U.S. Soccer
0
{734BC1E5-56C5-4F71-8220-2D3A83E219D7}
US Soccer

Division II Louisville City FC Joins All-MLS Cast in 2018 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals

CHICAGO (June 20, 2018) – On the final night of the Round of 16, Division II club Louisville City FC defeated fellow United Soccer League (USL) aspirants Nashville SC 2-1 to join an all-MLS cast in the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – U.S. Soccer’s National Championship.

Division I Major League Soccer outfits Orlando City SC, four-time Open Cup champs Chicago Fire and first-year club Los Angeles FC also won tightly contested Round of 16 games on Wednesday night to claim the remaining berths in the tournament Quarterfinals. Earlier in the Round of 16, Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers and reigning champion Sporting Kansas City advanced to the tournament’s Quarterfinal Round, which is currently scheduled to be played on Wednesday, July 18.

Quarterfinal Schedule

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Time

Venue

July 18

Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs.Orlando City SC (MLS)

7 p.m. ET

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

July 18

Chicago Fire (MLS) vs. Louisville City FC (USL)

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

July 18

Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Sporting Kansas City (MLS)

7:30 p.m. CT

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

July 18

Los Angeles FC (MLS) vs. Portland Timbers (MLS)

7:30 p.m. PT

Banc of California Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.

By dint of being the sole remaining lower division club in the tournament, Louisville City wins the $25,000 prize awarded to each lower division side to advance furthest in the competition. Previously, FC Golden State Force won $25,000 as the amateur club to advance farthest in the tournament, defeating two higher division opponents before bowing out in a Fourth Round contest with LA Galaxy.

After the completion of the Quarterfinal Round on July 18, the Final Draw, which determines hosting priority for the tournament Semifinals and Final, will be held the morning of July 19.

Just as the four games earlier in the Round of 16 had been, Wednesday’s games were all tight affairs decided by a single goal or in the case of Orlando and D.C. United, a penalty shootout that the Lions won 4-2 after the sides drew 1-1 through 120 minutes of regulation and overtime. In the night’s other all-MLS encounter, Chicago Fire grabbed an impressive 1-0 win on the road against Atlanta United, who were cheered on by an all-time record crowd for a stand-alone Open Cup game as 41,012 packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

In the nightcap, LAFC needed a last-minute strike from Latif Blessing, who helped Sporting Kansas City claim the 2017 U.S. Open Cup crown with a goal in the Final, to escape high-flying USL club Sacramento Republic FC 3-2 at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Round of 16’s previous matchdays featured all-MLS match-ups that saw Portland beat LA Galaxy 1-0, Philadelphia defeat New York Red Bulls 2-1, Kansas City down FC Dallas 3-2 and Houston see off Minnesota United FC 1-0.

Round of 16 Results

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Result

Venue

June 15

Portland Timbers (MLS) vs. LA Galaxy (MLS)

1-0

Providence Park; Portland, Ore.

June 16

Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. New York Red Bulls (MLS)

2-1

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

June 16

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) vs. FC Dallas (MLS)

3-2

Children's Mercy Park; Kansas City, Kan.

June 18

Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Minnesota United FC (MLS)

1-0

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

June 20

D.C. United (MLS) vs. Orlando City SC (MLS)

1-1 (2-4 PKs)

Maryland SoccerPlex; Boyds, Md.

June 20

Louisville City FC (USL) vs. Nashville SC (USL)

2-1

Lynn Stadium (Univ. of Louisville); Louisville, Ky.

June 20

Atlanta United FC (MLS) vs. Chicago Fire (MLS)

0-1

Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Atlanta, Ga.

June 20

Los Angeles FC (MLS) vs. Sacramento Republic FC (USL)

3-2

Banc of California Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 20
D.C. United (MLS) 1, Orlando City SC (MLS) 1 (2-4 PKs)
Persistent rain showers forced a lengthy delay at Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday night, but as the show must go on, so does the U.S. Open Cup. And the two MLS clubs delivered a drama-packed Round of 16 clash with Orlando City SC outlasting D.C. United in penalties following a 1-1 stalemate through 120 minutes of play. Luciano Acosta found the opener for the home side in the ninth minute when he smashed home a quick pass into the box from Darren Mattocks. Less than 10 minutes later, Justin Meram got the equalizer for Orlando City, sneaking a water-logged ball through the wickets of D.C. United goalkeeper Steve Clark. After a scoreless second half and thirty minutes of extra time, Earl Edwards Jr. made two penalty saves to set up Josue Colman’s clincher for Orlando City SC. The Lions from Central Florida advance to face Philadelphia Union in the Quarterfinals.

