U.S. Open Cup: Meet the first-round winners

The big story from last night’s U.S. Open Cup first round is Harpo’s FC of the Colorado Amateur Soccer League, billed as Colorado’s Most Competitive League. It must be pretty good — Harpo’s is only in third place in Division 1 East.

They’re bringing a lot of attention to the U.S. Specialty Sports Association, which was only added to the U.S. Open Cup field in 2013. And I’d imagine a lot of people now have an interest in checking out Harpo’s Bar and Grill in Boulder. At the very least, I know where I’m going if I’m ever in Boulder while a UFC event is on.

And hirsute goalkeeper Zac Gibbens will surely be a cult hero for stopping several shots, including one in the PK shootout.

The starting points for reading about the first round are:

1. TheCup.us first-round preview, with each club’s Cup history.

2. USSoccer.com recap

3. TheCup.us recap

Other first-round results (home teams listed first):

PDL over NPSL

West Virginia Chaos 1, Fort Pitt Regiment 0: Two first-timers in the Cup. West Virginia will get a few more players for the next round; they were busy with finals this week.

Long Island Rough Riders 3, Brooklyn Italians 1: The Italians won the Cup a couple of times in the pre-MLS days but couldn’t hang in here despite the heroics of keeper Mike Bernardi. The Rough Riders, who got two goals and an assist from Hofstra/England midfielder Joe Holland, are two decades old and were a big-time player in the USL A-League days. Footnote for women’s soccer fans: Former co-owner Louis Ederer represented Dan Borislow in his legal action against WPS.

Michigan Bucks 3, Detroit City FC 0: The perennial PDL and Cup contenders are still kings of the warehouse. And we have a Peri Marosevic sighting — goal-scorer for the Bucks. DCFC’s noisy fans were the talk of Twitter last night and impressed Detroit Free Press columnist Jeff Seidel.

Midland/Odessa Sockers 3, Tulsa Athletics 1: Yet another first-timer advances, in this case over a second-timer. TheCup.us counted eight countries represented on the Midland/Odessa roster. The Sockers’ coach flew in three hours before the game.

FC Tacoma 253 2, Kitsap Pumas 5: Please don’t name yourself after an area code. The other interesting tidbit from TheCup.us: Tacoma features a player on loan from an Italian Serie D side. Didn’t help here — Kitsap took a 5-0 lead and cruised.

NPSL over PDL

Western Mass Pioneers 1, Greater Binghamton Thunder 1 (GB 4-3 on PKs): First Cup win for the Thunder, knocking off a Cup perennial. Pretty impressive for a team with one player on the roster. The Pioneers were down to 10 men by the end.

AC Connecticut 2, Virginia Beach City FC 3: Each club was appearing in the Cup for the first time. ACC was formerly known as Connecticut FC Azul. I’m guessing this is the first time a Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads team has advanced since the Virginia Beach Mariners did it in 2006. I’d love to know how #7 Player Name and #13 Player Name fared.

Miami United 2, SW Florida Adrenaline 1: 93rd-minute winner. These two teams are also first-timers. The Adrenaline lost a player in the second half and then squandered an equalizer from 17-year-old Ray Gerke. Miami United also beat the Miami Fusion a few days ago. Yes, Fusion.

Chattanooga FC 1, Ocala Stampede 1 (CFC 5-3 on PKs): Late equalizer for the home team, which upset the Wilmington Hammerheads last year and will advance to face … the Wilmington Hammerheads. Chattanooga keeper Greg Hartley pulled a Matt Reis, stopping two PKs and making the winner.

Sonoma County Sol 2, Burlingame Dragons 1 (AET): Goals in stoppage time and extra time for the Cup veterans over the first-timers. The Sol roster includes a lot of players from “local high schools, Santa Rosa Junior College or Sonoma State.”

NPSL over USASA

Lansing United 0, RWB Adria o (Lansing 4-2 on PKs): Only one shot on goal for Cup debutant Lansing. Nice scarves. And nice camera angles on the PKs:

Upward Stars 3, Triangle Brigade 3 (Upward 3-1 on PKs): Back and forth in Spartanburg. What, you didn’t guess their location from the name “Upward Stars”? TheCup.us says the Brigade was formed in 2014 by a bunch of UNC club players.

PDL over USASA

Jersey Express 3, New York Greek American Atlas 0: Four-time champion Atlas, part of the New York area’s strong Cosmopolitan Soccer League, just couldn’t hold off the Express. Juan Correa had two assists.

Reading United AC 1, Maryland Bays 0: If only the debutant Bays could’ve found a home field. No, the Kris Ward who played in goal for the Bays is not the former Spirit assistant coach.

Global Premier Soccer 1, Seacoast United Phantoms 2: Down 1-0, down 10 men on the road in Massachusetts, the New Hampshire club scored in the 70th and 88th minutes. GPS falls to 0-3 in the Cup. Former Phantom captain Ben Brewster now plays for the Tulsa Roughnecks, their next opponent.

