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.
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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.
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.