Editorial (June 29, 2017) – The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 took place on Tuesday and Wednesday this week. It did not disappoint.
U.S. Open Cup Round Of 16 Recap: Upsets, Cincinnati Dreaming, And Familiar Faces
Two lover division teams upset MLS teams to advance to the Quarterfinals. This round also saw two games go to Extra Time and then to PKs. Here’s everything you missed/want to relive from the Round of 16 madness.
There’s an ongoing topic in American Soccer about how to make the Open Cup more relevant and visible. Different teams and coaches have started taking this tournament more or less seriously. We’ve grown accustomed to seeing certain MLS teams do well in the Open Cup. That was true in the Round of 16.
The action started on Tuesday night when FC Dallas downed Colorado Rapids 3-1 at home (for the second year in a row). Mauro Diaz opened the scoring with a first half PK goal. Dallas are the defending champions and an excellent home team. They showed it again, keeping the Rapids winless on the road in 2017 (all competitions).
Sporting KC have become a regular contender in this competition and won it in 2015. Head Coach Peter Vermese started several key starters and they made the difference against several reserve players for the Houston Dynamo. Latif Blessing and Gerso Fernandez were dynamic on the counter attack. Ike Opara scored another big goal and helped the defense get another clean sheet. Sporting were the only road team to advance in the round.
Lastly, the New England Revolution got the job done against D.C. United with mostly a reserve team. They won the match 2-1.
Kwadwo Poku Buzzer Beater Downs Atlanta
Miami FC made noise last round when the smoked Orlando City SC on the road on a hat trick from Stefano Pihno. The club came out all guns blazing against a young Atlanta United FC. Miami looked out of their league at times. Atlanta scored the first goal in this one after several minutes of intense pressure. Miami fought back with a counter by Poku and Pihno and a goal to start the second half.
Atlanta pushed for a long period for an equalizer, but it looked like Miami’s defense was going to hold on. Then Julian Gressel scored a PK goal in the 75th minute to tie it, after Poku was called for the foul in the box. The teams appeared to be content to head to Extra Time, when Poku found some extra juice in the tank.
Miami turned the ball over at midfield in the final minute of stoppage time. Poku sprinted towards goal and collected a pass from Vincenzo Rennella. He ran on goal, stiff armed the last defender, and tapped a slow roller past Alec Kann and into the net to win the game 3-2. It was buzzer beater from Miami’s best attacker. Poku made up the PK. He continues to show the talent that MLS fans saw when he was in MLS.
FC Cincinnati Outlasts Chicago Fire In PKs: Best Open Cup Game Ever?
Just like last round, FC Cincinnati hosted an MLS team and it was lit. 32,287 fans packed Nippert Stadium, the second largest crowd in Open Cup history to see the USL team take on Bastian Schweinsteiger and the Chicago Fire. The match was televised nationally on ESPN in prime time.
Similar to Miami, Cincy started the game off nervious. The Fire were the better team in the first half, with Schweinsteiger, Nemanja Nikolic, and Matt Polster all had great looks. Austin Berry and Harrison Delbridge stood tall in central defense. The defense bent, but didn’t break.
Cincinnati turned it around in the second half, with substitute Jimmy McLaughlin leading the attack. Matt Lampson was #Lampstrong in goal, thwarting him on sevearl occassons.
While Lampson was great, the night belonged to Mitch Hildebrandt. The Cincy goalkeeper stood on his head in the late stages of the second half and stoppage time, making save after save. Nikolic and Luis Solignac are going to have nightmares about him for a week.
The match ultimately went to PKs where Hildebrandt stopped three of four Fire PKs, winning the match 0-0 (3-1). Pandemonium errupted in Nippert Stadium.
Cincinnati will play at Miami next round. This guarantees a lower division team will be in the Semifinals for the first time in years. One of these teams could be looking at a George Mason level Cinderella run to the final.
The Round of 16 sets us up for a California Clasico in the next round. The LA Galaxy dispatched of Sacramento Republic FC 2-0. The San Jose Earthquakes beat a 10-man Seattle Sounders team 2-1.
The New York Red Bulls exorcised their PK demons against the Philadelphia Union with Felipe kicking the winning PK.
The Open Cup has been a great stage for lower division teams to take on the big boys. Cincinnati now has two wins at home against quality MLS teams. The crowds have been electric. This has to be a huge PR boost to the players looking to move up and the club as the seak MLS Expansion.