Des Moines Menace 2, Madison Fire 1: The perennial PDL powerhouse had little trouble with the Cup first-timers from the Wisconsin Soccer Leagues Major Division. Fifth-year Menace player Charlie Bales had two assists.

Laredo Heat 0, NTX Rayados 0 (Laredo 4-2 on PKs): Both teams have advanced in the Cup before. The last PK was converted on a retake — keeper moved early.

Ventura County Fusion 3, Cal FC 3 (Fusion 6-5 on PKs): The 2012 underdogs that knocked off the Hammerheads and Timbers couldn’t do it this time — this is the first time they’ve been ousted by another amateur team.

USASA over PDL

FC Tucson 1, Chula Vista FC 2 (AET): The visitors scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute. Tucson missed a chance to equalize on a PK in extra time.

PSA Elite 7, Golden State Misioneros FC 1: They went to PKs last year. Not this time, apparently.

Have anything to add? Comment away.

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U.S. Open Cup: Top 14 teams and upset history

Through May 23, 2014, lower-division teams have beaten MLS teams 66 times. (MLS teams have won 160.) And based on a whole lot of spreadsheets, we can declare one particular lower-division team the most accomplished team in the Open Cup.

The PDL is 38-87 against non-MLS pro leagues. But other amateur leagues are less successful against D2 and D3: 10-72.

For purposes of these upset lists, I haven’t separated D2 from D3. To my surprise, D2 (A-League/USL-1/USSF D-2/NASL) is 38-12 against D3 (D3 Pro/USL-2/USL Pro) since 1997. But the difference today is debatable. The Cup gives us scant evidence: Since 2010, when USSF D-2 split from the USL, D2 and D3 are 3-3 against each other. But against MLS teams, NASL teams (6-9, 40%) are more successful than USL Pro teams (9-21, 30%).

That’s assuming I didn’t miss anything in copying and pasting all the results from 1996 to 2014 from TheCup.us, cleaning up the data for easy sorting and searching, writing formulas to take each league name into account, etc.

Here is, to the best of my knowledge and spreadsheeting ability, a list of every U.S. Open Cup upset since MLS teams joined in 1996:

[gview file=”https://duresport.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/u-s-open-cup-history-formatted.pdf”%5D

As with the FA Cup, once a top-tier team gets to the later rounds, it gets a bit more serious about the competition. That shows when we look at the quarterfinalists and semifinalists:

[gview file=”https://duresport.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/u-s-open-cup-history-rounds.pdf”%5D

In typical soccer fashion, I’m going to take a whole bunch of data and then make a subjective judgment. I added up all the wins and all the runs, then ranked each team’s accomplishments based on how much they overachieved. In other words, a PDL team beating a couple of pro teams is roughly equivalent to an MLS team reaching the final.

Here goes, in reverse order:

14. Carolina RailHawks (USL-1/USSF D-2/NASL): 13 wins in seven years (through 2013). 1-time semifinalist. 4 wins over MLS teams.

  • 2007 (USL-1): Semifinalist. Beat Chicago Fire.
  • 2012 (NASL): Beat Los Angeles.
  • 2013 (NASL): Quarterfinalist. Beat Los Angeles and Chivas USA.

13. Columbus Crew (MLS): 19 wins, 1 Cup, 2-time runner-up, 1-time semifinalist.

  • 1998: Runner-up
  • 1999: Semifinalist
  • 2002: Champion
  • 2010: Runner-up

12. Kansas City Wizards / Sporting Kansas City (MLS): 18 wins, 2 Cups, 1-time semifinalist.

  • 2002: Semifinalist
  • 2004: Champion
  • 2012: Champion

11. Harrisburg City Islanders (USL-2/USL Pro): 15 wins, 5 over MLS teams.

  • 2007: Quarterfinalist. Beat D.C. United.
  • 2009: Quarterfinalist. Beat New England (away).
  • 2010: Quarterfinalist. Beat New York Red Bulls.
  • 2012: Quarterfinalist. Beat New England and New York Red Bulls.

10. Wilmington Hammerheads (PSL/USL-2/USL Pro): 15 wins, 2 over MLS teams.

  • 2003 (USL Pro): Quarterfinalist. Beat Atlanta Silverbacks  (A-League) 2-1, beat Dallas Burn (MLS) 4-1.
  • 2006: Round of 16, again beating Atlanta 2-1.
  • 2009 (USL-2): Quarterfinalist, beat Carolina RailHawks (USL-1) on PKs after 3-3 tie, beat Chicago Fire (MLS) 1-0

9. Mid-Michigan Bucks / Michigan Bucks (PDL): 12 wins. Two wins over MLS teams; total of nine wins over pro teams.

  • 1997: Beat Wilmington Hammerheads (D3 Pro) 3-2 away.
  • 1999: Beat Austin Lone Stars (D3 Pro) 3-2; beat Minnesota Thunder (A-League) 2-1 away.
  • 2000: Beat New England Revolution (MLS) 1-0 away. Lost to Miami Fusion (MLS) on PKs.
  • 2003: Beat Long Island Rough Riders (PSL) 2-1.
  • 2006: Beat Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL-2) 2-0; beat Cincinnati Kings (USL-2) 2-1.
  • 2012: Beat Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL Pro) 1-0 away; beat Chicago Fire (MLS) 3-2 after extra time.