Louisville City FC (USL) 2, Nashville SC (USL) 1
In their third meeting of the year, Louisville City bested Nashville SC 2-1 at that cozy confines of Lynn Stadium on the University of Louisville campus. Paco Craig and Paolo DelPiccolo provided the firepower for the hosts whose hot league form carried over to the U.S. Open Cup and sees the club through to a July 18 Quarterfinal against MLS' Chicago Fire. In a see-saw affair, it was the Kentuckians who seized the early advantage through consistent possession and a well-played corner kick routine that was finished off by Craig in the 24th minute. While Nashville was able to carve out opportunities on the counter, Louisville looked comfortable taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room.

In the second frame, things got even better for the hosts as their captain, DelPiccolo, converted another smart corner kick in the 58th minute. But the home side were made to sweat as Nashville found some urgency and then a goal from Matt LaGrassa in the 68th minute to make for a wild ending in which both goalkeepers stood on their heads to keep their teams’ hopes of advancement alive. In the end, it was Tim Dobrowolski who was able to infuse his Lou City defense with a little bit of the grit and magic his Alma Mater Loyola University – Chicago displayed earlier this year in a similar knockout tournament to claim the 2-1 victory and a visit to the Windy City for a Last Eight showdown.

Atlanta United FC (MLS) 0, Chicago Fire (MLS) 1
This Round of 16 match was tense and tight from the opening whistle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where 41,012 fans turned out to cheer on the home team and break the all-time attendance record for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game. Early on it seemed like the record crowd would be rewarded as Atlanta United took firm control of the contest in the opening stages. It was an ominous sign, however, when the first real chance of note came from the Fire in the 17th minute. Diego Campos sent in a dangerous corner-kick that was struck on the volley by former Champions League and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger. Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann was up to the task, making the save, and the German schemer’s appeals that the ball had crossed the line were half-hearted at best. Five minutes later Sal Zizzo fired his effort just inches from the top corner for the home side and both teams had a handful more half-chances before the whistle went for the interval with the score the same as it was at the start.

The crucial moment came in the 53rd minute via a silky, flowing move from the visitors, themselves four-time U.S. Open Cup winners. A brilliant through ball into the box from Schweinsteiger picked out the racing Argentine Luis Solignac, who squared the ball across the face of goal to be poked home by Nemanja Nikolic. It was the Hungarian international’s third goal in 2018 Open Cup play after he bagged a brace in the previous round against Columbus Crew. Current Atlanta (former Barcelona) coach Tata Martino threw on a pair of attack-minded subs as the game clock wound toward 90, and the home team threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the Fire. The best Atlanta could manage, though, was a strike against the woodwork from Tito Villalba as the game finished 1-0 to the visitors, who now face Louisville City of the United Soccer League (USL) in the Quarterfinal.

Los Angeles FC (MLS) 3, Sacramento Republic FC (USL) 2
It seemed at times as though Sacramento Republic FC would will itself past Los Angeles FC in the teams’ 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 showdown, but LAFC’s quality ultimately shown through as the SoCal side escaped their northern neighbors with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium in LA.

It was late heartbreak for a Sacramento side that twice took the lead while also defending gallantly in the face of LAFC’s swift and talented attack that hit the woodwork as often as it found the back of the net. Latif Blessing’s 89th minute winner completed the comeback for the home side as he converted a goalmouth cross from perhaps the player of the game Diego Rossi.

