U.S. Open Cup Round 4 Preview: East River Derby, more

Sporting KC U.S. Open Cup Champs

by RYAN BRISTER

One of the most fun parts of the American soccer calendar is about to get underway. The fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup brings Major League Soccer teams into the competition, pitting the majority of them against clubs from lower leagues. Scheduling might play into the underdogs’ hands here; MLS has been on break for a week-and-a-half due to Copa America competition, while the NASL and USL have kept playing.

Colorado Rapids vs. Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC, Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Just as last year, both of Colorado’s professional teams will play in round four. The Rapids beat their in-state rivals 4-1 in the 2015 tournament. The Rapids are thus far the top team in MLS this season. The Switchbacks, meanwhile, trail only Vancouver Whitecaps 2 in the Western Conference of the USL.

Real Salt Lake vs. Wilmington Hammerheads, Tuesday at 10 p.m.

Wilmington has the unfortunate task of the longest road trip in round four as they travel out west to Salt Lake. Salt Lake reached the semifinals last year before falling in Kansas City. The Hammerheads have not beaten an MLS team since 2009.

LA Galaxy vs. La Maquina FC, Tuesday at 10:30 p.m.

One of just two amateur teams to reach the fourth round, La Maquina will take on MLS juggernauts LA. It’s a southern California showdown; La Maquina plays their home games in Orange County just east of Los Angeles. The Galaxy faced an amateur team in last year’s tournament as well; they allowed an early goal before bouncing back for a comfortable win.

Portland Timbers vs. San Jose Earthquakes, Tuesday at 10:30 p.m.

The only all-MLS matchup of the round is a very familiar one. Portland and San Jose have already met three times this year, including just two weeks ago in the regular season. The Timbers have won two of those three games, both times at home.

Jacksonville Armada vs. Orlando City, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Jacksonville will play a competitive match against Orlando for the first time in their young history. The Armada needed extra time to get past Charleston last round, but the chance to host Orlando must have them salivating. Like Orlando, Jacksonville has been struggling with form, making this one of the more interesting encounters of the first round.

Philadelphia Union vs. Harrisburg City Islanders, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The Open Cup creates a lot of local matchups like this one between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. The Union have hosted (and lost) the Open Cup final in each of the last two years; so far in 2016, they are unbeaten at Talen Energy Park. The Islanders are no longer affiliated with the Union now that Philadelphia fields a USL team of their own. They remain, however, one of the worst teams in USL this season.

Columbus Crew SC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

Columbus kicks off their Open Cup participation with a game against the Tampa Bay Rowdies. Tampa spoiled the prospects of an all-Ohio match by defeating Cincinnati in round three. The game will be played in Columbus, but at Jesse Owens Stadium on the campus of Ohio State University.

Rochester Rhinos vs. New York Red Bulls, Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The defending USL champions take a swing at the defending Supporters Shield winners of MLS in one of the feature matches of round four. The Rhinos have a draw this season against the Red Bulls’ USL side, but Jesse Marsch showed last year that he’ll field a much stronger lineup than that in the Open Cup. Two years ago, the Rhinos defeated DC United at home, and they have a long history of punching above their weight as the only team to win an Open Cup since the inception of MLS.

Carolina Railhawks vs. New England Revolution, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

The Carolina Railhawks get to host an MLS side in the form of New England. The Revs were bounced by Charlotte at this point last year; Carolina took care of their in-state opponents with a 5-0 win in extra time in round three. Since 2012, the Railhawks are 5-3 against MLS teams in the Open Cup.

New York City FC vs. New York Cosmos, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

The crown jewel of the fourth round is the East River Derby. Last year, in the first edition of the match, the Cosmos came from behind and eventually won in penalties; they were the only NASL team to reach the fifth round in 2015. This time around, NYCFC will welcome the Cosmos to the Bronx and the intimate confines of Coffey Field, on the campus of Fordham University.

DC United vs. Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.

DC United plays Ft. Lauderdale on Wednesday. DC is one of many MLS teams opting to host their Open Cup home matches at a smaller venue. In this case, they’ll be playing at the Maryland Soccer complex, home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

Minnesota United FC vs. Sporting Kansas City, Wednesday at 8 p.m.

It’s all but certain that Minnesota will be playing in MLS next year; their fans will get an early taste of MLS competition when they host Kansas City. SKC are the defending champs of the tournament. Minnesota and Kansas City have met three times in Open Cup play, under various names for both clubs. SKC won the most recent meeting, 2-0 in 2014.

Houston Dynamo vs. San Antonio FC, Wednesday at 8:15 p.m.

The Texas triangle has a face off on Wednesday night. Houston has made Wade Barrett their head coach for the rest of the season; this will be his first game with the title. This is the first time San Antonio has visited Houston in the Open Cup; the Scorpions defeated the Dynamo at home in 2012.

Chicago Fire vs. Indy Eleven, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Fresh off of winning the NASL spring title, Indy will head to Chicago to face the Fire. This match might serve as an interesting benchmark in that while Indy is the NASL’s top team, the Fire are the worst in MLS so far this year. The clubs are linked via Peter Wilt, the general manager who played a huge role in the formation of both.

FC Dallas vs. OKC Energy FC, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

Dallas and OKC meet in the fourth round for the second year running. Dallas defeated the Energy by a healthy 4-1 scoreline in last year’s tournament. They’ll host this match at the tiny Westcott Field in Dallas, which is normally home to SMU’s soccer team.

Seattle Sounders vs. Kitsap Pumas

It’s an all-Washington affair as Seattle hosts PDL side Kitsap Pumas. As is tradition, the Sounders will host their Open Cup games at Starfire Sports Complex, a small-capacity field south of the city, where their USL team plays its games.


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