8. Richmond Kickers (USL top leagues/USL-2/USL Pro): 22 wins. Champions in 1995, the first year of the pro era and the year before MLS launched. 1-time semifinalist.

  • 2000 (A-League): Beat Colorado Rapids.
  • 2001 (A-League): Quarterfinalist
  • 2004 (A-League): Quarterfinalist. Beat D.C. United.
  • 2007 (USL-2): Quarterfinalist. Beat Los Angeles.
  • 2011 (USL-2): Semifinalist. Beat Columbus and Sporting Kansas City.

7. Dallas Burn / FC Dallas (MLS): 27 wins, 1 Cup, 2-time runner-up, 4-time semifinalist.

  • 1996: Semifinalist
  • 1997: Champion
  • 1998: Semifinalist
  • 2002: Semifinalist
  • 2005: Runner-up
  • 2007: Runner-up
  • 2011: Semifinalist

6. Los Angeles Galaxy (MLS): 23 wins, 2 Cups, 2-time runner-up, 2-time semifinalist.

  • 2000: Semifinalist
  • 2001: Champion
  • 2002: Runner-up. Also won MLS Cup.
  • 2003: Semifinalist
  • 2005: Champion. Also won MLS Cup.
  • 2006: Runner-up

5. Charleston Battery (USL top leagues/USL-2/USL Pro): 29 wins, 1-time runner-up, 2-time semifinalist.

  • 1999 (A-League): Semifinalist.
  • 2004 (A-League): Semifinalist. Upset MetroStars (MLS) in round of 16, beat Rochester (A-League) in quarterfinals. Fell to Chicago (MLS) in extra time, just missing the final.
  • 2007 (USL-1): Quarterfinalist.
  • 2008 (USL-1): Finalist.
  • 2009 (USL-1): Quarterfinalist.
  • 2010 (USL-2): Quarterfinalist.

4. D.C. United (MLS): 32 wins, 3 Cups, 2-time runner-up, 4-time semifinalist.

  • 1996: Champion. Also won MLS Cup.
  • 1997: Runner-up. Also won MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield.
  • 2001: Semifinalist
  • 2003: Semifinalist
  • 2006: Semifinalist. Also won Supporters’ Shield.
  • 2008: Champion
  • 2009: Runner-up
  • 2010: Semifinalist
  • 2013: Champion. Had worst record in MLS.

3. Seattle Sounders (A-League/USL-1/MLS): 30 wins, 3 straight Cups, 1-time runner-up, 2-time semifinalist.

We’ll treat the A-League/USL Sounders and the MLS Sounders as one entity here, mostly because the club’s commitment to the Open Cup never wavered.

  • 1996 (A-League): Quarterfinalist
  • 2003 (A-League): Quarterfinalist
  • 2007 (USL-1): Semifinalist
  • 2008 (USL-1): Semifinalist
  • 2009 (MLS): Champion
  • 2010 (MLS): Champion
  • 2011 (MLS): Champion
  • 2012 (MLS): Runner-up

2. Chicago Fire (MLS): 34 wins, 4 Cups, 2-time runner-up, 3-time semifinalist.

  • 1998: Champion. Also won MLS Cup. Club’s first season.
  • 2000: Champion. Also lost MLS Cup final.
  • 2001: Semifinalist
  • 2003: Champion. Also won Supporters’ Shield, lost MLS Cup final.
  • 2004: Runner-up
  • 2005: Semifinalist
  • 2006: Champion
  • 2011: Runner-up

1. Rochester Rhinos (A-League/USL-1/USL Pro): 33 wins, 1 Cup, 1-time runner-up, 1-time semifinalist.

  • 1996 (A-League): Runner-up. Upset Tampa Bay Mutiny in extra time (quarterfinals), upset Colorado Rapids 3-0, lost final to D.C. United.
  • 1999 (A-League): Champion. Four straight wins over MLS teams. 1-0 over Chicago Fire, 2-1 (ET) over Dallas Burn, 3-2 over Columbus Crew and 2-0 over Colorado Rapids.
  • 2004 (A-League): Quarterfinalist
  • 2005 (A-League): Quarterfinalist
  • 2009 (USL-1): Semifinalist

NOTEWORTHY RUNS/HONORABLE MENTION

1997: San Francisco Bay Seals (D3) beat two MLS teams (Kansas City Wizards, San Jose Clash) to reach semifinals.

