US Open Cup Corner: MLS Massacre

MLS Embarrassments, Cinderella Stories and First Hand Accounts of a Detroit Shocker
by Daniel Casey   |   Wednesday, May 30, 2012

US Open Cup Corner - 2012 Lamar Hunt USOC

Nothing about last night went to plan. Everything went wrong; everything went right. It was going to be my wife’s first ever Chicago Fire match, I hadn’t seen the Fire play since 1997 when they were still at Soldier Field, and both of us had never seen a US Open Cup match. It was going to be a good night, Chicago were facing the Michigan Bucks, a division four team (PDL), while in Ohio the Columbus Crew were taking on the Dayton Dutch Lions of the third division USL. What this meant was that Chicago were going to make it through to the next round and face Columbus, and after last week’s drubbing by the Crew I was itching for the chance to see a rematch.

Detroit Here I Come

I don’t travel for sport but I finally had the chance to see my team play regionally, so I bit. I drove the three hours from one rust belt city (Cleveland) through another sad rust belt city (Toledo) to get to the biggest rust belt city (Detroit). I forget that other cities smell like Gary, Indiana. The Michigan Bucks play in the Ultimate Soccer Arenas, an indoor complex that defiantly makes clear when you enter ‘We don’t play indoor soccer, we play soccer indoors,’ still the name conjurors up images of Thunderdome or the pointless pummeling of mixed-martial arts. For all the griping you could do about a MLS team being ‘forced’ to play in an indoor field to a capacity/over-capacity crowd of 2500, the venue was great. The nearness to the players and the intimacy of the fans watching trumped all complaints.

There needs to be more said about supporters who don’t beat drums or chant but who show up to watch their team every week and know their players well. My wife and I commented on the amazing long throw-in ability of one of the Bucks’ players and the middle-aged guys sitting next to us explain, “The kid’s been able to do that since high school.” I’m not saying that ultra supporters are bad, but I just love being around literate, committed fans. And there was no worry about the lack of ultras. Detroit will not back down from any soccer match. The Motor City Supporters and Northern Guard Supporters joined forces to drum any and all Chicago fans out. The chants and the drumming from a far corner of about thirty ultras was enough to reverberate throughout the arena.

Pitch invasion after the 2012 USOC Michigan Bucks upset the Chicago Fire
Chicago succeeded in drastically underestimating the fight that the 4th division Bucks had in them. It took 120 minutes for the Fire, last year’s runners-up, to fold 3-2. Nothing was pretty in how Chicago played and everything about Michigan was appealing. Bucks midfielder Thomas Catalano set the tone for the night, from kickoff he never stopped his frenetic pace which Chicago wasn’t able to cope with. Dominic Oduro is one of if not the fastest man in MLS and Catalano made him look like he was dogging it.

This was going to be part of a trend on the evening for all MLS clubs—lazy, uninspired play overcome by enthusiasm and workman-like skill.

Upsets Trending

Down in Columbus, the Crew was doing better initially but that quickly faded. Daniel Holowaty entered in the 78th minute for Dayton and quickly created two goals, assisting Gerrit-Jan Bartels and Bison Bardsley in the space of four minutes. Dayton won the first ever Ohio Derby, and let’s also keep in mind that Dayton are the USL’s version of Toronto FC this season, that is, they haven’t won a single league game.

But it soon became clear that these upsets weren’t out of the ordinary on the night. Checking my Twitter feed, scores kept rolling in that suggested an epic collapse of MLS teams. This was perhaps epitomized by the New England Revolution’s loss via penalty kicks after completely collapsing and surrendering a three goal lead to Harrisburg City. By the end of the night seven MLS teams had been booted from the Cup by lower division teams.

And perhaps the league that had the most to boast about was the NASL. Expansion side San Antonio Scorpions can call themselves the best team in Texas after defeating the Houston Dynamo 1-0. Meanwhile, the Charlotte Eagles blanked FC Dallas 2-0 and managed to take out Zach Lloyd and George John with injuries in the process.

You’ve got to suspect that Dallas manager Schellas Hyndman has got to be feeling serious pressure as his job performance comes into question even with the plague of injuries that has befallen FC Dallas.