It was Rossi who knotted the game at 2-2 in the 67th minute, pegging back Sacramento after Villyan Bijev’s top-corner dart finished a beautifully worked give-and-go with a pair of teammates to put the visitors up 2-1 on the hour mark. Only three minutes before that, LAFC captain Benny Feilhaber had drawn the sides level at 1-1, making amends for putting a first half PK attempt right into the arms of Sacramento goalkeeper, Josh Cohen, who was immense on the night and one of the main reasons the Republic put a heart-stopping scare into their Division I opponents. Elliot Hord scored the game’s opening goal late in the first half, helping Sacramento gain a toe-hold in a game it looked as though they would not have been so competitive in early on.

LAFC moves on to host MLS rivals Portland Timbers at Banc of California Stadium in the tournament Quarterfinals on July 18.

MONDAY, JUNE 18
Houston Dynamo (MLS) 1, Minnesota United FC (MLS) 0
A lone goal from Colombian Mauro Manotas just after the interval was enough to see Houston Dynamo win their second straight 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game at BBVA Compass Stadium at the expense of Minnesota United. The home team took the lead with only two minutes gone in the second half. Mauro Manotas was first to the near post and got on the end of a corner-kick to head the Houstonians into the lead. It was the Colombian’s fifth goal in the tournament, making him the top scorer in the Dynamo’s Open Cup history. The slim 1-0 win sets a date for the Texans, twice MLS champions, against Open Cup holders Sporting Kansas City in next month’s Quarterfinals.

SATURDAY, JUNE 16
Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 1

Philadelphia Union, playing in a second straight 2018 Open Cup game at Talen Energy Stadium, edged out old rivals and 2017 Open Cup runners-up New York Red Bulls 2-1 in a tight contest. In the 52nd minute, Philly’s Haris Medunjanin evaded Tyler Adams near the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a rocket of a left-footed shot that took a slight deflection before hitting the net. Then a good piece of service from captain Alejandro Bedoya set up Cory Burke, who kept his cool to slot home and make it 2-0 for the Union in the 61st minute. Four minutes after that, New York’s Daniel Royer hit the post before Bradley Wright-Phillips cut the lead in half in the 78th minute. Despite some jittery moments, the Union held firm to advance and host the winner between D.C. United and Orlando City.

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 3, FC Dallas (MLS) 2
In a rematch of the enthralling Open Cup Quarterfinal from last year between defending champions Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, the home side had to fight back from a goal down to keep their dream of a repeat – and a fifth overall title – alive. Talented striker Daniel Salloi, still just 21 years old, scored a pair of goals in Sporting KC’s 3-2 victory that was capped by a scorching winner off the full volley by Yohan Croizet that will surely be a candidate for goal of the tournament. After 19 minutes, Michael Barrios crossed to Carlos Gruezo, who had the easiest of jobs tapping in from close range. Salloi then struck two in a row on either side of the interval to put the hosts up 2-1. But Dallas refused to go away, and Roland Lamah drew level at 2-2 in the 77th minute before Croizet’s magnificent winner just minutes before the final whistle.

FRIDAY, JUNE 15
Portland Timbers (MLS) 1, LA Galaxy (MLS) 0

A lone goal from diminutive Argentine Sebastian Blanco on the half-hour mark was enough to see the Portland Timbers past LA Galaxy, 1-0, and through to the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In the lead-up to the goal, Portland ball moved through midfield from left to right before sending it up front for Fanendo Adi, who back-heeled into the penalty area and the path of Blanco. The Argentine livewire wriggled by his marker and slotted coolly past the ‘keeper for the game winner. The Timbers move on to meet the winner of Wednesday’s Round of 16 game between Los Angeles FC (MLS) and Sacramento Republic (USL). 
Read more
U.S. Open Cup Jun 20, 2018
US Soccer

SacRep’s Simon Elliott: A Time to Shine

Sacramento Republic FC are no strangers to the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, nor do they they fear any particular team. The Republic make the six-hour trip south to Los Angeles to face MLS and Open Cup newcomers LAFC in the Round of 16. But playing a team from the upper reaches of American professional soccer (MLS) is nothing new for Coach Simon Elliott and his side. Last season, in their deepest ever Cup run, they lost to LA Galaxy at the same stage of the competition.

Elliott only took over the reigns of Republic FC from last year’s coach Paul Buckle this February, but his understanding of the U.S. Open Cup system and what the tournament offers has been an aid in preparing his players for each match so far. “Pretty much every country has a knockout tournament and it’s great,” said Elliott, a native of New Zealand who played seven years in MLS and two years in England with Fulham. It’s a chance to compete against teams that you’re supposedly better than. It’s a chance to compete against teams who are supposedly better than you. It’s a fantastic tournament to be a part of.”


