U.S. Open Cup Fifth Round preview: Sweet 16

IMAGE, USSOCCER.COM

The fifth round of this year’s U.S. Open Cup will take place over the next two nights. As was the case in 2015, only two teams from outside Major League Soccer have survived to see this stage. Both of them are from the North American Soccer League: the New York Cosmos and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers. Their games may prove to be the most interesting of the lot.

Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew SC, Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

The first game of the fifth round takes place at Toyota Park between Chicago and Columbus. A regular-season meeting between these teams ended with a scoreless draw, which feels fitting given that they occupy the bottom spots in the Eastern Conference. The Fire have won the Open Cup four times, tied for most in MLS, but this year marks the 10th anniversary of their last triumph.

Real Salt Lake vs. Seattle Sounders, Tuesday at 10 p.m.

Salt Lake and Seattle meet for the second time this season in the Open Cup. Salt Lake won 2-1 when the teams played in March. The Sounders’ regular season play has not been up to the standards they usually set for themselves, but this tournament has been very kind to Seattle since they joined MLS. RSL required a comeback and then penalty kicks to get by Wilmington in the last round.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Philadelphia and the Red Bulls meet for the second year running in the Open Cup, this time with the Union playing host. They won on penalties last year, despite playing down a man most of the game. Lloyd Sam’s equalizer deep in second-half stoppage time was not enough for the Red Bulls, who will be looking for revenge.

Houston Dynamo vs. Sporting Kansas City, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Kansas City’s quest to defend their title takes them to Houston, a team they beat in last year’s run. It’s an early evening kickoff in Houston, which makes no sense to me, but at least the forecast is only calling for temperatures in the 90s. Also running hot: the games between these teams last year, particularly their Open Cup match, where tempers flared.

New York Cosmos vs. New England Revolution, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

The New York Cosmos will host the New England Revolution at Belson Stadium in Queens on Wednesday night. If any NASL team is capable of making a run in the Open Cup, you would think the Cosmos have the best chance. They will also host the quarterfinal, should they win. Two previous home games against MLS opposition resulted in wins for the Cosmos, but those games were at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.

Orlando City SC vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

It’s an all-Florida affair when Orlando hosts Ft. Lauderdale. Surprisingly, this marks the first-ever Open Cup meeting between the two sides, in the sixth year of coexistence. The Strikers finished right in the middle of the NASL table in the spring, and Orlando has been fairly midtable themselves. The Lions are unbeaten at the Citrus Bowl this year, but their 3-0-6 record also leaves much to be desired.

FC Dallas vs. Colorado Rapids, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

The teams with the two best records in MLS will face off in the fifth round. Something has to give: Dallas is unbeaten this year at home, but Colorado is unbeaten in their last dozen games across all competitions.  If the Rapids are able to advance, it will be their first appearance in the quarterfinals of the Open Cup since 2006. They have never won the tournament, losing in the 1999 final to Rochester.

Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy, Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.

Wrapping up the round is a west coast clash between Portland and LA. Merritt Paulson complained last year about the Timbers having to go on the road in the Open Cup, but if they beat the slumping Galaxy they will host a third straight match in the quarterfinals. Subplot: this is the first meeting between the teams since Nigel De Jong’s horrific tackle on Darlington Nagbe in April, for which he was suspended three games.