USOC Corner: The Quarterfinals are set

The Cal FC Cinderella Story Ends & Penalty Kicks Abound
by Daniel Casey   |   Wednesday, June 06, 2012

US Open Cup Corner - 2012 Lamar Hunt USOC

As the US Open Cup has progressed, the accuracy of my predictions going into each round has gotten steadily worse. 4th Round play, soccer’s Sweet Sixteen, to determine the Quarterfinalists proved no exception. Of the eight matches, I picked the winner of only one (Sporting Kansas City). Like previous rounds themes started to emerge, this week half of the matches went into overtime and three were decided by penalties. The NASL was eliminated from the tournament while the USL managed to have all of its remaining teams make it through.

Penalties & Added Extra Time

The Carolina RailHawks had a hard time of it against Chivas USA. It’s hard for me to get my head around the notion of a successful Chivas USA. But the Goats are revitalized since the acquisition of Danny Califf and Juan Agudelo. I was of the opinion that the Califf and Agudelo trades were going to end up as footnotes by the end of the season, but it looks as though that may end up being quite wrong. Whereas Carolina defender Gale Agbossoumonde, who many like me thought was going to shine this year, has not been having a good season. He was part of the US Olympic squad that failed to qualify for the London games, he developed an early season injury, he’s now part of the Railhawks first team that has won one match over ten league games, he’s earned himself several cards, and committed the handball penalty that got Carolina eliminated from the US Open Cup. Not necessarily the narrative that will compel MLS teams or overseas teams to take him on after this season.

Added extra time was avoided in North Carolina, but not in San Antonio for the match between the Charlotte Eagles and San Antonio Scorpions. But like North Carolina, the battle between Charlotte and San Antonio was decided by a penalty kick. Mauricio Salles stepped up and buried the PK in the second half of added extra time to give Charlotte the 2-1 win. San Antonio was booted from its first US Open Cup, but it can still claim to be the best team from Texas in the Cup. We’ll see if Charlotte can win outside of Texas when they travel to face Chivas USA in the first pairing of the Quarterfinals.

The Fairy Tale Ends

The Cinderella story of this year’s USOC tournament finally came to an end as Cal FC turned into a pumpkin at Starfire Field, the Seattle Sounders’ training pitch. Although Cal FC put in a solid first half, similar to the performance they put in against Portland last week, when the second half commenced things got ugly. The Sounders rained goals down on Cal FC, in the 50th, 58th, 66th, 68th, and 70th minutes. The fact that Seattle beat a true amateur team that had no sponsors (until yesterday when Fox Soccer put its logo on the team’s kits), no home field, and trained only sporadically shouldn’t be a surprise. Yet Seattle can’t really take a victory lap or really be satisfied with themselves (or at least shouldn’t). There is a lose-lose scenario—if they had lost to Cal FC criticism would’ve been vicious, yet pummeling Cal FC only make them look like a bully.

Further down the coast in San Jose, the Earthquakes faced the best side in the NASL, the Minnesota Stars. It took a late goal to allow San Jose to edge past Minnesota, 1-0. To give you an idea of how tough this match was chew on the fact that this was the first loss for Minnesota over all competitions since October 15th, 2011. Now Seattle will face off against San Jose in the only MLS only match of the Quarterfinals.

The Giant Killer

The biggest upset of Round 4 was the Harrisburg City Islanders dragging the New York Red Bulls through 120 minutes of play to win 3-1. Gambian Sainey Touray (signed as trailist by New York in 2008 but saw limited action in the reserves before being released) picked up a brace. Although the Red Bulls dominated possession they never strung together a serious attack and squandered a multitude of corners and free kicks. Meanwhile, Harrisburg refused to give any ground to the MLS big-spenders. Tied 1-1 after fulltime, Harrisburg was able to wait New York out. New York had a clear goal taken from them when a handball in the box wasn’t called against Harrisburg. It was obvious to most watching live and who saw the replay at home that a handball penalty should have been awarded to New York. But the Red Bulls didn’t have the character to rally and stay focused. Soon after the non-call, they gave up Touray’s second. Lucky Mkosana, a Supplemental Draft pick this year by the Chicago Fire who wasn’t signed, scored the insurance goal punching Harrisburg’s ticket into the Quarterfinals. Since 2007, Harrisburg has now eliminated five MLS teams. They can legitimately be called “giant killers” and will be looking to add to their total come June 26th.

Par for the Course

Harrisburg has now gone 120 minutes in each of their last two Cup matches, perhaps in an unconscious move to prep to face them Philadelphia went 120 minutes in their win over DC United. This was certainly the only MLS ‘upset’ but we have to use that term lightly given that there was just one other MLS only match. The Union was able to get by DC United in a hardnosed affair that saw both teams go down a man due to red cards, 2-1. On the bright side for DC United, Josh Wolff scored his 10th career US Open Cup goal, tying him for 6th in the modern pro era w/ Byron Carmichael & Dante Washington.

Winning decisively, Sporting Kansas City was able to dispatch the Colorado Rapids 2-0. Both sides fielded their first teams so spectators had a ‘real’ match to behold. Kansas City was able to spread their offense around with goals from Aurelien Collin and Teal Bunbury and assists from Graham Zusi and C.J. Sapong respectively. Last week’s giant killers, the Michigan Bucks and Dayton Dutch Lions, faced each other in Rochester, Michigan in an outdoor venue this time around. Falling in line with the themes of the evening, the match went into added extra time and was decided by a penalty. Joel DeLass was able to convert a penalty kick to make the Dayton Dutch Lions the first Ohio team in twenty years not named the Columbus Crew to play in the Quarterfinals. Dayton will now travel to Kansas City.

Up Next

On June 26th the Quarterfinals will feature Harrisburg City Islanders at the Philadelphia Union and the Dayton Dutch Lions at Sporting Kansas City. The winners of these two matches will be drawn together in the first bracket of the Semifinals. In the second bracket, the winner of the Charlotte Eagles at Chivas USA will face the winner of the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders. Cal FC made an amazing run and will split $10,000 with the Michigan Bucks as the two amateur teams who made it the furthest. The paltry prize money was never what their squad was about. Manager Eric Wynalda has made it clear that his priority is featuring his players and making sure they get signed to pro contracts. Even the thumping from Seattle shouldn’t diminish the fact that the entire starting side for Cal FC have the quality and deserve pro contracts. It’ll be interesting to see where these promising young players land.

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.