(Elliott - on the right - in action for New Zealand in international competition)

Changing Face of Open Cup
“Our outlook changes throughout the tournament,” added Elliott matter-of-factly. “The first round is tricky. You’ve got to keep yourself motivated. Most of the time, we’ll be playing against a team from a lower league or even an amateur team. And if you don’t take that seriously, or if you don’t approach it the right way, teams can upset you. We had a little trouble in our first game [against Premier Development League amateurs San Francisco City FC, after conceding a soft goal. We won 3-1, but we put ourselves under unnecessary pressure.”

The former Republic FC Academy coach, who was a rangy holding midfielder during his years in Major League Soccer, has seen his side pull off some impressive performances in this year’s Cup run, most recently knocking off MLS side and four-time Open Cup champions Seattle Sounders 2-1. “As you move on, you start to play against some really good teams. Teams like the Sounders, who we had in the last round, know what they’re doing, they’ve been there before and it’s a challenge,” said Elliott, who won the Open Cup in 2001 with LA Galaxy. “But if you prepare properly, and if you understand what you’re facing, it can give you the confidence that you can compete.”


(Jeremy Hall of SacRep is a solid veteran at the heart of defense)

For Elliott the Cup has a special allure. “I think we’re all taken by the romance of the Cup competition. Teams rise, players rise to that [occasion]. In that sense, it’s absolutely an opportunity. It’s a chance for us to shine, just as it is for LAFC,” he said. “It’s their first year and I’m sure they want to win silverware just as badly as we do. Any professional player or team would want to show what they’ve got and the Open Cup gives us a great chance to do that.”

His players will have every opportunity to show their stuff when play kicks off at Banc of California Stadium Wednesday night, in the last of the 2018 tournament’s eight Round of 16 games. Will he have to make some changes, perhaps rotate players? Of course. But that’s something Elliott apparently relishes. “Because of the USL [United Soccer League] schedule and the way the Open Cup is scheduled, you have to be prepared to rotate. You have to be ready to have everybody play, and that’s a good thing. These guys want to play and I feel that’s a real positive. They’ve all gotten a chance to play a lot in the past few weeks and they’ve stepped up.”

There’s a quiet confidence about the Republic FC manager, and his realistic approach seems reassuring, as if his wealth of experience helps translate to this team’s measured performances. “LAFC play a bit differently than Seattle and we’re going on the road. We have to really bed down what we’re about and make sure everyone knows their roles and then away we go. Everybody is aware of what they need to do. We have some players who have Cup experience, but we’re not relying on any one person.”

Old Campaigners Lead the Way
Chief among those Cup experienced players are Major League Soccer veterans Jeremy Hall and Adam Moffat, 29 and 32 respectively. “I love those dirty, messy Cup games,” said Hall, a former Puerto Rico international, in his 10th year as a professional player. A rugged defender, he loves the grit and thunder of Cup play. “You can just see the rough fight of those Open Cup games – you know it’s coming. No one gives you an inch. It’s never pretty. Guys try to prove themselves all over the place. Those are the games that are fun. You have to be into it for 90 minutes.”


(Sacramento in Round-of-16 action against LA Galaxy in 2017 - it's where their Cup run ended)

When asked about the nature of being an underdog in this competition, Elliott – a man who knows those rough-and-tumble Cup days as well as anyone –refuses to be painted with that brush. “How do we approach it? We’re a USL team playing against an MLS team. Do we consider ourselves underdogs? Well, we are playing away from home, against a team in a higher league. I think it will be a tough test.”
Read more
U.S. Open Cup Jun 20, 2018
US Soccer

A New Harkes for America’s Oldest Cup

Ian Harkes, in one way or another, has lived through more Open Cup moments than most. That’s what happens when you’re the son of one of the country’s most accomplished players – his dad, John Harkes won the 1996 title with D.C. United and the 2002 championship with the Columbus Crew.