2003: Fresno Fuego (PDL) beat Utah Blitzz (PSL) and El Paso Patriots (A-League) to reach  round of 16, losing to LA Galaxy in quarterfinals. Came back in 2014 with win over Orange County Blues (USL Pro).

2005: Minnesota Thunder (A-League) beat PDL’s Chicago Fire Premier, won a wild 6-4 game in extra time over Real Salt Lake, then beat the Colorado Rapids and Kansas City Wizards (away) to reach semifinals. The year before, the Thunder beat the Los Angeles Galaxy. That’s four wins over MLS teams.

2006: Dallas Roma FC (USASA) beat PDL’s Laredo Heat on PKs, then USL-1’s Miami FC 1-0, then Chivas USA on PKs, falling in fourth round.

2006: Carolina Dynamo (PDL) beat two pro teams: Richmond Kickers (USL-2) in second round, Seattle Sounders (USL-1) in third, setting up Dynamo-Dynamo matchup vs. Houston. As a pro team, reached quarterfinals in 1996.

2007: New England Revolution (MLS) made a rare run in the Cup and won it all. Next best runs: final in 2001, semifinal in 2008.

2012: Cal FC (USASA) beat Wilmington Hammerheads (USL Pro) 4-0 away and Portland Timbers (MLS) 1-0 away.

TEAMS WITH 10 OR MORE WINS

34 Chicago Fire (2nd in the ranking above)
33 Rochester Rhinos (1st)
32 DC United (4th)
30 Seattle Sounders (3rd)
29 Charleston Battery (5th)
27 Dallas Burn / FC Dallas (7th)
23 Los Angeles Galaxy (6th)
22 Richmond Kickers (8th)
19 Columbus Crew (13th)
18 Kansas City Wizards / Sporting KC (12th)
16 MetroStars / New York Red Bulls
15 Harrisburg City Islanders (11th)
15 Wilmington Hammerheads (10th)
14 New England Revolution
13 Carolina RailHawks (14th)
12 Mid-Michigan Bucks / Michigan Bucks (9th)
12 Minnesota Thunder
12 San Jose Clash / Earthquakes
11 Carolina Dynamo
11 Des Moines Menace
10 Charlotte Eagles
10 Portland Timbers

Corrections? Comments? Commiseration for staring at spreadsheets for so long? Share below.

U.S. Open Cup second round, collated scoreboard

Headlines (see glossary below):

– The NPSL is out. Georgia Revolution fell 3-2 in the “Battle of Atlanta” against the NASL Silverbacks.

– The USASA is out, though Dearborn took Dayton (USL Pro) to extra time before falling 4-1.

– PDL upsets so far: Reading over Harrisburg (USL Pro), Ocean City over Pittsburgh (USL Pro), Des Moines over Minnesota (NASL), Tucson over San Antonio (NASL)

– Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) won the first head-to-head matchup between pro teams, winning the Tampa Bay derby 2-1 and forcing perennial Open Cup power Seattle Sounders to fly cross-country to face them next week. Other MLS teams with long trips: Los Angeles, San Jose, Colorado, Dallas. The NASL’s Atlanta and USL Pro’s Wilmington have long trips the other direction.

– Local derbies in the third round: Richmond-D.C., Columbus-Dayton, Philadelphia-Ocean City, L.A. Blues-Chivas USA

Final scores (home teams listed first):

USL PRO vs. AMATEUR (8 PDL, 2 USASA)

Richmond (USLP) 4-1 Icon FC (USASA), final
Richmond – D.C. United (again)

Dayton (USLP) 4-1 Dearborn (USASA), final (extra time)
Columbus – Dayton

Reading (PDL) 1-0 Harrisburg City (USLP), final (apologies for having it wrong earlier)
New York (Red Bulls, not FC) – Reading

Ocala (PDL) 1-2 Orlando City (USLP), final
Orlando – Colorado

Charlotte (USLP) 3-0 Seattle Sounders U23 (PDL), final
Charlotte – Chicago

Ocean City (PDL) 1-0 Pittsburgh (USLP), final
Philadelphia – Ocean City

Rochester (USLP) 1-0 GPS Portland Phoenix (PDL), final
Rochester – New England

Austin (PDL) 0-2 Wilmington (USLP), final
Portland – Wilmington

Los Angeles Blues (USLP) 5-1 Ventura County (PDL), final
Los Angeles Blues – Chivas USA

Portland Timbers U23 (PDL) 0-1 Charleston (USLP), final
Charleston – San Jose

NASL vs. AMATEUR (4 PDL, 1 NPSL)

Georgia Revolution (NPSL) 2-3 Atlanta (NASL), final
Salt Lake – Atlanta

Carolina Railhawks (NASL) 3-1 Carolina Dynamo (PDL), final
Carolina Railhawks – Los Angeles

Fort Lauderdale (NASL) 1-1 Laredo (PDL), Fort Lauderdale wins 7-6 on PKs
Fort Lauderdale – Dallas

Minnesota (NASL) 0-1 Des Moines (PDL), final
Kansas City – Des Moines

San Antonio (NASL) 2-2 Tucson (PDL), Tucson wins 4-3 on PKs
Houston – Tucson

USL PRO vs. NASL

VSI Tampa Bay FC (USLP) 1-2 Tampa Bay (NASL), final
Tampa Bay Rowdies – Seattle

Glossary:

The divisional structure in the USA/Canada is:

Division 2: NASL, North American Soccer League. (Not the one that featured Pele and so forth in the 70s.)

