Fans of the 105-year-old Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup live by its magic moments. And the Second Round of the 2018 competition tossed up a good few of those on May 16. Join ussoccer.com for a look back at eight moments of note from the 24 games, in which a pair of brothers squared off in Carolina, nine amateur strivers booked places in the Third Round, things got weird in Vegas and we said goodbye to a band of merry part-timers who will be missed.
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- READ: Open Cup REWIND – ’95 Kickers: ‘Lightning in a Bottle’
- READ: Mississippi Brill: Men on a Mission
The Mice that Roar
The light was strange on the outskirts of Phoenix – a burnt red like pulverized brick – when amateurs Sporting Arizona FC finished the 24-game Second Round late with a shootout win over Phoenix Rising - a pro USL club part-owned by Didier Drogba (who also lines up for the team, though not on this night). The celebrations were raucous and grateful and full of emotion – and they seemed to speak to something pure about the Open Cup. There was magic dust in the air elsewhere as well. Ocean City Nor’Easters, out of Jersey, rolled over pros Charlotte Independence. FC Wichita and NTX Rayados (both amateurs) will meet in the Third Round after beating full-timers, guaranteeing one of them a date with an MLS team in the Fourth Round. Mississippi Brilla became the first team from the Magnolia State to reach the Third Round of an Open Cup after a slim 1-0 win over Indy Eleven that sparked the kind of celebrations only the Open Cup generates. In all, seven amateur teams beat pro opposition and nine of them live to fight another day in next week’s Third Round. Stand up, boys, and take a bow.
Lou City’s Tough Love
(The sky turned red when Sporting Arizona FC knocked out full-pros Phoenix Rising - photo Christopher Viveros)
Louisville City just don’t give a damn about your Open Cup romance. The USL pros proved it for a second year straight when they beat up-by-the bootstraps amateurs Long Island Rough Riders (PDL) 5-0 in the teams’ Second Round contest. They stomped on the gas early and never let up. Just like they did last year, opening their account then by beating pub club hopefuls Tartan Devils Oak Avalon – a team with a dream out of Pittsburgh – by a whopping 9-0. The coach on that day (same as now) was Irishman James O’Conner, who remembers his playing days in the FA Cup fondly. He’s no bully, and neither is his team. Far from it. “It’s important to approach a game, any game no matter who or what level – MLS or pub team – the same way,” he told ussoccer.com. “That’s how you show a team and the Cup respect.” It’s a fact, and the Rough Riders can consider themselves respected (heavily).
Brother Against Brother in Cary, N.C.
The Lansdowne Bhoys, most Irish-born with heavy accents, call their giant goalkeeper from the Gambia Kabo for short. It’s easier that way – Abdoukarim Kabo Dansomakes is more than a mouthful. North Carolina FC’s players call their burly defender Futty – again, it’s simpler. The two brothers, Abdoukarim of the double national amateur cup winners, and Mamadou – a full professional veteran with stints in MLS before landing in USL – squared off in the Open Cup’s Second Round on Wednesday. After the game, a 3-0 loss in which the Bhoys were outplayed all over the field, the big brothers who hail from Africa’s northwest corner (Futty wears No. 98 & Kabo wears No. 99) wore a pair of giant smiles and shared in an embrace. One was a winner on the day, the other a loser – as the Open Cup dictates – but they’re brothers for life.
(Kabo & Futty, brothers from the Gambia, lined up against each other in the Open Cup's Second Round - photo Rob Kinnan)
Goals, Goals, Goals & a Reno Jackpot
For the second round in a row, the tournament produced zero goalless draws (after 90 minutes or extra-time) – proof, irrefutable and notarized, that a good offense is the best defense against getting eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup. In all, there were 93 goals scored over the 24 games played (an average of nearly four per game). Ten of them came in Reno, Nevada. Portland Timbers U23, who scored five times in an opening-round rout of Kitsap Pumas, began the scoring on the night by taking a 2-0 lead over Reno 1868 – the Biggest Little City in the World’s USL pro team. The home boys woke from their slumber in the second half and didn’t stop scoring until they were 7-3 winners on the day. Yep, you heard that right. And kudos to the young Timbers who scored eight goals in two games – there’s no better way to go out of an Open Cup than riding a wave of goals.