“I was pretty young but I remember seeing pictures of when he won it and videos of the games and it looks like it was great,” Ian said while preparing for D.C. United’s Round of 16 match in the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup against Orlando City SC at the Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday, June 20.


((A former star with Wake Forest, Ian Harkes has big shoes to fill)

When Ian Harkes was just a bouncing 1 ½ year-old, his father was off captaining an all-conquering United team that captured an MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup double within a 10-day period (Oct. 20-30) in 1996 – Major League Soccer’s inaugural year. Before Ian’s time, his father had plenty of Cup success in England too, having won the 1991 League Cup with Sheffield Wednesday and finished runner-up in both the 1993 FA Cup and League Cup with Derby County.

Open Cup Appreciation Early
“Ian has full appreciation for the Open Cup, without a doubt, the way it was discussed in our house,” John Harkes told ussoccer.com. “Cindi and I raised Ian and our two daughters to appreciate every moment in soccer. Special moments don’t come often.”

Of late, Ian Harkes has been making his own Cup history for the family scrapbook. Last year he scored his first goal as a professional when D.C. United beat lively amateurs Christos FC 4-1 in the Fourth Round. This year, he opened the scoring in the 25th minute as D.C. United eliminated North Carolina FC (of the second-division United Soccer League - USL) in a penalty shootout after playing to a 1-1 draw in another Fourth-Round match at the SoccerPlex.

“I always knew the Open Cup was modeled after the FA Cup,” added Ian, still just 23 and a former standout at collegiate soccer power Wake Forest. With his United team on the bottom of the MLS Eastern Conference standings, the 2018 Cup’s a chance for some positive vibes in a team suffering through rough league form. “It’s always exciting; it gives teams a chance to shine. It’s cool because it gives underdogs in the U.S. a chance too. I knew D.C. had success with the Open Cup in the past. Definitely, 2013, I was proud when D.C. United won it. I’ve been a fan my whole life.”

D.C. United defeated Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium to capture that 2013 title and also won the 2008 Final against the Charleston Battery (USL) at RFK Stadium in a year that was the last time a team from below the top-flight of MLS reached the championship match. “I always had this interest in the Open Cup,” John Harkes said. “The history of it. I loved the structure of it, and how it’s open to any team. In ’96, for me it was more about the education I received playing in FA Cups in England and correlating that to the U.S. Open Cup. I always valued it, just like any domestic league tournament.


(John Harkes - Ian's dad - in his heyday for D.C. United)

“Winning the Open Cup when I was in Columbus, with the Hunts – Lamar and Dan and Clark – Columbus’ first trophy, that was pretty special and it really resonates now that it’s named after Lamar Hunt (the tournament was re-named to honor the America soccer pioneer in 1999),” John added.

John Harkes also experienced the disappointment of Cup knockout competition. He played for the New England Revolution in a 1-0 loss to the all-amateur Mid-Michigan Bucks (now just the Michigan Bucks) in 2000, among the biggest upsets in the tournament’s long 105-year history. While coaching FC Cincinnati in their first year as a club, Harkes guided the team to a Second Round win before being eliminated in the Third Round by the Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2016.

“I tell the kids, ‘You can’t remember all the downs and mistakes; you’ve got to play through them’,” note the elder Harkes, who went on to earn 90 caps for the U.S. Men’s National Team and play in two World Cups. “The best players have amnesia, they learn from their mistakes and move on. There are a lot of giant-killers out there and I think it’s special for those clubs.

“Whenever I was a player, I wanted to play the strongest team we could [in the Open Cup] because we want to win this thing,” Harkes went on. “At Cincinnati, I said let’s go for it, we want to win every game. It’s a special tournament, steeped in history and tradition, and you want to say you competed for it. It’s a prestigious tournament and I really hope it gets to the point U.S. Soccer and mainstream media give it special honor.”

Deep Open Cup Roots
The Harkes family goes back even farther than the two most recent generations in Cup competitions. Ian’s grandfather and an uncle – both named Jimmie – played for the Kearny (N.J.) Scots American AC teams in the U.S. Amateur Cup. The Scots Americans won five consecutive American Soccer League titles (1937-41), advancing as far as the Semifinals of the 1935 U.S. Open Cup. “They always said to us, no matter what we did, ‘You’ll never beat that record’ – five straight championships,” Jimmie Harkes Jr. recalled.


