We're now more than four rounds into the 2012 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, the tournament where the MLS annually asserts their dominance over all those pesky semi-pro, development leagues. Right?
For the fourth time in the past 10 years, at least three non-MLS teams are making up the quarterfinals of the Cup (they made up half the field in '09, '07, and '04). But do the three USL Pro squads left in the field have what it takes to become the first non-MLS team to run the table since the 1999 Rochester Raging Rhinos? Season's Over takes a look:
Harrisburg City Islanders at Philadelphia Union
Philly hasn't been having anything of a stellar start to it's MLS regular season, winning just two of it's first 11 matches for second-to-last in the East, but a 3-0 breeze by the '99 champs and an Antoine Hoppenot overtime goal against D.C. yesterday have set the Union up for a June 26 match-up at home against Harrisburg City. But the Islanders should not be taken too lightly, especially after bouncing the Red Bulls by two goals in overtime last night (the second week in a row they sent an MLS team packing). If 22-year-old Gambian striker Sainey Touray can stay hot as he did against his former team, it might be the end of the road for Philly, and good tidings for an Islanders team that has come this close and closer in recent years.
Sporting Kansas City at Dayton Dutch Lions
If you're looking for a Cinderella team to root for at this point in the tourney, you've found them in Dayton. The Dutch Lions are currently in last place in the USL Pro with only four points over their first nine games of their regular season. Now the Dutch, after their second straight overtime win courtesy of midfielder Joel DeLass, have Sporting Kansas City at home. But the small advantage of home cooking may not be enough against arguably the best MLS team left in competition. If Teal Bunbury can net one early, the game may get out of hand.
Charlotte Eagles at Chivas USA
A trip across country to sunny Carson, Calif. is the reward for a Charlotte Eagles team that blanked FC Dallas in the 3rd round before squeezing by the NASL's San Antonio Scorpions in overtime. But Juan Pablo Angel will do his best to make sure the Eagles' vacation is nothing enjoyable. The forward netted the eventual game winner against the Carolina RailHawks with his stoppage time penalty and would love to keep moving the Goats forward to their first US Open Cup title. But their next step will be to stop Charlotte's Mauricio Salles, who had the game winner with five minutes left in overtime against San Antonio.
Seattle Sounders at San Jose Earthquakes
The second and third best teams in competition (KC is looking good) meet in San Francisco for the most exciting match-up of the tournament so far. San Jose is looking good, especially behind Steven Lenhart's clutch goal in the 85th minute of Tuesday's contest, but Seattle is looking pretty much unstoppable as they go for a record fourth straight title. The Sounders just trounced Cinderella-hopeful Cal FC 5-0 behind two goals apiece from Fredy Montero and Osvaldo Alonso. Hopefully San Jose, the busiest and most-travelled team in the league as of late, will be able to get some rest these next few weeks, or else this most exciting match-up may just be a small bump in the road for Seattle.
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