U.S. Soccer
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The Great Eight Rd. IV: Fall Guy, False Starts & a Sip of Solignac

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is known for its magic moments. And the Fourth Round of the competition, now in its 104th year, tossed up a good few of those between June 13 and 14. Take a look back at eight moments of note from 16 games, where Djiby Fall rose again, a young Argentine was smoother than fine wine and three Major League Soccer sides trudged off with faces long and heads bowed.

Cupsets Come in Threes
At its core, the Open Cup is about upsets. It’s that magic and romance people talk about, the chance to take on your supposed betters and show them who you are. That’s precisely what USL sides FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic plus NASL league-leaders Miami FC did on Wednesday, drawing all the headlines and big smiles with wins over top-flight opponents. FC Cincinnati did the improbable in front of a record home crowd, showing 2002 Open Cup champs Columbus Crew who’s boss in Ohio – for one night at least. And while that was a 1-0 squeaker, Miami and Sacramento roared to routs, unfazed by the glare of the spotlight and the long shadow cast by Goliath. Stéfano Pinho scored them all in Miami’s 3-1 hammering of Orlando City and Sacramento Republic shared the goals around in a 4-1 battering of Real Salt Lake.

A Final Dream for Christos
When Mamadou Kansaye’s free-kick hit the back of D.C. United’s net, the Maryland SoccerPlex exploded. Thousands turned out to support Christos FC, amateur dreamers from the outskirts of Baltimore who lit up the 2017 Open Cup with possibilities and dreams and goosebumps and wonder. The players, fresh and formal in newly donated kits that replaced the t-shirts and mismatched shorts they wore into the Fourth Round, knew right where to go. All XI starters, plus the subs’ bench and technical staff, raced to a little hill behind the goal to share the moment with founding members and long-haulers of the Christos FC brotherhood, family and friends who’d made the trip to dreamland with their boys. It was 1-0 to Christos over D.C. United for a brief moment at least, and the players took their time jogging back and soaking in the moment. The goal didn’t hold up. They lost 4-1, but it’s not the score we’ll remember about these men in green and their big dream.   

Smooth Solignac
His name is elegant, and you should remember it. Solignac sounds like something ordered in a restaurant on the Champs-Elysées to help digest the finest meal you’ve ever eaten. And the goal young Luis spun in mid-air out of nothing but audacity and panache, was of the rarest vintage. His Chicago Fire were goalless on the road against a motivated Saint Louis FC when a hopeful nothing of a cross floated in toward the Argentine. It was a little behind him, without much pace. He had a defender right in his face. Not to worry, though. He spun, turned his back to goal and flicked the ball with his heel in mid-air while on the full volley. It rose in the warm night and turned down like a head falling to a pillow before nestling in the back of the net. It was the only goal that came in a game of grit and thunder and earnest effort. It was a moment of light in the dark, and it was all it took.

Minnesota’s Firsts to Forget
They say you never forget your first time. Minnesota United, one of 2017’s Major League Soccer expansion teams, will want to forget theirs. Lots of them. After losing their first ever MLS game 5-1 on the road to Portland Timbers in March of this year, they returned to lose their first-ever home game 6-1 a week later. And now, in their first U.S. Open Cup game as a top-flight side, they were hammered to the tune of 4-0 at the hands of three-time Cup holders Sporting Kansas City. They say time heals all wounds, so let’s get a heavy dose of time out to Minnesota stat.

Cincinnati’s Fall Guy
Magic Cup runs require magic Cup goals. FC Cincinnati’s Djiby Fall scored the only one of the match in the Queen City side’s 1-0 win over Columbus Crew in front of more than 30,000 fans at Nippert Stadium – a record for a non-Final Open Cup game. And every one of those fans must have thought they had deja vu when the Senegalese striker rose a little higher than his marker to nod the ball into the back of the net. It was his third goal – and his third match-winner – in as many Cup games for the Ohio club that can believe in miracles now with a magic man drawing nothing but winning cards from the deck. Up next, and at home again, is Chicago Fire. The four-time Open Cup champs would do well to keep an eye on Cincinnati’s Fall guy. 

 

The Sons Also Rise
If you were only half-watching, you’d think it was 20 years ago. A young man with the surname Harkes and another one named Lassiter stepped out on the pitch to make huge impacts for their MLS teams. Ian Harkes, son of former U.S. National Team captain and D.C. United legend John, scored to help see off never-say-die Christos FC. And over on the west coast, Ariel Lassiter, still just 22 and known as ‘Goal Puppy’ also scored. His dad Roy, known in his playing days as the ‘Goal Dawg’ was MLS’ top scorer in 1996, and he would have been proud to call his boy’s strike his own. It’s worth mentioning too, there was a Radosavljević on the bench for St. Louis FC, patiently waiting for a chance from his dad and coach Preki (Radosavljević Sr.). 