(Ian Harkes in action for DC United against Columbus Crew)

But there’s time for young Ian. “There’s a lot riding on it,” the youngest of the Harkes boys said of the Open Cup. “It’s different, because you’re not sure what lineup the other team is going to put out. But you treat every opportunity like it’s your last, advance any way possible. The fans want us to get back there again, and keep progressing. We haven’t won a trophy for four or five years, and this is definitely a trophy we can win, and focus our season on.”

With a proud – and demanding – family tradition to carry on, the most recent in a line of Harkes boys is set to make his own mark on the historic U.S. Open Cup. He’s four wins away from putting his first piece of hardware in that family cabinet.

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Jun 20, 2018
US Soccer

Open Cup Numbers Game for Atlanta United

Since 1914, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup has annually presented potential Cinderella stories, David-and-Goliath matchups, and just about any underdog theme you can imagine. And now, 105 editions later, you can throw steadily growing crowds into that heady mix.

Until recently, supporters have seldom embraced the tournament on a large scale. Cincinnatians have been getting into the Cup spirit, becoming the first to break the 30,000-attendance barrier for non-title match U.S. Open Cup games last year. FC Cincinnati, the city’s second-division United Soccer League (USL) pro team, attracted three 30,000-plus crowds – surpassed only by Seattle Sounders’ U.S. Open Cup record of 35,615 at CenturyLink Field for the 2011 Final.


(The crowds started big for Atlanta United - and they've stayed big)

Now, Atlanta United of Major League Soccer (MLS) looks likely to go one better. Well, a lot more than just one better. The Georgia-based club’s Round of 16 match against four-time Open Cup champs Chicago Fire at their Mercedes-Benz Stadium on June 20 is expected to break all previous Open Cup records. “It’s a fantastic competition, so different than American sports,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales told ussoccer.com. “Everyone has a chance to be a Cinderella story, even if they’re an amateur club. We’re pleased we’re a small part of building it.” 

Big Crowds to the Cup
Atlanta United is taking Cup interest to a new level, and that’s without having yet experienced significant success in the competition. Last year, Atlanta United exited with a loss to second-tier pros Miami FC (then of NASL) in their second match of the competition. This time, Georgia’s MLS club opened with a 3-0 win over 2008 runners-up Charleston Battery (USL) before a capacity crowd at Fifth Third Bank Stadium in Kennesaw, Ga., on June 6. “We had [nearly] 10,000 at Kennesaw, a sellout,” Eales said. “It was jam-packed, great atmosphere, so we decided to take a chance on Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Hopefully, we’ll have a record attendance.”

Atlanta’s Cup interest follows the city having become enthralled with United’s MLS campaign. Unlike the regular season, though, the knockout nature of the Open Cup means there’s been no long-range planning in the run-up to the next game. “We’re in our second season, and it’s been unbelievable, the level of support,” added Eales. “We’re averaging 48,500 and we’re projected to average 53,000 this season, which would be 15th in the world. The level of support is incredible. Last year, we averaged 47,000 and some people said it was a flash in the pan, that attendance would drop this year. Instead, it’s been the reverse. People are bringing their friends, and they’re getting bitten by it and becoming season [ticket] holders.

“We were hopeful and optimistic it would be a success, but never to the level it has been. I was [hired] in November 2014 and we expected Mercedes-Benz to have 29,000 for soccer matches, which was the lower bowl,” admitted Eales about the relatively humble early expectations. “Now, we’ve capped it at 42,500 and we’ve opened the whole stadium five times this year. I’d be kidding you if I said we expected that.


(Atlanta United won their first 2018 Open Cup game on the road against Charleston Battery)

“But it’s not only the numbers, the atmosphere is incredible,” he added, citing wild scenes from the stands in Atlanta, in only the club’s second season. “I would hold it up to anywhere in Europe or South America for excitement and energy. That’s what has impressed me about the fans. With soccer fans, there is a big difference between them and other sports. With the chants and tifos, it’s different than other American sports, and that’s part of why it’s successful in Atlanta and in America. Fans can feel they’re a part of the [team].”

