U.S. Soccer

2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Format Unveiled

CHICAGO (March 1, 2017) – Entering its 104th year of competition, the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup format is now set, with the remaining eligible Open Division local qualifiers advancing directly to the First Round on May 10. As a result, the tiered-bracket and single-game knockout format will see a modern era record of 99 teams participate.

As has been the case the past two years, teams will be paired geographically from the First Round through the Fourth Round. After the Fourth Round, a geographically-based random draw will take place to determine the Round of 16 matchups and set a fixed bracket to the Final, scheduled for Sept. 20.

A total of 56 Open Division teams (including clubs from the Premier Development League and National Premier Soccer League as well as those advancing from local qualifying) will enter in the First Round, while 24 clubs from the Division II North American Soccer League and United Soccer League will see their first action in the Second Round on May 17. The Third Round takes place May 31, with the winners from this stage joined by 19 Division I Major League Soccer clubs in the Fourth Round on June 14.

In a related matter, Open Division local qualifier Minneapolis City SC has lost its tournament eligibility as a result of switching leagues during the midst of its 2017 Open Cup campaign. Competition regulations require that a team must remain a member of its league from the club’s time of entry and continuing until the Final.  


2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Champions FC Dallas

This year’s winning team will receive $250,000, a berth in the 2019 CONCACAF Champions’ League and have its name engraved on the historic Dewar Challenge Trophy, one of the oldest nationally contested trophies in U.S. team sports. The runner-up will earn $60,000, while the team that advances the furthest from each lower division will take home a $15,000 cash prize.

Owned and operated by Lamar Hunt’s sons Clark and Dan, FC Dallas is the defending U.S. Open Cup champion, having earned the club’s second tournament title (following its triumph in 1997) thanks to a 4-2 win against the New England Revolution on Sept. 13, 2016 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recognized as U.S. Soccer's National Club Championship, is an annual competition open to all amateur and professional soccer teams affiliated with U.S. Soccer. The tournament has crowned a champion for 103 consecutive years dating from 1914. In 1999, the competition was renamed to honor United States soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt.

Tournament Format, Schedule and Other Key Dates:

Initial Pairings Announcement – April 12

•     First Round games as well as Second Round possibilities announced.

First Round – May 10

•     Number of Games: 28

•     Participants: 56 Open Division teams

•     Competition: Teams will be paired geographically with the restriction that teams from the same qualifying pool (e.g. local qualifiers, PDL, NPSL) cannot be paired to play each other.

Second Round – May 17

•     Number of Games: 26

•     Participants: Winners of 28 First Round games are joined by 24 Division II clubs (6 from NASL, 18 from USL).

•     Competition: At the time the First Round pairings are made, each Division II team will be matched geographically to a specific First Round pairing and be scheduled to play its winner. The remaining First Round matchups not paired with a Division II side will be paired geographically, with the winners playing each other to complete the round.

Third Round – May 31

•     Number of Games: 13

•     Participants: Winners of 26 Second Round games will play each other.

•     Competition: After each Second Round matchup has been determined, the Second Round pairs will be bracketed geographically to create the Third Round matchups.

Fourth Round – June 14*

•     Number of Games: 16

•     Participants: Winners from 13 Third Round games are joined by 19 MLS clubs.

•     Competition: After each Third Round matchup has been determined, 13 of 19 MLS teams will be paired geographically to a specific Third Round matchup and be scheduled to play these winners, while the remaining six MLS teams will be paired up to complete the bracket.

Round of 16 Draw – June 15

•     The Fourth Round winners will be divided geographically (regardless of league affiliation) into groups of four, with teams who are precluded from playing each other until the Final per tournament regulations (i.e. pro teams and their affiliated Open Division sides) placed in different groups. A random draw will determine the pairings within each group, resulting in a fixed bracket for the remainder of the tournament. Should a precluded pair of teams reach the Semifinal Round and be scheduled to face each other, the matches will be re-drawn after the quarterfinals to avoid this outcome.

Round of 16 – June 28*

•     Number of Games: 8

•     Fourth Round winners face each other as determined by the Round of 16 Draw.