Caps, Gowns and a Pro Debut
The kit-men for Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers had to log overtime to print new numbers and names on jerseys. Both sides used squads comprised largely of reserves in their game on Tuesday, a watered-down version of a usually vibrant local derby. The Sounders brought up nine second-team players while the Timbers a full eleven. Sounders’ 18-year-old midfielder, Sam Rogers, got his first professional start on the day, but he couldn’t go out and celebrate with the rest of the squad after the 2-1 win. He had finals the next day – three of them – at Ballard High School. He got his yearbook in the morning and played the full 90 that night. There’s no rest in the youngster’s immediate future, either, as graduation’s just a few days off and, by the looks of it, a successful career in soccer is looming. 

 

Open Cup Courtside
It’s safe to say that the 2017 installment of the Open Cup is getting noticed.  Featured regularly on SportsCenter and all across a wide array of major media outlets, we’re seeing stars of soccer and beyond turn up in the stands too. Cincinnati native and young U.S. Women’s National Team standout Rose Lavelle was among the 30,000-plus in Cincinnati – she’ll be there again for the Round of 16 game against Chicago Fire. Heather O’Reilly, another star of the women’s game, was in attendance for North Carolina FC’s loss to Houston Dynamo, while in St. Louis, local heroes Tim Ream and Men’s Youth National Team favorite Josh Sargent were spotted. Over in Sacramento, former Laker legend and GM of the local NBA Kings, Vlade Divac, was seen courtside too. Pitchside. Whatever.

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U.S. Open Cup Jun 16, 2017

U.S. Soccer Announces Round of 16 Draw for 2017 U.S. Open Cup

CHICAGO (June 15, 2017) – U.S. Soccer unveiled the Round of 16 pairings and hosts as well as the potential Quarterfinal matchups for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Thursday. With the Round of 16 Bracket set, all remaining teams will know their potential path to the tournament Final. The Round of 16 will be played on Tuesday, June 27 and Wednesday, June 28.

A total of 13 Fourth Round winners from Major League Soccer (Division I) were joined by three Division II sides, Miami FC from the North American Soccer League and FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic from the United Soccer League. These 16 clubs were divided into four geographic regions ahead of the Draw: Central, East, South, and West. Teams were then randomly selected and placed into brackets according to the order they were drawn in their region.

The winners that advance from the upper bracket in each region will host the Quarterfinals from July 7-16. Following the Quarterfinals, a concluding Draw will take place (date TBD) to determine the hosting scenarios for the tournament Semifinals and Final.


Click to download printable bracket.

Thursday’s Draw was conducted at U.S. Soccer House in Chicago, with U.S. Soccer Development Council member Ivaldo Basso serving as the official Draw assistant. 

2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 (June 27-28)

Date

Game

Time

Venue

June 27 FC Dallas (MLS) vs. Colorado Rapids (MLS)
7 p.m. CT
WATCH
Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas
June 28 Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Sporting Kansas City (MLS)
5:30 p.m. CT WATCH
BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas
June 28 New England Revolution (MLS) vs. D.C. United (MLS) 7:30 p.m. ET WATCH
Jordan Field (Harvard University); Boston, Mass.
June 28 New York Red Bulls (MLS) vs. Philadelphia Union (MLS) 7:30 p.m. ET WATCH
Red Bull Arena; Harrison, N.J.
June 28 Miami FC (NASL) vs. Atlanta United FC (MLS) 7:30 p.m. ET WATCH
Riccardo Silva Stadium (Fla. International Univ.); Miami, Fla.
June 28 FC Cincinnati (USL) vs. Chicago Fire (MLS) 7:30 p.m. ET WATCH
Nippert Stadium (Univ. of Cincinnati); Cincinnati, Ohio
June 28 San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) vs. Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) 7:30 p.m. PT WATCH
Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
June 28 LA Galaxy (MLS) vs. Sacramento Republic FC (USL) 7:30 p.m. PT WATCH
StubHub Center Track Stadium; Carson, Calif.