For most of the history of MLS, even the best-supported teams have often staged Open Cup matches at small stadia. But interest has grown as American soccer supporters seem to be catching on to the romance and magic of Cup play. Eales, 45, grew up with the FA Cup and clubs competing in promotion and relegation situations in England before going on to play at Brown University.

“In England, you’ve got [lower] division clubs with construction workers playing for them,” Eales said. “This gives a chance to tell stories like Christos’ [the Baltimore pub team who reached the Fourth Round of the Open Cup last year and lined up against D.C. United of MLS]. It’s a chance to compare teams. Everyone loves speculating, can a Cincinnati or Louisville compete against an MLS team?”

When the tournament was known as the National Challenge Cup, the greatest crowd had been 21,583 for the 1929 final, New York Hakoah taking a 2-0 win over St. Louis Madison Kennels at Dexter Park in Brooklyn. That attendance might have been higher, had the match been staged at its planned site, the Polo Grounds. Scheduling of the Final had been interrupted because of a dispute involving the American Soccer League and U.S. Soccer, according to the Boston Globe. Several ASL teams proposed either skipping participation in the Cup, or delaying the tournament until after the regular season had been completed, in defiance of U.S. Soccer.

Echoes of Open Cups Past
According to a story in the April 5, 1929 Boston Globe: “The National Cup Final would have been possible at the Polo Grounds had the present mess been cleaned up yesterday. Now it will be forced to a ground far out of the city and, therefore, not desirable for such an important game.”

The 1929 mark stood until the 2010 final, when the Seattle Sounders took a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Crew before a crowd of 31,311 at Qwest Field.


(With the roof open or closed, the Mercedes-Benz Stadium is something to behold)

Atlanta United, though, could be just getting warmed up. A win over Chicago Fire this week would mean another home game in the Quarterfinal (against USL sides Louisville City or Nashville SC). Cup fever would likely continue to spread. A key will be maintaining the standards set by Tata Martino, the former Barcelona and Argentina national team coach who guides Atlanta United.

“I agree, Tata has been a game-changer,” Eales said. “He’s enjoying it and loving life in America. No different than players, at some stage they may leave. That’s the nature of a global game. Look at Spain [Julen Lopetegui left the national team on the eve of the World Cup]. These things happen. We don’t believe a player is ever going to leave us, or coach. You have to have contingency plans in place. And the great thing about Atlanta leadership is [owner] Arthur Blank wants people to succeed, and because we’ve been successful, people want to take some of that magic dust and take it to their club.”

Results on the field and a party in the stands – seems like a recipe for success anywhere in the world. And Atlanta United is surely bringing that winning formula to MLS and the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.  

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Jun 19, 2018
US Soccer

Four Division I Clubs Have Reached the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals, Four Berths Remain

CHICAGO (June 18, 2018) – The Houston Dynamo joined fellow Division I clubs Portland Timbers, Philadelphia Union and Sporting Kansas City in reaching the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup – U.S. Soccer’s National Championship – on Monday night by defeating MLS side Minnesota United FC 1-0 at BBVA Compass Stadium. Four additional berths in the tournament’s Quarterfinal Round will be determined on Wednesday, June 20.

Wednesday’s games promise more tight affairs with two more all-MLS clashes on tap when D.C. United welcome Orlando City SC to Maryland SoccerPlex (7 p.m. ET) and Atlanta United FC host Chicago Fire before a massive crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (7:30 p.m. ET). Similarly, a pair of Division II United Soccer League Sides (USL) clubs square off when Louisville City FC and Nashville SC meet at Lynn Stadium on the University of Louisville campus (7 p.m. ET). In the nightcap, first-year MLS side Los Angeles FC takes on high-flying USL team Sacramento Republic FC at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles (7:30 p.m. PT).

The Round of 16’s previous match days featured all-MLS match-ups that saw Portland beat LA Galaxy 1-0, Philadelphia defeated New York Red Bulls 2-1 and Kansas City down FC Dallas 3-2. After the completion of Wednesday’s games, the Quarterfinal Round is scheduled to take place on July 18 with the Final Draw, which determines hosting priority for the tournament Semifinals and Final. 