Quarterfinals – July 11^

Semifinals – Aug. 9*

Final – Sept. 20

* Any game in the Fourth Round, Round of 16 and Semifinal Round where one of the participants has a league game the following Friday will be moved up a day (exception to this is when the team’s opponent is scheduled for a league game the preceding Sunday; in this case, the provisions in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Handbook to determine the match date will prevail). In addition, any game chosen by U.S. Soccer to be broadcast nationally is subject to being moved up a day. 

^ For the Quarterfinal Round, teams may apply to change the match date within a window that runs between July 7-16 if both teams in a match are not scheduled otherwise.

Note: The day following each of the dates listed above is reserved as a make-up date in the event of a weather postponement.

2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Participating Teams

Division I and II Professional Teams Eligible to Participate (43 total):

Division I (19 teams, entering in the Fourth Round) - Major League Soccer: Atlanta United FC, Chicago Fire, Colorado Rapids, Columbus Crew SC, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Houston Dynamo, LA Galaxy, Minnesota United FC, New England Revolution, New York City FC, New York Red Bulls, Orlando City SC, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers, Real Salt Lake, San Jose Earthquakes, Seattle Sounders FC, Sporting Kansas City

Division II (24 teams, entering in the Second Round) - North American Soccer League (6): Indy Eleven, Jacksonville Armada, Miami FC, New York Cosmos, North Carolina FC (formerly Carolina RailHawks), San Francisco Deltas; United Soccer League (18 teams): Charleston Battery, Charlotte Independence, Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, FC Cincinnati, Harrisburg City Islanders, Louisville City FC, OKC Energy FC, Orange County SC (formerly Orange County Blues), Phoenix Rising FC (formerly Arizona United), Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Reno 1868 FC, Richmond Kickers, Rochester Rhinos, Sacramento Republic FC, Saint Louis FC, San Antonio FC, Tampa Bay Rowdies, Tulsa Roughnecks FC

Open Division Teams (56 total, all entering in the First Round):

Local Qualifiers (17 places, listed alphabetically by state): California (6): Chula Vista FC, El Farolito, La Máquina*, LA Wolves FC*, Moreno Valley Fútbol Club, Outbreak FC*; Colorado (2): Azteca FC, Colorado Rush; Florida (2): Boca Raton Football Club*, Red Force FC; Maryland (1): Christos FC; Massachusetts (1): GPS Omens; Nevada (1): Anahuac FC; New Jersey (1): FC Motown; Pennsylvania (2): Junior Lone Star FC, Tartan Devils Oak Avalon; Texas (1): NTX Rayados

Premier Development League (21 places): Division Winners: Charlotte Eagles* (N.C.), Des Moines Menace* (Iowa), FC Tucson* (Ariz.), Fresno Fuego (Calif.), GPS Portland Phoenix* (Maine), Michigan Bucks*, OKC Energy U23 (Okla.), Reading United AC* (Pa.), The Villages SC* (Fla.); At-Large Berths: Burlingame Dragons* (Calif.), Carolina Dynamo* (N.C.), Chicago FC United (formerly Chicago Fire U-23), Derby City Rovers (Ky.), FC Golden State Force (Calif.), Ocean City Nor’easters (N.J.), San Diego Zest (Calif.), SC United Bantams (S.C.), Sounders FC U-23* (Wash.), South Florida Surf, Ventura County Fusion* (Calif.), Western Mass Pioneers. The PDL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2016 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2017 Open Cup.

National Premier Soccer League (18 places): Qualified via 2016 NPSL playoffs: AFC Cleveland* (Ohio), Albion SC Pros (Calif.), Chattanooga FC* (Tenn.), Clarkstown SC Eagles* (N.Y.), Grand Rapids FC (Mich.), Miami United FC (Fla.), New Jersey Copa FC (N.J.), Sonoma County Sol (Calif.); At-Large Berths: AFC Ann Arbor (Mich.), Atlanta Silverbacks*, Boston City FC (Mass.), Dutch Lions FC (Texas), FC Wichita* (Kan.), Fredericksburg FC* (Va.), Jacksonville Armada U-23 (Fla.), Legacy 76 (Va.), OSA FC (Wash.) Tulsa Athletics (Okla). The NPSL is a nationwide league affiliated with the U.S. Adult Soccer Association and opted to use 2016 league results to determine its qualifiers for the 2017 Open Cup.