Quarterfinals (July 7-16)

Date

Game

Time

Venue

TBD New England Revolution (MLS) vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS)/Philadelphia Union (MLS) winner TBD Jordan Field (Harvard University); Boston, Mass.
   -or-
TBD D.C. United (MLS) vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS)/Philadelphia Union (MLS) winner TBD Maryland SoccerPlex; Boyds, Md.
TBD Miami FC (NASL) vs. FC Cincinnati (USL)/Chicago Fire (MLS) winner TBD Riccardo Silva Stadium (Fla. International Univ.); Miami, Fla.
   -or-
TBD Atlanta United FC (MLS) vs. FC Cincinnati (USL)/Chicago Fire (MLS) winner TBD Fifth Third Bank Stadium (Kennesaw State Univ.); Kennesaw, Ga.
TBD Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. FC Dallas (MLS)/Colorado Rapids (MLS) winner TBD BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas
   -or-
TBD Sporting Kansas City (MLS) vs. FC Dallas (MLS)/Colorado Rapids (MLS) winner TBD Children's Mercy Park; Kansas City, Kan.
TBD San Jose Earthquakes (MLS) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)/Sacramento Republic FC (USL) winner TBD Avaya Stadium; San Jose, Calif.
   -or-
TBD Seattle Sounders FC (MLS) vs. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS)/Sacramento Republic FC (USL) winner TBD Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

Semifinals            Aug. 8-9
Final                      Sept. 20

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U.S. Open Cup Jun 15, 2017

FC Cincinnati, Sacramento Republic and Miami FC Score Cupsets in 2017 U.S. Open Cup Fourth Round

CHICAGO (June 14, 2016) – The Fourth Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup served up three “Cupsets” as USL’s FC Cincinnati and Sacramento Republic FC and NASL’s Miami FC moved on to join 13 Major League Soccer sides in the tournament’s Round of 16 scheduled to be played June 28.

Playing in front of a non-Final tournament record crowd of 30,160, FC Cincinnati utilized a 64th minute header from Djiby Fall to upset Ohio-based M.L.S. side Columbus Crew SC 1-0 at Nippert Stadium. To the south, NASL side Miami FC took advantage of a hat trick from Stefano Pinho to glide to a 3-1 road win at fellow Florida side Orlando City SC. Out west, Sacramento Republic FC ran out to a 4-1 home victory against Real Salt Lake to take the tournament’s remaining lower league representation to three clubs.

The Fourth Round was also highlighted by three all-M.L.S. matchups, which saw Seattle Sounders FC defeat their Cascadia rivals Portland Timbers 2-1 on Tuesday night. On Wednesday, New York Red Bulls edged New York City FC 1-0 in the Hudson River Derby, while Sporting KC used goals from four different players to take down M.L.S. expansion side Minnesota United FC 4-0 at Children’s Mercy Park.

The Fourth Round also marked the end of the Cinderella run for 2017 tournament darlings Christos FC on Tuesday night. The side named after a Baltimore-based liquor store was already the last remaining amateur team in the tournament and jumped out to a 1-0 lead against M.L.S. royalty D.C. United when Mamadou Kansaye ripped a free kick past goalkeeper Travis Worra. Though tied at 1-1 for much of the game, the part-timers finally succumbed as the M.L.S. side tallied three goals in the final 10 minutes to run out 4-1 winners. Christos FC’s inspiring run earned them followers around the country as well as a $15,000 cash prize awarded to the tournament’s furthest advancing Open Division team.

With the results, the four regions for Thursday’s Round of 16 Draw are as follows:

CENTRAL: Colorado Rapids, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, Sporting Kansas City
EAST: D.C. United, Philadelphia Union, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls
SOUTH: Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, FC Cincinnati, Miami FC
WEST: LA Galaxy, Sacramento Republic, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC

The Draw to determine the Round of 16 Bracket as well as the potential hosting scenarios for the Quarterfinals will be held at Soccer House in Chicago on Thursday, June 15. Fans can follow the draw live beginning at 11 a.m. ET on the U.S. Soccer Facebook page.

2017 LAMAR HUNT U.S. OPEN CUP RECAPS

Tuesday, June 13

D.C. United (M.L.S.) 4, Christos FC (Md.) 1
Christos FC lost to D.C. United and was eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup. But that’s not what the players and supporters of the liquor store-based team will remember. Christos FC’s 15 minutes of fame turned into much more than that. Christos was featured in Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post, and SportsCenter, and even leveraged its Open Cup run into a new kit deal. They had previously worn bright green t-shirts and whatever black shorts their players had in their wardrobes. But on this day, the spiffy, all-green clad amateurs came to play with new kits on show. Christos even took a lead on the three-time Open Cup champions with Mamadou Kansaye’s 23rd-minute free-kick beauty. Julian Buescher scored for D.C. United but, Christos kept the match level into the 80th minute before the amateurs’ time in the sun had to come to end. Lloyd Sam, Buescher, and Ian Harkes all scored late goals for D.C., which won 4-1 and advanced to the Round of 16.