Division 3: USL Pro, the top flight of the United Soccer Leagues

PDL: Premier Development League, the USL’s summer amateur league. Mostly college players.

NPSL: National Premier Soccer League, an independent amateur league, also operating mostly in summer.

USASA: U.S. Adult Soccer Association, a national body administering most local and regional leagues.

U.S. Women’s Open Cup 2012: Quest for results!

Yes, there is a Women’s Open Cup. No, you don’t know most of the teams involved.

But I started digging around a bit in the past two weeks, and so did some folks at BigSoccer. Here’s what we’ve found so far, and any crowd-sourcing is welcome.

The finals for this and the other USASA Cups (men’s open, men’s amateur, men’s over-30, men’s under-23, women’s under-23) will be at the Chicago Fire’s Toyota Park (Bridgeview, Ill.) July 20-22.

REGION I

First round – April 22
at Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh United (W.Pa.) 7-0 Maryland Capitols FC (WPSL)

Second round – May 17
at New York

Battle Row (E.NY) 8-1 Pittsburgh United
at Rochester
Rochester Lazers (W.NY) 4-0 United German Hungarians Fury (E.Pa.)

Semifinals – June 7
at New York
Battle Row 1-0 Rochester Lazers
New York Athletic Club (WPSL) 4-0 Peninsula Aztecs (NJ)

Final – June 17
at New York

New York Athletic Club 5-0 Battle Row

NYAC
New York Athletic Club

I got some details on this game: scorers were Princeton’s Liana Cornacchio (2), Duke’s Laura Weinberg (2) and Stanford’s Allison McCann. The team picture is at right. Both courtesy Charles Spingler at NYAC.

New York Athletic Club advances

REGION II (PDF)
at Fort Wayne, Ind.

June 15
Chicago Red Stars (WPSL) 2-0 Croatian Eagles (Wisc.)
Fort Wayne SC (Ind.) 2-2 United Metro (Kansas)

June 16
Chicago Red Stars 3-0 United Metro
Croatian Eagles 2-2 JB Marine (Mo.)
Chicago Red Stars 2-0 Fort Wayne SC
JB Marine 5-0 Fort Wayne SC
Croatian Eagles 3-0 United Metro

June 17
JB Marine 2-1 United Metro
Croatian Eagles 3-1 Fort Wayne SC
Chicago Red Stars 0-0 JB Marine

Round-robin scores: Chicago Red Stars 10,  JB Marine 8, Croatian Eagles 7, United Metro 1, Fort Wayne SC 1

Chicago Red Stars advance

REGION III

May 25
Houston Challengers 2-1 Houston Aces
Turbo D’Feeters (S.Texas) 2-1 San Antonio FC

May 26
Turbo D’Feeters 3-0 Houston Challengers
San Antonio FC 5-0 Lazers (Ga.)
Houston Aces 4-1 Turbo D’Feeters
Houston Challengers 4-1 Lazers

May 27
Houston Aces 7-0 Lazers
Houston Challengers 1-1 San Antonio FC

May 28
Houston Aces 0-0 San Antonio FC
Turbo D’Feeters 6-0 Lazers

Round-robin scores: Turbo D’Feeters 9, Houston Aces 7, Houston Challengers 7, San Antonio FC 5, Lazers 0

Turbo D’Feeters advance

REGION IV

Haven’t found results; region hasn’t had qualifying tournaments in recent years.

Continue reading U.S. Women’s Open Cup 2012: Quest for results!

The U.S. Open Cup, women’s soccer and “data points”

U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati is an economist by trade — which is good, because if you see the financial documents linked later on, you’ll remember that he doesn’t get paid for his role with the federation. (Perhaps it’s a little unfair that the person making the big bucks, CEO Dan Flynn, rarely has to face the media while we pester Gulati all the time. But I digress.)

So when we pestered Gulati before Sunday’s USA-China women’s game, he made one telling statement: “I’ve been doing this too long to get too up or down by individual data points.”