* Participated in 2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup

A list of teams not eligible to play each other until the Final will be announced at a later date. 

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U.S. Open Cup Mar 1, 2017

Third Qualifying Round for 2017 Open Cup Rescheduled, Second Qualifying Round Nears End

CHICAGO (Oct. 24, 2016) – The U.S. Soccer Federation announced Monday that the third round of Open Division Local Qualifying for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has been rescheduled. Originally set to be played on Nov. 19-20, 2016, the third qualifying round will take place on March 11-12, 2017, the set of dates originally set aside for the fourth qualifying round. If necessary, the fourth qualifying round will now take place on the weekend that had been previously reserved for the fifth qualifying round (April 8-9, 2017).

The matchups for the third qualifying round will be announced in mid-January along with the complete format for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Additionally, the tournament schedule for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup will take place as follows:

2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Tournament Schedule
Wed., April 12: First Round pairings and Second Round possible matchups announced
Wed., May 10: First Round
Wed., May 17: Second Round
Wed., May 31: Third Round
Wed., June 14*: Fourth Round (MLS teams enter)
Thur., June 15: Round of 16 Draw
Wed., June 28*: Round of 16
Tues., July 11^: Quarterfinals
Wed., Aug. 9*: Semifinals
Wed., Sept. 20: Final

* Note: Any game in the Fourth Round, Round of 16 and Semifinal Round where one of the participants has a league game the following Friday will be moved up a day (exception to this is when the team’s opponent is scheduled for a league game the preceding Sunday; in this case, the provisions in the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Handbook to determine the match date will prevail). In addition, any game chosen by U.S. Soccer to be broadcast nationally is subject to being moved up a day.

^ For the Quarterfinal round, teams may apply to change the match date within a window that runs between July 7-16 if both teams in a match are not scheduled otherwise.

Second Qualifying Round Nearly Complete; Two Games Rescheduled Due to Weather

A majority of games in the second qualifying round for the 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was completed over the weekend, though severe weather caused Sunday’s matches between Santa Ana Winds FC and La Máquina FC as well as LA Wolves FC and Inland Empire FC to be postponed. Dates, times and locations for the two rescheduled matches will be announced later this week @OpenCup on Twitter.

Second Qualifying Round

Date

Game

Result

Venue

Oct. 16

West Chester United SC (Pa.) at Christos FC (Md.)

0-1

Troy Park; Elkridge, Md.

Oct. 16

GPS Omens (Mass.) at Newtown Pride FC (Conn.)

3-1

Newtown High School; Newtown, Conn.

Oct. 16

Aromas Café FC (Va.) at Tartan Devils Oak Avalon (Pa.)

1-3

Rooney Field; Pittsburgh, Pa.

Oct. 16

Lansdowne Bhoys (N.Y.) at FC Motown (N.J.)

2-3

Torpey Athletic Complex; Bridgewater, N.J.

Oct. 22

Oakland County FC (Mich.) at Minneapolis City SC (Minn.)

1-1, 1-2 AET

National Sports Center – Field U2; Blaine, Minn.

Oct. 22

Azteca FC (Colo.) at Harpo’s FC (Colo.)

2-1

Dicks Sporting Goods Park Field 8; Commerce City; Colo.

Oct. 22

Boca Raton Football Club (Fla.) at Hurricane FC (Fla.)

4-1

Caloosa Park Field 3; Boynton Beach, Fla.

Oct. 22

Junior Lone Star FC (Pa.) at Brick Lions FC (N.J.)

3-2

Pinewood Park; Brick; N.J.

Oct. 22

Motagua New Orleans (La.) at NTX Rayados (Texas)

0-2

Premier Park; Balch Springs, Texas

Oct. 22

Ozzy’s Laguna FC (Calif.) at Moreno Valley Fútbol Club (Calif.)

0-6

Moreno Valley Community Park; Moreno Valley, Calif.