What Happens in Vegas…is Weird
There’s something strange going on in Las Vegas – which is normal. But now it’s happening on (and around) the soccer field. Is that Flava Flav turning up to Las Vegas Lights games? Yes. Are the team’s mascots a pair of long-eye-lashed (live) Llamas named Dolly and Dotty? Yes. Does Freddy Adu play for this team in pink and yellow neon jerseys? Yes. Did their goalkeeper, Gage Rogers, take a free kick and hit the crossbar in their first-ever Open Cup game in #USOC2018’s Second Round? Why yes, he did. Las Vegas Lights – a first-year USL team from the City of Sin – lit up their first taste of American soccer’s oldest competition, beating spirited amateurs FC Tucson 4-2 in a game that swung back-and-forth like a Cirque du Soleil trapeze artist. Up next, the Lights travel to Orange County to take on FC Golden State Force. We’ll find out if the circus act works on the road or if what happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas.
(A pair of Llamas - Dotty & Dolly - line up with USL's Las Vegas Lights - nothing to see here - Photo L.E. Baskow)
FC Cincinnati v. Detroit City – On & Off the Field
They’d been going at each other all week on Twitter. Detroit City’s fans were better, their club more authentic, they insisted. FC Cincinnati’s supporters, unsurprisingly, disagreed. It wasn’t always friendly. There was irritation that the home side decided to play at a smaller venue than their usual Nippert Stadium (a pivotal character in FCC’s run to the semifinals of last year’s Open Cup). Detroit fans, unsurprisingly, were miffed at the small number of tickets made available to their traveling band of die-hards. In the end, as has been, is and will always be, the matter was settled on the field. There was nothing between the teams in the first-half. The scrappy amateurs from the Motor City held their own, taking the lead before finishing regulation tied 1-1. Extra-time proved a different story and Emery Welshman used his superior pace (and professional fitness) to send DCFC out of the Cup while collecting a hat-trick for his troubles. Their disappointment at the defeat didn’t keep the traveling Detroit City fans from helping to pick up trash left behind in the bleachers. Class – on and off the field.
Mother Nature – Open Cup Ever-Present
It’s springtime and the weather can be tricky across the plains and mountains and swamps and deserts and coasts of this huge and at times uncooperative land. Four games in Florida had to be delayed for fast-moving storms. A derby in Nashville, Tennessee between Nashville SC and Inter Nashville FC, had to be stopped and restarted after a 45-minute break. The heat in Midland, Texas where San Antonio FC hammered the Midland-Odessa Sockers, reached 101 degrees at kick-off. And over in Phoenix, where Sporting AZ FC and their veteran goalkeeper Andrew Weber made magic, there was sand in the air and the sky glowed an ominous red. Snow was spotted in Reno, Nevada before kick-off. Penn FC were waylaid by human nature when they got caught in rush-hour traffic. This is the Open Cup: many moving parts, but much to savor amid the unforeseen frustrations.
(How's that for some weather rolling in? The sky went wild over Nashville on Wednesday)
In among the upsets and the dreams, we’d be wrong not to spare a thought for those clubs who took their leave. With every rise, a fall; this is the Open Cup after all. There’s no winner without a loser – no draws here. Nothing to share. So, let us wish all the best to Sean Kelly and all the Bhoys from Yonkers, who are back at work today, building the offices and high-rises of Manhattan, wishing they’d gone a little farther – one round more maybe. And Reading United, those plucky young men from PA, who leave the Open Cup undefeated after winning in a shootout in the First Round and losing by that same sword in the Second. We’ll have to wonder what they might have done with a few more weeks to get to know each other. And Detroit City, we’ll miss you noisy folks, too. Thanks for bringing your own brand of magic to the Open Cup – and showing us into your lovely home in Hamtramck. To you and all the other dearly departed, thanks for showing us what grassroots soccer really means to America.