Whether you agree with everything Gulati does or not, this statement is one thing that separates his thought processes from most of us who yap about soccer on the Internet. We in the virtual soccer community can “prove” lots of things from single data points:

  • Hey, it’s 50 degrees in Chicago today! That proves MLS can play through the winter!
  • The Rochester Rhinos won the Open Cup! That proves the A-League is better than MLS!
  • We sold a lot of tickets for one exhibition game between Manchester United and Real Madrid! That proves that if MLS teams simply spent themselves silly, we’d have crowds like this every game!
  • The WPS games immediately after the World Cup drew huge crowds! That proves WPS has made it!
  • The U.S. men won in Italy! Why aren’t we ranked in the top 10?

In the long run, it’s a good thing the powers that be don’t make decisions based on isolated data points. They might see a few hundred people gathered for one of last spring’s WPS games and figure women’s soccer is dead. They might see empty seats in MLS cities — even in places like Toronto where the seats are apparently sold but not occupied — and figure MLS is struggling. They might notice that ratings trumpeted as big numbers for European broadcasts are in the same ballpark as the numbers that have fans of The Ultimate Fighter on edge.

Let’s look at a couple of data points and see how the situation is a little more complicated than it appears:

Continue reading The U.S. Open Cup, women’s soccer and “data points”

Ratings, summary: D.C. United-Columbus Open Cup semi

D.C. United 1, Columbus 2
U.S. Open Cup semifinal
Sept. 1, 2010

The Crew played their usual starters aside from Andy Gruenebaum in goal in place of William Hesmer. Gruenebaum had two early blunders — an adventure outside his area that left a gaping goal, then a poor clearance in his box that led to a United PK. Pablo Hernandez did the honors for a 1-0 lead.

The controversy came in the 59th minute. From several viewings of the replay in an angry United locker room, here’s what happened:

– Crew toughman Danny O’Rourke ran over Hernandez.

– Hernandez’s leg comes up, possibly making contact with O’Rourke. Whether that was intentional or incidental is a judgment call. I’d lean incidental.

– O’Rourke scuttles back over and taunts Hernandez, who’s still down. He pushes a hand down toward the United forward.

– Hernandez raises an arm as if to shoo O’Rourke away.

Referee Chris Penso, unknown to most of us in the pressbox, consulted with the sideline officials (AR and 4th official both in position to see) before producing yellow for O’Rourke, red for Hernandez.

United continued to create chances, but the Crew eventually threw the kitchen sink forward. Defender Andy Iro equalized in traffic in the 89th (they’re crediting it for now as an own goal to Marc Burch, but that’s cruel). United nearly took the lead right back with a great feed to Andy Najar in the center, but the phenom put his shot just wide.

Seven minutes into extra time, Carey Talley was beaten in the box and brought down Steven Lenhart at the corner of the 6-yard box. If Penso had held on to his whistle for two seconds, the Crew would’ve been ahead 2-1 right away, drilling the ball into the net. As it happened, Guillermo Barros Schelotto converted the PK, anyway.

Columbus moves on, though the red card and some extraneous Crew gamesmanship may leave a mildly bitter taste. United fans can only hope their season of woe is salvaged by some miraculous news on the stadium front.

Attendance: 3,411

COLUMBUS

Matchup of straight 4-4-2s, no playmakers. After United dropped to 10 men, the Crew countered with more offense, inserting Jason Garey up front and dropping Guillermo Barros Schelotto into midfield with Dilly Duka alongside him in a sort of 3-3-2-2 or 3-4-1-2. Edgar Renteria (Venezuela national team) wasn’t available.

5 Andy Gruenebaum, GK – Big blunder early, coming out to shepherd ball to end line and not getting it. Bailed out when defense blocked cross toward wide-open net. Second blunder led to PK, as Iro fouled Hernandez after poor clearance and gaping goal. Big saves on Najar.

5 Frankie Hejduk, RB – Maybe not as active as we expect from the hyperactive one, but solid.
7 Chad Marshall, CB – Header across face of goal from Schelotto free kick. Dominant in air.
6 Andy Iro, CB – Gave away PK with foul on Hernandez, but he was in a difficult spot. Played as de facto forward in desperation time and held off defenders to score goal.
6 Gino Padula, LB – Effective. Subbed out in second half.

5 Adam Moffat, RM – Quiet. Subbed out in 77th.
4 Danny O’Rourke, CM – Could’ve been sent off in 59th, either along with or instead of Hernandez. Subbed out soon afterward.
5 Brian Carroll, CM – Crew didn’t do much centrally.
8 Eddie Gaven, LM – Endless supply of crosses as he had his way on the flank.

6 Guillermo Barros Schelotto, F – Forced to play defense on counter after free kick, tripped Quaranta. Converted PK. Set pieces not his usual standard.
5 Steven Lenhart, F – Squandered a couple of chances. Too many clumsy collisions with Hamid. Won PK.

Subs:
6 Dilly Duka, RM – Lively and creative sub.
5 Jason Garey, F – Some impact off bench.
5 Kevin Burns, M – Subbed for Moffat and appeared a couple of times in attack.