Oct. 22

Colorado Rush (Colo.) at IPS/Marathon Taverna (Ore.)

4-0

Delta Park; Portland, Ore.

Oct. 22

Chula Vista FC (Calif.) at FC Hasental (Calif.)

4-1

Oak Park High School; Oak Park, Calif.

Oct. 23

Red Force FC (Fla.) at Uruguay Kendall FC (Fla.)

2-2, 3-2 AET

Tropical Park Stadium; Miami, Fla.

Oct. 23

Outbreak FC (Calif.) at SFV Scorpions SC (Calif.)

1-2

College of the Canyon; Santa Clarita, Calif.

Oct. 23

El Farolito (Calif.)at Strikers FC South Coast (Calif.)

2-1

Lake Forest Sports Park Field A; Lake Forest, Calif.

Oct. 23

MF 10 (Nev.) at Anahuac FC (Nev.)

0-2

Las Vegas Sportspark; Las Vegas, Nev.

Oct. 23

Santa Ana Winds FC (Calif.) at La Máquina FC (Calif.)

Postponed

Orange County Great Park – Field 1; Irvine, Calif.

Oct. 23

L.A. Wolves FC (Calif.) at Inland Empire FC (Calif.)

Postponed

Rancho Jurupa Regional Sports Park; Jurupa, Calif.

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U.S. Open Cup Oct 24, 2016

FC Dallas Claims Second Open Cup Title with 4-2 Win vs. New England Revolution in 2016 Final

FRISCO, Texas (Sept. 13, 2016) – FC Dallas claimed its second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title with a 4-2 victory over New England Revolution on Tuesday night.

Mauro Diaz served as the protagonist and played a part in all four goals as FCD won the trophy named after the club’s founder, Lamar Hunt, for the first time since 1997.

“We are champions again,” FC Dallas coach Oscar Pareja said. “We won it. It proves we can do it after that many years. There are so many people involved with this club, waiting for that trophy and this moment... we’ve made it real.”

New England scored the opening goal through Juan Agudelo after six minutes, but the hosts responded through Maxi Urruti to restore parity. Matt Hedges nodded home a Diaz free kick to give FCD a lead it would not relinquish.

New England dared to dream of a second Open Cup triumph after Agudelo’s early opener. His rasping finish from Gershon Koffie’s vertical ball provided the Revs with a tangible advantage to protect, but it only served to spark a response from FCD.

Diaz opened his masterful performance with a precise diagonal for Urruti’s equalizer on 15 minutes. His delivery on the remnants of a corner allowed Hedges to give FCD the lead for good after 40 minutes.

Hedges drew a penalty deep in first-half stoppage time and watched Diaz convert from the spot to extend the margin on the stroke of halftime. The penalty kick converted just before the halftime whistle underscored his influence on the proceedings.

“It is a collection of what he has done this year,” Pareja said. “He showed the heart of his club and the heart of his teammates tonight. They all wanted to win.”

Diaz then split the Revolution center backs to supply Urruti with his second and FCD’s fourth on the hour and temper any thoughts of a Revolution revival.

Agudelo reduced the deficit by turning home at the far post inside the final 20 minutes, but his second goal of the night did not prove enough to prevent the visitors from slipping to a second defeat in an Open Cup final nor stop FCD from securing its first championship in 19 years.

With the victory, FCD qualifies for the 2017-18 edition of the CONCACAF Champions League and sustains its hopes of winning a double or triple as the MLS season winds to a close.

-2016 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Match Report-

Match: FC Dallas (MLS) vs. New England Revolution (MLS)
Date: Sept. 13, 2016
Competition: Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final
Venue: Toyota Stadium; Frisco, Texas
Kickoff: 9 p.m. CT
Attendance: 16,612 (sellout)
Weather: 84 degrees; Partly cloudy

Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
DAL                        3 1 4
NER                        1 1 2

NER – Juan Agudelo (Gershon Koffie)      6th minute
DAL – Maxi Urruti (Mauro Diaz)               15
DAL – Matt Hedges (Mauro Diaz)             40
DAL – Mauro Diaz (penalty kick)              45+7
DAL – Maxi Urruti (Mauro Diaz)                61
NER – Juan Agudelo (Teal Bunbury)         73