Venerable Bruce Arena must be getting hot under the collar as well. The Los Angeles Galaxy came into WakeMed Park in Cary, North Carolina to face the Carolina Railhawks. The Galaxy fielded a reserve side that was able to mirror the form of the Galaxy first team, that is, they got an early lead and then lost it. The loss to Carolina not only boots LA from the tournament but it signals a serious problem for the Galaxy: three games in a row where the team has collapsed after having a comfortable lead.

But perhaps the most enraged manager of the night was Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis. The defending NASL champions, Minnesota Stars FC pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the round so far defeating Real Salt Lake (arguably the best team in MLS). RSL bought Minnesota’s home draw from them and were able to bring in 17,000 plus supporters on a Tuesday night for the match. A popular Twitter hashtag used by the Minnesota supporters’ group Dark Clouds was #takethemoneyandrun, and they most certainly did promptly dispatching Real Salt Lake 3-1. Oh, and keep in mind that Minnesota is owned by the league, the NASL. Real Salt Lake was thrashed by a division two club that is ownerless. Gentlemen, queue up to purchase a championship winning club.

MLS Not Getting the Hint?

Every MLS team that fielded a reserve lineup last night – lost. But even the MLS teams that put out a regular strength squad didn’t fair that easy a cup tie versus hungry minor league competition.

It took DC United 120 minutes to get by division three (USL) Richmond Kickers 2-1. Chivas USA squeaked by division four (PDL) Ventura County Fusion 1-0, with Juan Agudelo Twitter-quoted as saying, “That didn’t seem like an amateur team.” (@adamserrano) Sporting Kansas City was given a late run for its money by feisty Orlando City, just edging 3-2. Nothing makes sense when the only decisive MLS wins, both 3-0, in the Cup this year came from the Philadelphia Union, a team that has been fighting internally for nearly the whole season, and the New York Red Bulls, who’s coach Hans Backe has historically written off the USOC as a hassle competition.

Up Next

Seattle, who like RSL bought the home draw away from their smaller opponent, will play Atlanta tonight. Given the embarrassment faced by MLS, the Sounders will be acutely aware that they are not just playing for themselves but to save face for their league. Unfortunately, Seattle has been inconsistent and last year’s champion could very well lose tonight. That would put the number of NASL teams in the fourth round to 4, nearly half the league.

Also playing tonight will be the Portland Timbers and Cal FC, the true Cinderella story of the Cup and the last entirely amateur side. Eric Wynalda’s team which we are to stop referring to as Eric Wynalda’s team as per Eric Wynalda’s request, Cal FC who play in old Chicago Fire Best Buy kits will need to muster all their talents to come out on top. Portland is not the worst team in MLS and perhaps dominating a team that is six divisions beneath them is exactly what they need to get momentum. MLS respectability in this tournament is riding on the shoulders of Cascadia.

What does the 4th Round look like? After shocking the New England Revolution, Harrisburg City will host the New York Red Bulls. In one of only two MLS versus MLS matchups in the Cup, Philadelphia will take on DC United. The winner of these two matches will face each other in the quarterfinals. Harrisburg has momentum certainly but the Red Bulls are a winning team this year. Look for a New York versus DC quarterfinal pairing.

After upsetting both their MLS opponents the Michigan Bucks will take on the Dayton Dutch Lions. After what I saw of the Bucks and with how poorly Dayton are playing in their league, I have to suspect that Michigan will make it through. If they do, they’ll face the winner of Colorado Rapids versus Sporting Kansas City—a match that will be a premier game to watch.

San Antonio Scorpions are kings of Texas and if they can get by the Charlotte Eagles they will have even more of a claim to that title. But Charlotte has dismissed with ease two other Texas teams to get to the fourth round, so San Antonio may find itself on the heap as well. The winner of that pairing will face the winner of Minnesota and San Jose. Minnesota has already felled the tallest oak of the tournament and they’ll face an equally difficult challenge in taking on the Earthquakes. Yet Minnesota is playing some of the best football out there right now.

Finally, the winner of Chivas USA and Carolina will face one of the victors of tonight’s matches in Seattle and Portland—expect confusion and fireworks.

Daniel CASEY

Carthage College Univ. of Notre Dame
Club Domestic:
Chicago Fire & Minnesota Stars
Club Foreign:
Manchester United
Founder/editor of the literary magazine Gently Read Literature, active but barely read poet and literary critic, and an occasional English professor. Never got to play soccer until his mid-30s, so he is routinely schooled by U10 crowd at pick-up games.