FRIDAY, JUNE 15
Portland Timbers (MLS) 1, LA Galaxy (MLS) 0

A lone goal from diminutive Argentine Sebastian Blanco on the half-hour mark was enough to see the Portland Timbers past LA Galaxy, 1-0, and through to the Quarterfinals of the 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. In the lead-up to the goal, Portland ball moved through midfield from left to right before sending it up front for Fanendo Adi, who back-heeled into the penalty area and the path of Blanco. The Argentine livewire wriggled by his marker and slotted coolly past the ‘keeper for the game winner. The Timbers move on to meet the winner of Wednesday’s Round of 16 game between Los Angeles FC (MLS) and Sacramento Republic (USL).

SATURDAY, JUNE 16
Philadelphia Union (MLS) 2, New York Red Bulls (MLS) 1

Philadelphia Union, playing in a second straight 2018 Open Cup game at Talen Energy Stadium, edged out old rivals and 2017 Open Cup runners-up New York Red Bulls 2-1 in a tight contest. In the 52nd minute, Philly’s Haris Medunjanin evaded Tyler Adams near the edge of the penalty area before unleashing a rocket of a left-footed shot that took a slight deflection before hitting the net. Then a good piece of service from captain Alejandro Bedoya set up Cory Burke, who kept his cool to slot home and make it 2-0 for the Union in the 61st minute. Four minutes after that, New York’s Daniel Royer hit the post before Bradley Wright-Phillips cut the lead in half in the 78th minute. Despite some jittery moments, the Union held firm to advance and host the winner between D.C. United and Orlando City.

Sporting Kansas City (MLS) 3, FC Dallas (MLS) 2
In a rematch of the enthralling Open Cup Quarterfinal from last year between defending champions Sporting Kansas City and FC Dallas, the home side had to fight back from a goal down to keep their dream of a repeat – and a fifth overall title – alive. Talented striker Daniel Salloi, still just 21 years old, scored a pair of goals in Sporting KC’s 3-2 victory that was capped by a scorching winner off the full volley by Yohan Croizet that will surely be a candidate for goal of the tournament. After 19 minutes, Michael Barrios crossed to Carlos Gruezo, who had the easiest of jobs tapping in from close range. Salloi then struck two in a row on either side of the interval to put the hosts up 2-1. But Dallas refused to go away, and Roland Lamah drew level at 2-2 in the 77th minute before Croizet’s magnificent winner just minutes before the final whistle.

MONDAY, JUNE 18
Houston Dynamo (MLS) 1, Minnesota United FC (MLS) 0

A long goal from Colombian Mauro Manotas just after the interval was enough to see Houston Dynamo win their second straight 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game at BBVA Compass Stadium at the expense of Minnesota United. The home team took the lead with only two minutes gone in the second half. Mauro Manotas was first to the near post and got on the end of a corner-kick to head the Houstonians into the lead. It was the Colombian’s fifth goal in the tournament, making him the top scorer in the Dynamo’s Open Cup history. The slim 1-0 win sets a date for the Texans, twice MLS champions, against Open Cup holders Sporting Kansas City in next month’s Quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal Schedule

Date

Game (home team listed first)

Time

Venue

July 18

Philadelphia Union (MLS) vs. D.C. United (MLS)/Orlando City SC (MLS) winner

7 p.m. ET

Talen Energy Stadium; Chester, Pa.

July 18

Atlanta United FC (MLS) vs. Louisville City FC (USL)/Nashville SC (USL) winner

TBD

TBD

   -or-

July 18

Chicago Fire (MLS) vs. Louisville City FC (USL)/Nashville SC (USL) winner

7:30 p.m. CT

Toyota Park; Bridgeview, Ill.

July 18

Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Sporting Kansas City (MLS)

7:30 p.m. CT

BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas

July 18

Los Angeles FC (MLS) vs. Portland Timbers (MLS)

7:30 p.m. PT

Banc of California Stadium; Los Angeles, Calif.

   -or-

July 18

Sacramento Republic FC (USL) vs. Portland Timbers (MLS)

8 p.m. PT

Papa Murphy's Park; Sacramento, Calif.


Read more
U.S. Open Cup Jun 19, 2018
×