Lineups:
DAL: 18-Chris Seitz; 12-Ryan Hollingshead, 25-Walker Zimmerman, 24-Matt Hedges, 31-Maynor Figueroa; 77-Mauro Rosales (13-Tesho Akindele, 58), 23-Kellyn Acosta, 10-Mauro Díaz, 7-Carlos Gruezo, 21-Michael Barrios (8-Victor Ulloa, 82); 37-Maximiliano Urruti (2-Aubrey David, 90+1)
Subs not used: 1-Jesse Gonzalez, 5-Norberto Paparatto, 9-Getterson, 28-Colin Bonner
Head Coach: Oscar Pareja

NER: 18-Brad Knighton; 2-Andrew Farrell, 28-London Woodberry, 23-José Gonçalves, 15-Je-Vaughn Watson (8-Chris Tierney, 45+3); 6-Scott Caldwell, 7-Gershon Koffie (13-Kei Kamara, 42), 11-Kelyn Rowe (10-Teal Bunbury, 69), 14-Diego Fagundez; 17-Juan Agudelo, 24-Lee Nguyen
Subs not used: 1-Cody Cropper, 16-Daigo Kobayashi, 4-Steve Neumann, 88-Femi Hollinger-Janzen
Head Coach: Jay Heaps

Stats Summary: DAL / NER
Shots: 19 / 11
Shots on Goal: 9 / 3
Saves: 1 / 5
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 15 / 18
Offside: 2 / 0

Misconduct Summary:
NER – Scott Caldwell (caution)                29th minute
NER – London Woodberry (caution)         48
DAL – Walker Zimmerman (caution)        50
NER – Diego Fagundez (caution)             66

Officials:
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistant Referee 1: Sean Hurd
Assistant Referee 2: Adam Wienckowski
Fourth Official: Sorin Stoica

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U.S. Open Cup Sep 13, 2016

Team Spirit Guides Dallas to 1997 Open Cup Title

Jorge Rodriguez was more than capable during his pro soccer years in Dallas. The versatile defender and midfielder could certainly hold his own, even if he wasn’t necessarily a game-changer or head-turner.

So how ironic that perhaps the most important kick in more than two decades of professional soccer in Dallas came off this Salvadorian international’s right foot. His well-placed penalty kick almost 20 years ago was the clincher of the 1997 U.S. Open Cup, the fifth successful conversion as the Dallas Burn took down a far more heralded D.C. United bunch at a neutral site on a cold Indiana night in November.

Who knew back then that it would be the only championship this club, rebranded as FC Dallas in 2004, would earn during its first two decades? That could change Tuesday night in the northern Dallas suburb of Frisco, where a stadium built by the same man for whom the tournament is now named, domestic soccer pioneer Lamar Hunt, hosts the U.S. Open Cup final.


Jorge Rodriguez converted the deciding penalty kick to deliver the '97 Open Cup title to Dallas.

The 1997 U.S. Open Cup files are thick with backstories from competitors on both sides of that cold night at the Carroll Stadium on IUPUI’s campus. For Dallas, the emotion of the evening was all about the thrill of the only professional soccer final in which many of the players would participate. And also about helping a teammate through some very hard times.

“It was definitely a very emotional night,” said Dante Washington, who scored 52 goals over 9 MLS seasons and helped Dallas lift the trophy that night.

Washington remained active in MLS circles after retirement as a broadcaster, but he’s hardly the most familiar name from coach Dave Dir’s hand-picked, tight-knit group. Most prominent was Jason Kreis, who would go on to be the youngest MLS Cup-winning manager, claiming Major League Soccer’s ultimate prize in 2009.

Garth Lagerwey, the front office architect of those successful RSL teams and now GM with the Seattle Sounders, was a backup goalkeeper on that 1997 team. So was Jeff Cassar, now RSL’s manager, who was injured and not available for the Open Cup final. Also on that team were current RSL assistant Ted Eck and Vancouver Whitecaps director of soccer operations Tom Soehn, himself a former MLS manager.