Colorado Rapids (M.L.S.) 3, OKC Energy FC (USL) 2
After receiving a first half gut punch, the Colorado Rapids fought back from 2-0 down, recording three goals in the second half, to claim a 3-2 win against OKC Energy and a place in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. It took until 10 minutes before the break for either team to draw first blood and it was the visitors from Oklahoma who did via Daniel Gonzalez’s well taken shot that skipped over Colorado ‘keeper Zac MacMath and defender Eric Miller. Danish attacker Philip Rasmussen doubled the Greens’ lead in first half stoppage time, putting home a feed from Daniel Jackson, who also assisted on the opening goal. The second frame was all Colorado as Dominique Badji got the hosts back in the match just four minutes after the restart. Miller then tied matters with a well-taken volley at the back post after Alan Gordon flicked on a corner kick in the 66th minute. With the shadows growing long and extra time looming, Dennis Castillo gave the M.L.S. side the last-minute win with a beautiful snap header in the 89th minute; his first goal for the club.

Seattle Sounders FC (M.L.S.) 2, Portland Timbers (M.L.S.) 1
In one of North American soccer’s fiercest derbies, Seattle Sounders FC punched a ticket to the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 with a 2-1 win against the Portland Timbers. With both M.L.S. clubs fielding second string sides, the Sounders struck first as Aaron Kovar slipped in the back door to turn home Nouhou Tolo’s cross in the third minute to put the hosts up 1-0. Portland responded a half hour later via a Ben Zemanski corner kick that was headed toward goal by Rennico Clarke and then redirected by Augustine Williams, tying the match at 1-1 before half time. Both teams pushed the issue in the second half, spurning multiple chances with Zach Mathers’ 55th minute penalty kick goal proving the exception and eventually the match winner as Seattle dumped its bitter rival from the competition.

Wednesday, June 14:

FC Cincinnati (USL) 1, Columbus Crew SC (M.L.S.) 0
Cincinnati made history when it turned out in record numbers for a Fourth Round U.S. Open Cup clash against in-state big brothers Columbus Crew SC. While the crowd set a new U.S. Open Cup record for attendance at a non-final, the 30,160 fans who packed Nippert Stadium were sent home happy after a determined effort from Djiby Fall in the 64th minute gave the underdogs the Ohio Derby victory. Djiby’s strike, his ninth of the season, came on a second-effort header after his first was blocked. Columbus got off 14 more shots than Cincinnati but were unable to find the breakthrough. “Tonight was an event for our city,” FC Cincinnati head coach Alan Koch said postgame. “I’m ecstatic for everybody: I’m ecstatic for our players, I’m ecstatic for our amazing fans. It’s awesome!”

New England Revolution (M.L.S.) 3, Rochester Rhinos (USL) 0
2016 Open Cup runners up New England Revolution earned an emphatic 3-0 win against Rochester Rhinos, the last non-M.L.S. club to win the competition. New England was quick to capitalize on a pair of yellow cards to Joe Farrell with Teal Bunbury converting a penalty in the 44th minute, despite Rhinos goalkeeper Tomas Gomez’ best effort. The Revs added goals in the 50th and 51st minute, first on a line-drive header by Donnie Smith. Seconds after, Zachary Herivaux capitalized on a second of substandard defending by cleaning up a rebound in his season debut. The Revolution continued to own possession with the man advantage, allowing the Rhinos their first corner a whopping 69 minutes into the match. With the win, New England advances to the Round of 16 for the fourth time in five years.

Philadelphia Union (M.L.S.) 3, Harrisburg City Islanders (USL) 1
After the early going was devoid of chances, the Philadelphia Union broke through in the 18th minute. A build-up down the right flank between Keegan Rosenberry, Marcus Epps and Jay Simpson led to the latter laying a ball back to U.S. youth international Derrick Jones. The Union midfielder took a first-time hit from 25 yards that took a bounce before sneaking inside the right post to give the Union a 1-0 lead. Philadelphia doubled the advantage in the 33rd minute when Roland Alberg intercepted a pass in midfield and quickly pushed towards goal. The Dutchman laid off for Simpson at the top of the box, who danced around the area before finding C.J. Sapong on the right, where the forward swung his effort past Harrisburg goalkeeper Sean Lewis and inside the left post.

Perhaps the Union felt too confident after their first-half double, as Harrisburg pulled themselves back into the game with a well-worked team goal just before halftime. Winning the ball at the back, Shawn McLaws drove his side forward before playing a dangerous ball into the box for Paul Wilson. Entering the area on the right, Wilson quickly centered for Jonathan Mendoza, who smashed his effort past Jon McCarthy in the 37th minute. Harrisburg’s comeback was short-lived though as Philadelphia restored its two-goal lead two minutes into the second half. Haris Medunjanin played a nice through ball up the right for Marcus Epps who used his speed to outpace his marker, cut inside the box and slot past Lewis, icing the game in the process. With the victory, Philadelphia extends its winning streak in their opening match of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup to six games, dating back to 2012.

