) vs. Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL)
This is one of the more intriguing matches of the third round. Real Salt Lake has historically been a deep team but they haven’t quite done much in this tournament. The Silverbacks last year were part of the home game selling fiasco, and were eliminated quickly. The Backs are atop the NASL right now though, and with the split season format, would normally not want to gamble on a midweek game like this. Luckily for them, they have the bye week this week, so they should field their A squad. If Salt Lake takes them for granted they will put goals in the Salt Lake net. If it were in Atlanta, I’d be inclined to be worried, but RSL coach Jason Kreis won’t let them be embarrassed at home.
Salt Lake Threat Advisory: ***
Los Angeles Blues (USLPRO) vs. Chivas USA (MLS)
With Chivas in total disarray and the Blues turning into something of an offensive powerhouse, I can’t help but feel like they got the best draw of the round. Even with their attendance struggles, they’ve become the best team noone is watching. Chivas may have some good traveling support though, and this one may feel like a home game for them. If there were any complete toss ups in this round, this one is as split as any.
Chivas USA Threat Advisory: *****
Carolina Railhawks (NASL) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)
The Gax are usually not a very deep team. They tend to struggle with this tournament as a product of that. Carolina on the other hand had the weekend off, and could sit at home and rest in preparation for this one. They probably sat around and watched the Gax dismantle the Sounders defense. They’re probably scared. But they also know that they’re probably not going to see the Galaxy first team. Carolina could win this game, and it would be an incredible win for their franchise. They’re hosting the two time defending MLS champs. I fully expect the Hawks to come into this game motivated, and taking the game to the Gax.
Galaxy Threat Advisory: *****
Columbus Crew (MLS) vs. Dayton Dutch Lions (USLPRO)
The inner state matchups are exciting cause you’re guaranteed to get fans from both sides. The Crew had an impressive weekend match against the Red Bulls, but they won’t be fielding that team. Still there is some confidence in the locker room coming out of some good results. The Dutch Lions on the other hand are coming off of a win against Dearborn last week, and a league win against the Cudas. I think Columbus will still win comfortably though.
Crew Threat Advisory: **
New York Red Bulls (MLS) vs. Reading United AC (PDL)
Henry won’t be playing this game. Not sure it’ll matter. Reading got a win against Harrisburg last week, but the quality difference is too high. Given the Red Bulls lack of interest in the tournament, and the ire of the fans its drawn in past seasons, I think they’ll approach this one a little more seriously. Of all the PDL-MLS matchups this round, I suppose this one has the most potential in it, but it’s still not much. The Red Bulls won’t ever win a trophy. That’s for sure. But they shouldn’t lose this game.
Red Bulls Threat Advisory: **
Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. FC Tucson (PDL)
This Tucson team has done well for itself. They’ve beaten a USLPRO team (Phoenix FC) and an NASL team (San Antonio Scorpions.) Had they gotten a favorable draw, like Chivas or DC, they may have completed the trifecta with the MLS side. Or even if they got the home draw. They didn’t. They’re going into BBVA Compass, the toughest building for road teams to play in until further notice. The cinderella story ends in Houston for Tucson.
Dynamo Threat Advisory: *
Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (MLS)
This is the Sounders tournament, and they got the least favorable draw of the round. They have to travel 3000 miles to Tampa to face a very good Rowdies team. The Sounders are very deep, and will field a quality side, and something about the Open Cup brings the best out of the rave green, but this game still makes me feel uneasy. The Sounders looked downright pathetic in Los Angeles. They’ll be looking to bounce back here, but this is not the cake walk 3rd round that they’ve been used to. If Seattle wins, they may have an easier opponent in the 4th round. That said, the Sounders navigate this tournament well, and will be looking to wipe the taste of last years final loss out here. Sigi will have this team ready.
Sounders Threat Advisory: ***
Portland Timbers (MLS) vs. Wilmington Hammerheads (USLPRO)
The Hammerheads will have to deal with the intimidation and voice of the Timbers Army. Portland is playing absolutely gorgeous football, and I think they’ve got a deep run in this tournament ahead of them. They sailed 5000 shots over the bar in last years Open Cup match that saw them eliminated and the fans were very upset. They won’t make that mistake twice. The Hammerheads have not played very well, and I don’t think they’re up for the task. The cross country travel, the building they’re playing in, and the recent form of both teams added together equals a no win situation for the Hammerheads. I think I like some of the PDL sides’ chances better than the Hammerheads. I’m also still bitter the Hammerheads mascot didn’t travel to Phoenix and I was unable to get a picture taken with him. Yes, bitter enough to want the Timbers to win.
Timbers Threat Advisory: *
So hopefully we get some great games and some upsets. I think Orlando City and Charleston carry the best chances of a non-MLS team winning the tournament. My only fear with the NASL teams is that the split season and focus on those games will cause them to neglect the Open Cup in the long run. Orlando City doesn’t even need a favorable draw. I think they’ve got as good a chance as some of the MLS sides, and I think it would be great for the tournament if they got a run.
But they’re not allowed to win. Only Seattle is.
Team colors: MLS, NASL, USLPRO, PDL
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