Kreis was on his way to becoming Major League Soccer’s original 100-goal scorer. (Great trivia: he is the only player to have hit the inaugural goal for two MLS franchises, doing so for Dallas in 1996 and Real Salt Lake in 2005.) Two years after that Open Cup championship Kreis became the first American-born player voted league MVP, doing so with the first 15-goal, 15-assist season in league history. He would be named an MLS All-Star five times.

But team-wise, the list of achievement was far shorter. A few of those of the early Dallas Burn men had come with Dir from the Colorado Foxes, having won two championships in the early 1990s in the old A-League. But for Kreis and quite a few others, their personal list of professional championships begins and ends with the Dewar Cup hoist that night in Indiana.

“That’s one of the fondest memories I have as a player,” Kreis said as he and others recalled the 1997 crown. “It’s the only trophy I ever won as player. In fact, it was the only final I ever got to play in.”


Jason Kreis was pivotal to the Dallas Burn in its run to the 1997 U.S. Open Cup title.

He recalled not starting for much of the 1997 season, but that he “did start in all the Open Cup matches, and felt like I had a big hand in getting our team to the final.”

There was actually a little more to it. Kreis, now manager at Orlando City SC, had come into the club as a rookie playmaking midfielder in 1996 and had big plans for 1997. But the club added blue chip Swiss international Alain Sutter, who pushed a young and brooding Kreis to the bench. (The next year, Dir moved Kreis ahead in the formation to striker to get both players on the field, which proved a master stroke that benefitted manager and player.)

The club was lucky to have Sutter, a Bundesliga vet and previously a driving force on a strong Swiss side in the 1994 World Cup. He was influential in getting the Burn into the MLS playoffs but also a big reason why the Burn crashed out. Sutter had been terrific in eliminating the LA Galaxy in the first round but developed a stomach bug and was ineffective as the team lost to Colorado in the conference finals.

So Dir and his men definitely felt that “something to prove” pressure. Andy Swift, working then in media relations but later the team’s GM and now executive director of the Dr Pepper Dallas Cup, explained it like this:

“The Open Cup final was an opportunity to play MLS Cup champion D.C. United, who they would have played in MLS Cup, and who they generally felt they had a good chance of beating, provided Sutter was healthy.” Swift said. “So within the team, the game was an important opportunity to show they were as good as a two-time MLS champ.”


The Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) hoist the 1997 U.S. Open Cup trophy.

United was a fantastic team, blessed with individuals who would become MLS legends, Marco Etcheverry, Jaime Moreno and Raul Diaz Arce foremost among them. Directed by Bruce Arena, they had won a second MLS Cup just days before the Open Cup final (which was played back then at a neutral site).

“I really feel like that was one of the best teams I have ever played on in terms of the talent we had,” Washington said. “We were really disappointed in how things worked out against Colorado and felt like we should have been in MLS Cup [against D.C. United]. So it was great that we got to meet D.C. for this title.”

A testament to the talent and close-nit nature of that team is the astonishing fact that the Burn captured the ’97 Open Cup title without playing a single home game the entire tournament and remains the only team to have achieved that feat in the competition’s modern era (1995-present).

Washington pointed out there’s a little more going on in today’s domestic soccer scene. In addition to MLS Cup and the Open Cup, there are CONCACAF Champions League positions at stake. And Supporters Shield today is a bigger deal now than it was in those earliest MLS campaigns.

“It’s a title, you know? Any title is a big deal, of course,” he said. “But back then it was pretty much MLS Cup and the Open Cup, and that was it.”

The disappointment of a previous playoff ouster wasn’t only motivation driving the team. Dir had been careful to place the right people inside that barebones locker room at the old Cotton Bowl on the State Fair of Texas grounds, a roster full of “givers” rather than “takers,” as current national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann would say it. So the players were generally quite close, and it hit everyone hard when goalkeeper Mark Dodd’s mother died unexpectedly just days before the Open Cup final.

“We weren't sure if he was going to play, or even make the trip,” Swift said. “But once he decided to play, it became another rallying cry for the team, to win it for Mark.”