North Carolina FC (NASL) 2, Houston Dynamo (M.L.S.) 3 (a.e.t.)
In a match marked by offensive fireworks and some incredible goalkeeping, Houston Dynamo emerged victorious with a 3-2 extra time victory to claim a hard-won place in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. NCFC defender Steven Miller got proceedings off to a thunderous start with a left-footed missile that found the upper right corner in the fourth minute. Houston struck back through Andrew Wenger’s sliding effort in the 25th minute before taking the lead in the second half via defender Dylan Remick’s excellent individual effort to strip an NCFC center back and slot home a cool finish from the middle of the penalty area in the 62nd. The visitors’ lead last only six minutes before Lance Laing struck another beauty for NCFC. From a free kick 25 yards out, Laing curled a dipping, left footer over the Dynamo wall and beneath a diving Joe Willis to knot the score at 2-2. With just three minutes remaining in regulation, weather forced the teams into the locker room for an hour and a half delay. The sides traded chances throughout the extra half hour, but it was Jose Rodriguez’s first career goal for the Dynamo in the 109th minute that ultimately separated the evenly matched sides.

Atlanta United FC (M.L.S.) 3, Charleston Battery (USL) 2
Atlanta United overcame a multitude of obstacles to earn its first Open Cup victory as an M.L.S. club with a 3-2 comeback win against the Charleston Battery. The first was a two hour and 40-minute weather delay prior to kickoff, followed by a Charleston goal three minutes in thanks to a Forrest Lasso header at the end of a long throw in by O’Brian Woodbine. Kevin Kratz provided Atlanta a short-lived burst of momentum in 30th minute when he settled a rebound and blasted a shot past the ‘keeper, but the Battery were quick to counter. Charleston regained the lead 30 seconds later on a driven left-footed shot by Dante Marini, which deflected off Miles Robinson’s foot, who made his Atlanta debut after starting the year on loan with the Battery. United caught a huge break just shy of the half when Woodbine skied a penalty over the bar, keeping Atlanta within striking distance at the break. The expansion side came out strong in the second half, first with a 48th minute header from Josef Martinez, assisted by U.S. youth international Brandon Vázquez, who went on to score a goal of his own in the 72nd minute. Vazquez received a perfect pass across the face of goal from former U.S. Youth National Teamer Mikey Ambrose before emphatically tapping in the game-winning goal.

Orlando City SC (M.L.S.) 1, Miami FC (NASL) 3
In an impressive display, NASL league leaders Miami FC traveled north to down Sunshine State rival Orlando City SC 3-1 and secure a spot in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup Round of 16. Stefano Pinho’s hat trick powered the visitors to a 3-0 lead with his first two goals coming in a six-minute span midway through the opening frame. Pinho bagged his first by converting a Michael Lahoud cross in the 30th minute before heading home a Hunter Freeman cross six minutes later to send Miami FC into the break up 2-0. Pinho then capped off his three-goal performance 10 minutes into the second half. Although Orlando brought on Brazil World Cup-winner Kaka to try and alter the outcome with half an hour remaining, the Lions could only manage a consolation strike from Giles Barnes in the 79th minute.

New York Red Bulls (M.L.S.) 1, New York City FC (M.L.S.) 0
The Big Apple’s two M.L.S. sides brought their fierce rivalry to the U.S. Open Cup stage and did not disappoint. Scoreless after the first half, Daniel Royer of Red Bulls finally delivered the goods for the home team on a beautiful 66th-minute volley. The ball popped into the air and to the feet of Royer after New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson saved the initial danger. The Red Bulls advance to the Round of 16, where their run came to an end last year in a 2-1 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.

Saint Louis FC (USL) 0, Chicago Fire (M.L.S.) 1
A high-flying Chicago Fire side recovered from a nervy, early start and began to take over the game against their former USL affiliate Saint Louis FC. The Fire came close in the 14th minute when Brazilian midfielder Juninho clanged his free kick attempt from 25 yards off the left post. That goal itself would have been worthy of the highlight reel, but the Fire’s opening marker 13 minutes later would make up for it. After a spell of possession, Brandon Vincent crossed for Luis Solignac and with his back towards the Saint Louis goal, the Argentine flicked on an effort with his heel that curled over the back line and inside the top right corner. Saint Louis continued to keep things tight and saw their best chance of the match come when Christian Volesky’s rocket from the top of the area beat Chicago Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson only to careen off the cross bar in the 76th minute. Despite that chance, Saint Louis FC’s comeback bid took a death blow five minutes later when captain Dragan Stojkov received a second yellow, forcing the lower-league side to play down a man the remainder of the match and ensuring the Fire their fifth-straight victory in a U.S. Open Cup opener, dating back to 2013.