D.C. UNITED

Started in 4-4-2 with empty bucket, relying on wings for creativity. After losing Pablo Hernandez, inserted Jordan Graye at back, removing Danny Allsopp and leaving Andy Najar as a front-runner. Branko Boskovic (Montenegro national team) wasn’t available.

6 Bill Hamid, GK – Huge stop 1-on-1 with Gaven was the best of several saves. Not at fault on goals.

5 Devon McTavish, RB – Struggled with Gaven in first half; better in second.
6 Dejan Jakovic, CB – Solid at back. Moved to forward after United fell behind in extra time and missed wide-open net.
5 Julius James, CB – Solid at back.
4 Marc Burch, LB – Unlucky to deflect Iro shot into his net. Long balls a bit off.

8 Andy Najar, RM – Powerful shots. Very effective on counterattacks after United was reduced to 10, but touch started to desert him late, especially on golden chance in 89th. Set up terrific chance for Jakovic in extra time.
6 Stephen King, CM – Helped United limit Crew in center.
6 Clyde Simms, CM – See King.
7 Santino Quaranta, LM – Helped Najar on the counter and was productive throughout.

6 Pablo Hernandez, F – Actively buzzed around Crew box to cause problems, winning and converting PK. Red card obviously costly.
5 Danny Allsopp, F – Dangerous in spots.

Subs:
5 Jordan Graye, D – Speed helped at back.
3 Carey Talley, D – At fault on the goal in extra time.
4 Jaime Moreno, F – Tried a little too hard to draw a PK in the second extra session.

U.S. Open Cup and why lower-division teams are happy

No, we shouldn’t read too much into U.S. Open Cup results. Having two USL-2 teams in the quarterfinals and no one from the USL/NASL shotgun marriage of a second tier doesn’t mean the USL-2 teams are doing everything right while the USL/NASL teams are getting it wrong.

But there’s something curious happening in the USL ranks. Several years after Dave Ungrady’s Unlucky chronicled a professional team at this level that had organizational struggles (one side effect: paychecks?), we’re seeing a couple of well-established American soccer clubs that are at this level voluntarily, and they’re quite happy.

You could call it the final nail in the “promotion/relegation NOW” argument. Though these clubs have roots, either with youth systems or stadiums, they’re not fretting away that they can’t be promoted to MLS. They’re not even interested in moving up to the second level of American soccer.

“Ultimately, we want to be in a situation where we are now where we’ve got local rivals, we have a stable league and stable group of teams,” Kickers coach Leigh Cowlishaw said after his team played well but lost 2-0 to D.C. United in the round of 16. “We’re not looking to change the recipe. The reason we’ve been successful over the last 20 years is that we try to make financial decisions that make sense long-term not only for the club but the growth of soccer. We’re very happy where we are. Hopefully there will be more teams that want to follow the model that we have.”

So the Kickers have opted for stability and short trips in their handsomely appointed bus over trips to Puerto Rico and ambitions of challenging MLS anywhere other than an Open Cup bracket.

“We’re more excited, we have something to prove,” said Kickers captain Mike Burke, who played for D.C. United several years ago. “So I think we’re going to have the edge from that standpoint, and that’s why a couple of USL-2 teams win games. Obviously the quality in MLS is better. But sometimes these lower-division teams are just more up for the game.”

The teams advancing through the Cup bracket have more going for them than a pro team and some grandiose marketing hype. The Harrisburg City Islanders, like the Kickers, have an extensive youth program. The Charleston Battery have a soccer-specific stadium with 5,100 seats, a few amusements for kids and a pub for adults.

What distinguishes the Kickers is that its long-running youth system — a team makes an appearance in the 1994 book Twenty-Two Foreigners in Funny Shorts — is producing players for the pro team. Midfielder Bobby Foglesong played with the Kickers’ Super Y League and PDL teams. Defender Roger Bothe was a U-15 player for the Kickers in 2002.

“I was there when he was 13 or 14 and coached him a few times,” Burke said, joking that he feels old. “It makes you feel good that you have a kid with your youth club who’s with the pro team now.”

“We’ve got programs for 2-year-olds up to the pro level,” Kickers forward Matthew Delicâte said. “So we’ve got everything in place. It’s a great system now. The pro players can be around and help teach young players about the game.”

The system also is ideal for older players with coaching aspirations like Burke, an assistant technical director in the youth ranks, and Delicâte, who traveled to the LA area’s Home Depot Center to earn his “B” coaching license in the offseason.

“Those are the kinds of things that are going to keep me around,” Burke said. “My soccer career’s almost over. I have maybe one more year in me.”

Richmond is a hospitable place to settle down — Englishman Delicâte first came to Richmond to play for Virginia Commonwealth and is happy to live close to his wife’s family. Having the Kickers in place gives players with ties to Richmond a nice option, particularly with a youth program producing a steady stream of talent.