“To this day, I don’t know how Mark held it together for that match,” Washington said “It meant so much to all of us, to be able to give him just a little bit, even just an ounce of happiness after all the stuff he had gone through that week.”

The match was even, with United generating a slight edge in shots (18-14) but each goalkeeper claiming five saves. Both teams hit the post; Dallas did so twice, including once in the 30-minute overtime. (Highlights are here.) In the end, the teams played 120 scoreless minutes before Dallas prevailed in penalty kicks.

“I still have that medal,” said Lagerwey, who recalled picking up injured teammate Mark Santel and carrying him onto the field to be part of the post-game dog-pile and celebration. “It still means a lot. It’s still the only championship I won as a player, and it was a pretty cool moment to be part of that.”

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U.S. Open Cup Sep 12, 2016

2016 Open Cup Final: Revolution Raising Form at Right Time for Title Challenge

Timing is everything in MLS. It is the drumbeat in a grueling season, the lifeblood of a playoff push and the sole determining factor between failure and success. More than anything, it is the most critical component to success in a league predicated on fine margins.

Those realities provide hope for the New England Revolution as they seek their second Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title on Tuesday night. There were plenty of moments this season when a victory in a one-off match at FC Dallas looked well beyond them. This is not one of them.

For the first time this year, the Revs are operating in concert. Their past two league victories -- a 1-0 triumph over Colorado on Sept. 3 and a comprehensive 3-1 victory over New York City FC on Saturday -- reveal the potential in a side wondering whether this final arrives at the perfect time.

“I feel this team is starting to gel, starting to click and starting to fire on all cylinders,” Revolution goalkeeper Brad Knighton said. “We’ve had some issues at the back and we’ve sorted that out. We’ve found ourselves defensively and that ultimately led to us putting balls in the back of the net.”

It is how the team with the worst goal differential in MLS by five goals (-14) suddenly boasts the confidence to harbor realistic hopes of knocking off the Supporters’ Shield favorites on their home soil.

Revolution coach Jay Heaps credits his players for figuring out a way to smooth out the lapses in their performances over the past few weeks. The killer mistake -- most often present in a skewered chance from close range or a soft goal -- disappeared. The penchant for fluidity going forward and solidity in defense returned in its stead.

“It’s good momentum because we feel like we’re putting together 90-minute performances,” Heaps said. “Even against New York and San Jose, we thought those were steps in the right direction, but they weren’t complete performances. I feel like the last two games have been more complete over 90 minutes.”

 

Those improvements manifested in perhaps the best team performance of the season against New York City FC. The collective work on and off the ball limited NYCFC to just one shot on target and provided a platform to combine neatly in the attacking third. Those strides resulted in three goals and three precious points heading into the Open Cup final.

“It’s huge because you see the confidence of this team,” Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez said. “The way we celebrated the goals, you can see we’re a group. That’s what we want.”

All of those qualities must rise to the fore once again at Toyota Stadium. There is no room for error, even after FC Dallas sustained its first home loss this season against Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

Revolution forward Juan Agudelo cited FCD’s pace in the wide areas and resolve in defense as two of the key traits behind the club’s push to the top of the Western Conference.

“When it comes to them, they are at the top of the league for a reason,” Agudelo said. “They are a really, really good team. I watched their Open Cup game against LA. They deserved to win that game, I think. They have very fast players out wide and their defense is strong.”

Even with the strength of the opposition in mind, the Revs remain intently focused on the task at hand. This one-off final supplies them with a chance to claim the club’s first title since 2008, lift the Open Cup for a second time and secure a tangible reward for their work this season.

This opening arrives at the perfect time for a side now finding its footing. It is up to this group to grasp it with both hands, according to Heaps.

“For me, you don’t get many chances at championships,” Heaps said. “When you do, you have to relish it and you have to take your opportunity to win it. When you look at the finals we’ve been to as a club -- we were in four MLS Cup finals. As a player, I was there and I was in three Open Cup finals, two with the Revs and one with the Miami Fusion. And I was there in the SuperLiga final. We won two championships in six or seven opportunities. They’re difficult. …. Our one [Open Cup] championship came on the road in Dallas. We know it can be done.”
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U.S. Open Cup Sep 12, 2016
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