FC Dallas (M.L.S.) 2, Tulsa Roughnecks FC (USL) 1
The underdogs from Tulsa showed plenty of a fight and resiliency in battling back to level in the second half before falling on a stoppage-time heartbreaker. Coy Craft, who helped the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team to a CONCACAF Championship title earlier this year, opened the scoring in the 31st minute for FC Dallas. Kosuke Kimura responded for the Roughnecks in the 59th minute after stealing possession deep in the final third. Kimura shrugged off two defenders while firing the shot. The upset bid, however, fell just shy when a Michael Barrios strike in stoppage time deflected off of Modou Jadama and into the back of Tulsa’s net for an own goal. FC Dallas, the reigning champs, move on to the last 16.

Sporting Kansas City (M.L.S.) 4, Minnesota United FC (M.L.S.) 0
2015 U.S. Open Cup champs, Sporting Kansas City disposed of Minnesota United with a dominant 4-0 win in the Fourth Round of the Open Cup, halting the Loons’ Open Cup campaign for the third time in four years. Sporting KC’s goals came in bunches, first over a span of two minutes at the end of the first half. Ike Opara headed U.S. MNT defender Graham Zusi’s corner past a charging Patrick McLain in the 43rd minute. Just a few ticks later, Gerso Fernandes tallied an unassisted goal when he calmly converted on a rebound. Dom Dwyer furthered the lead with a left-footed finish in the 72nd minute, followed by a nifty Daniel Salloi marker in the 83rd minute.

LA Galaxy (M.L.S.) 3, Orange County SC (USL) 1
Looking to build off their run to the 2016 Semifinals, the LA Galaxy got on the board in the 17th minute when Nathan Smith laid off for Jose Villarreal, before the attacker blasted a rocket from 30 yards that slipped inside the top right corner. Orange County SC was not deterred, striking back nine minutes later when Amirgy Pineda’s low corner kick to the top of the box found Roy Meeus, who sent a blistering effort past Jonathan Kempin in the 26th minute. Just as the USL side worked its way back into the match, Orange County’s Saloman Wbias was whistled for a foul in the box, leading to Jack McBean restoring the Galaxy advantage when he slotted his penalty to the lower, right corner in the 36th minute. Orange County SC hung tough for much of the second half, but fell behind by two goals when Ariel Lassiter tucked home a 73rd minute finish. Orange County pressed late on, but Kempin turned away a number of quality opportunities to ensure the Galaxy a place in the Round of 16

San Jose Earthquakes (M.L.S.) 2, San Francisco Delta (NASL) 0
San Jose Earthquakes wasted no time getting their noses in front of their Bay Area opposition, seeing off the San Francisco Deltas 2-0 with both goals coming in the opening six minutes. U.S. youth international Jackson Yueill started the goal party with an ill finish, volleying home a low shot from the top of the box into the lower right-hand corner to notch his first professional goal in just the fourth minute. Two minutes and 38 seconds later, Cordell Cato put home his own rebound after a flowing move from the Earthquakes set up his initial shot. The win sends San Jose to the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 for the third time in the last four years.

Sacramento Republic FC (USL) 4, Real Salt Lake (M.L.S.) 1
Sacramento Republic FC notched one of the most significant wins in franchise history with a 4-1 victory against M.L.S.‘s Real Salt Lake. Republic FC dominated early and often before Trevin Caesar broke the seal in the 29th minute with his second goal of the competition. Danny Barrera, who was part of Cal FC’s historic 2012 upset against the Portland Timbers, did well to head a cross from the goal line to Caesar at the top of the six-yard box for a right-footed volley to finish the play. Six minutes later, Ricardo Velazco created space to score from the top of the box for RSL’s lone tally of the game, marking the first goal conceded by the USL side in the competition. Sacramento restored its lead in the 43rd minute when Agustin Cazarez used his head to redirect Barrera’s cross, then recorded an insurance goal on a successful spot kick in stoppage time from Jeremy Hall. Just as Salt Lake began to build possession, Barrera earned a goal of his own, finding himself in the perfect place to finish a James Kiffe cross in the 72nd minute to finish off the Cupset.

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U.S. Open Cup Jun 15, 2017

Cup Fairytales in Buckle’s Republic

“This is one-off football. If you win, you go on. If you lose, well that’s that,” said Paul Buckle, head coach of second-tier side Sacramento Republic who are currently on an Open Cup run for the ages. “And if I say so myself, this is something I know a little bit about.”