“The goal is to play at the highest level possible, but if they want to continue to play professional soccer and Richmond’s their home, that’s a great situation,” Cowlishaw said.

And so as we follow along tonight with the Battery hosting MLS’ Columbus Crew (plus an all-MLS matchup of Houston and Chivas USA), the annual questions of whether USL teams are better than MLS teams seem less interesting than this question: What will it take to replicate Richmond?

Midweek Myriad:

Free-lance assignments, household emergencies and being yelled at by a couple of Red Bulls fans have taken up much of my time this week, but there’s still plenty to round up while I enjoy my first home HD soccer viewing. (NOW I can’t wait for the World Cup.)

MLS: Four midweek games tonight, with D.C. United aiming to end its winless streak on ESPN2 vs. Kansas City.

U.S. Open Cup: The 2010 tournament will include a curious California play-in game for an extra amateur berth. (TheCup.us)

EPL: Tottenham Hotspur clinched a Champions League berth for next season with a 1-0 win at Manchester City. Could they even take third ahead of Arsenal?

La Liga: Barcelona took an easy win over Tenerife yesterday; Real Madrid tries to keep pace and remain one point back later today against Mallorca.

Coppa Italia: Inter 1, Roma 0 in today’s final, with lots of misbehavior. With these two teams still fighting for the league title, that might not cool down any time soon.

Copa Libertadores: Chivas (the original one) are in the Copa Libertadores quarterfinals, along with (barely) Brazil’s Sao Paulo. (Soccernet)

UFC: Dropkick Murphys fans, mourn — Forrest Griffin is off the UFC 114 card. Instead, Jason Brilz will face Antonio Rogerio “Little Nog” Nogueira.

Also in UFC — the usual recap of The Ultimate Fighter will be on schedule tonight a little after 11 p.m. ET.

Bellator: Thursday’s show has the first semifinals of the season — lightweights Roger Huerta-Pat Curran and Carey Vanier-Toby Imada. Also, lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez fights a “super fight” (keeping him active before he defends title against tourney winner) against UFC vet Josh Neer.

Chess: Veselin Topalov outlasted Vishy Anand in game 8 yesterday. World championship all square with four games left. (Susan Polgar blog)

Throwing open the U.S. Open Cup

It’s U.S. Open Cup season again, which means it’s also open season for Open Cup reform ideas and lamentations over its lack of popularity.

Like England’s FA Cup, the U.S. Open Cup has a proud history that predates the formation of a viable national league. The biggest difference is that the USA’s viable national league — the old American Soccer League — was only viable for a little more than a decade, so the Open Cup had another long period of giving the only national trophy at stake.

But the Open Cup has had a rocky run through the last 40 years. It suffered an outrageous insult when the NASL (the original, not the new one) ignored it. The pros came back in 1995, with APSL and USISL teams battling for league pride as much as anything else. MLS teams entered the Cup in the league’s first year, with D.C. United winning the “double” of League and Cup in 1996.

So it’s still around, but it’s really a tournament for hard-core fans only. Games at MLS sites usually draw a couple thousand.  The lovingly maintained quasi-official site USOpenCup.com was compelled to change its name to thecup.us for complex reasons.

And so we hear ideas each year — spend more money on marketing, move games in the schedule, etc. Most of these run afoul of a couple of logistical realities:

1. Teams in the PDL and other amateur leagues are often reliant on college talent, and they play a compressed league schedule while those players are available. That leaves little time to play around with scheduling Cup games. (1a. Those who are not in college have jobs.)

2. Many teams are not the primary tenant in their stadiums, again creating difficulties in scheduling. Weekend dates are often unavailable.

3. Where would all this marketing and operational money come from?

Still, the Cup is ripe for tweaking. You may not know this, but MLS teams played qualifiers this week. Real Salt Lake advanced on penalties after a back-and-forth 3-3 draw at San Jose. Wells Thompson scored twice as Colorado beat Kansas City 2-1.

Combined attendance: 3,944.

And who could blame the no-shows? These are play-in games to reach more play-in games to reach the actual tournament. The romance of the Cup is in minnows vs. giants. Not MLS reserves vs. MLS reserves to face more MLS reserves. And don’t claim you’d actually start all your starters in these games if you were the coach. You wouldn’t. Or you wouldn’t have the job.

The best time to play these games might be during the World Cup and other international tournaments. You’ll have MLS teams missing a couple of big-name players who can still field competitive teams. Why not have them play Open Cup games rather than league games? It’ll be something different to go along with a major televised event like the World Cup.

Or, if you somehow believe the NCAA can change, play it in the spring … with college teams facing the pros.

Realistically, the first option is more likely. Get rid of these MLS play-in games. Let the amateurs and lower divisions take their shots at the big boys. Otherwise, it’s just a long, dull MLS event.

Clarification: Technically, these MLS games are not part of the Open Cup itself. These games are set up by the league to determine its entries into the Cup. Maybe a small distinction, but worth making.