He won’t brag – he’s not the kind – but Buckle was making a point of inciting Cup chaos long before his United Soccer League (USL) side laid a 4-1 rout on Real Salt Lake in the Fourth Round of the 2017 U.S. Open Cup. He was the brains behind one of the biggest FA Cup upsets in the English competition’s long history. On a frosty January day in 2013, the kind that turns your breath to clouds, he took his Conference dwellers Luton Town to then Premier Leaguers Norwich City and left Carrow Road on cloud nine. The game ended 1-0 to his intrepid underdogs and was the first time in the Premier League era that a non-league side beat a club from the top-flight. The gap between the two teams – not just financially, but in every conceivable category of measure – was immense.

 

“You just asking me about it makes my hair stand on end,” Buckle said, after a meaningful pause, thinking back on a day that will live long in the lore of the FA Cup. “You can fancy your chances at home. There’s comfort there, even for small teams, and you think maybe it can go your way. But away, that’s not very realistic,” the coach added, caught up in the moment, speaking slowly and deliberately. “You know, Harry Kane was on the pitch that day for Norwich,” he chuckled, drawn into the memory of that special day not long ago but many miles away. “He was on loan from Spurs and I was delighted when he went off at the half.” 

“We got our goal and hung on,” Added Buckle, who set his side up to hang back and counter-attack. “When the final whistle went, there was this moment where we all knew we’d done something that had never been done, that many thought couldn’t be done.”  

New Life, New Land, New Cup
Fast forward a few years and Buckle is a long, long way from home. Six thousand miles away give or take, in California’s capital, he’s far from the rutted pitches of England’s lower tiers where he spent nearly 20 years as a player. The sun shines most days in Sacramento and rain is a novelty. But the coach is still entangled in a love affair with a Cup – this time the 104-year-old U.S. Open Cup – and he’s brought the lessons learned on the other side of the Atlantic with him. His expertise was crucial in orchestrating the Fourth Round upset of Real Salt Lake, one of the biggest shocks of the competition so far. With a CV like Buckle’s, no one should be surprised and upcoming opponents, LA Galaxy, would do well to take note.  

“You can’t deny the connection between the FA Cup and the Open Cup,” said the coach, just 46, who ended up in the States when his wife Rebecca Lowe – familiar to anyone who watches Premier League TV coverage in America – took a job with NBC. “We’re not afraid of going up against teams from MLS.”

Sacramento Republic want to be an MLS team. The front office makes no bones about it. In three years of life as a club, they’ve had precious little hardship. They’ve won a league title, finished runners-up after topping the Western Conference and earned more points than any other team in the division. They boast former top-tier talent in Puerto Rico international Jeremy Hall and Scottish-born midfielder Adam Moffat.

 

With a cumulative 10-1 win from their three 2017 Open Cup games so far, Buckle’s men are now among the potential outside favorites for a deep run. They're not just hanging on; they're setting the pace.  Standing in between them and a place in the Quarterfinal is a date with LA Galaxy, MLS founding members bloated with talent, depth, silverware and history. It’s another chance for the club’s devoted fan base that sprang to life practically over night and have the power to “suck the ball into the net,” according to Buckle.

It could be another special day, too, for young striker Harry Williams, who Buckle brought over from his last English club, Cheltenham Town. “He [Buckle] gave me my first start in the FA Cup and then he gave me my first start in the U.S. Open Cup over here,” said Williams, a soft-spoken 21-year-old striver from Gloucestershire who’s scored three goals in the 2017 Open Cup and started all three games. “Coach has proved that fairytales can happen and we want to make more of our own.”

Big Day for Sacramento
June 28 will be another big day for an ambitious, young club. A big day for the city of Sacramento and the fans who’ve taken a new team to their hearts. For Buckle, it’s a chance to go to LA and make another mark on a Cup in his new country the same way he did back home.

He didn’t just come over and lazily take the first job on offer, riding his exploits and charming GMs with his accent. He became a student of the game in America, where football is soccer. “I spent a lot of time traveling around and focusing on the whole structure of American soccer, which couldn’t be more different than England,” said Buckle, who coached in the USL combines in Florida and the folkloric Metropolitan Oval on the edges of New York City. “I focused on high school and college and all the way up. I worked hard to get my feet under me.”

 

When Sacramento came calling, Buckle knew it was right. He’s a man who knows the value of a moment. “I fell in love with the place,” he said. Now Buckle and his wife Rebecca – the face of the Premier League on American TV – are living a soccer-charmed life in a new land. “She travels east for her work on the weekends and then we get to spend the week together here with our new son Edward in the most beautiful place in the world.” 

Buckle’s voice cuts an enthusiastic beat when he tells of his wife, an avowed Crystal Palace fan, attending her first Sacramento Republic game. It all sounds a bit like a fairytale. And for the sake of the Cup, and everything worth loving about it, Buckle’s hoping there’s more magic to come. “No one’s expecting us to win,” said the coach, knowing full well the power of the improbable. “And we’re perfectly OK with that.”

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U.S. Open Cup Jun 14, 2017

Poku: Born in the U.S. Open Cup

Kwadwo Poku’s reputation was forged in the fires of the U.S. Open Cup. “Opportunities come in this competition that you have to be ready to take,” said Miami FC’s dynamic midfielder, among the best in the NASL, and crucial in the side's big win over Major League Soccer's Orlando City “It’s a chance to move up, to show what you’re made of. To prove yourself.” 

That’s precisely what the Kumasi-born Ghanaian did three years ago when playing for second-tier Atlanta Silverbacks under Eric Wynalda, an avowed and unabashed advocate of the 104-year-old Open Cup and the magic it produces for clubs and players. “Eric saw that I had potential,” said Poku, who came to the States to chase a collegiate career before opting for the pro game. “He told me I could play at the highest level and he always stressed the Open Cup and how it was a place where I could prove who I was.” 

The Silverbacks, then of the North American Soccer League, roared to the quarter-finals in 2014, beating big boys Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids along the way. Poku scored a last-second winner in the Fourth Round against RSL that had MLS scouts and coaches drooling. Both physically imposing and nimble, he could grab a game by the scruff of the neck and shake it hard. “The career he has now was born in the Open Cup,” said Wynalda, the former U.S. National Team ace, now a well-known TV analyst and head coach of talented amateurs L.A. Wolves.

 

Poku spent a season and a half at New York City FC, becoming a fan favorite in the club’s inaugural MLS campaign. But he returned to the NASL last summer, unable to refuse a huge salary – among the highest in the second division, it dwarfed what he was making in the first. It was also the chance to play for a club part-owned by Italian legend Paolo Maldini and coached by Alessandro Nesta. “Poku has a different speed, a different gear,” said Nesta, whose achievements at the top levels of the game include a World Cup crown and Champions League medals. It’s safe to say the Italian, an artful and artistic defender in his day, knows talent when he sees it.

An Extra Gear
“When he starts to run and change the pace, you’re in trouble,” added Nesta in a serviceable English still tinted with the syntax of his native Italian. “There’s no one who can run with him in our league. Maybe not in any league.” It’s high praise from one of the best players of his generation and proof of the kind of skill-set that led Wynalda to claim: “Poku’s the best player in the NASL and maybe too good for MLS.” Still just 25, Poku’s earned a cap for Ghana and sparked the interest of former USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann who encouraged him to seek American citizenship.

No longer an anonymous midfielder hungry for opportunities and hunting chances, Poku is back in the Open Cup again and he's eager to make a run deep. A win over a star-studded Orlando side away from home is a strong start on that road. The Cup still holds the magic of possibility for Poku and he was one of the best players on the field in the Fourth Round Cupset, same as he was in the Third Round against Tampa Bay Rowdies. 

 

“The biggest thing about the Open Cup is that the whole team, every player, has to be willing to prove a point. They have to want to do that,” said Poku, his West African accent thinning with every day he spends in the States. “We want to show what we have. We have the players, the coaches and the ambition to go a long way.”

Underdog Favorites
Miami FC find themselves in the curious position of being underdogs and favorites at the same time. With their huge budget and obvious ambition, they’re the first non-MLS team you’d pick to make a Cup run. “People say if an NASL team is going to go far in the competition, it’s obviously going to be Miami FC,” said Poku. “But it’s not that easy. No matter how good you are in the second division, or how much money or quality you have, you’re still the underdog when you play a top-flight team. We have great players in Miami, but you can’t compare it to MLS.”

Miami FC will host their Round of 16 clash with first-timers Atlanta United on June 28. “The excitement is already building with our fans,” said Poku. “They’re getting ready to fly the flag for us. It’s a game for bragging rights and to show what we’re doing in the NASL. There’s a lot on the line.”

 

“It’s 90 minutes, or 120 minutes, of knockout soccer,” said Poku, a man who knows better than anyone the stresses and strains of the Open Cup, but also its glories. “If we win this game, we end up in the pot in the Quarterfinals and from there it’s not far to the Final. We want to win. We want to show our pride and our identity; what makes us special. In this stage, people are paying attention.”

Poku is at a crossroads. He’s a favorite and an underdog. He’s raking in the big bucks, but in the second division. Expectation is high and the chance to make another deep Open Cup run is there for the taking, but most betting folks won’t pick Miami over Atlanta the same way they didn't pick them to beat Orlando. “No one expects us to win,” he said, his voice a little quiet. But knowing the magic of the Cup, being born in its flames, you get the sense that he does.    

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U.S. Open Cup Jun 14, 2017
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