And now, the news from Major League Wobegon.
Lamar Hunt US Open Cup – Sounders FC 2009 – Present
All sixteen US-based Major League Soccer squads were included in this years US Open Cup. Their first action came in the third round. 2012 marks the 99th year for the US Open Cup. The last three consecutive cups have gone to Seattle Sounders FC who are pursuing an unprecedented fourth straight cup. With a dynasty already in tact, another would mark a legacy.
Common sense says 12 of the 16 MLS clubs move on. Vegas betting says no fewer than 10. No one picked only 8 moving on. If you did pick 8, quit your job and join SpaceX, The first commercial spacecraft missions to visit the international space station. So come on, you know you didn’t pick eight. No one did.
Their is only one American capable of picking so few big-league soccer clubs to move on. Eight Goliaths falling to eight Davids. A story of epic woebegone proportion. A true American storyteller, Garrison Keiller.
Lake Wobegon United fields only 10 starters. Because of some misinterpreted Lutheran athletic law of less is more. That, and no one, at least none of the men ever admitted Lake Wobegon’s Women’s soccer team were actually far superior. Ten championships out of eleven years. The men had still never scored twice in a single game. Always said they could win with one fewer player than the women. Down inside, they trembled with fear at the idea of playing the women. The swerving crosses, slicing kicks, never afraid of a little blood diving for a header. Ice fishing was more a mans rights of passage with his father anyway. Plus songs on the travel bus never went over well. Songs of course were a part of every young Lutheran’s church going experience on Sunday. But Lutheran soccer chants on the travel bus were pretty awful. “Burn, destroy, wreck, and kill”, never settled well with their stomachs. Or their ability to harmonize. ”Ole, ole, ole”, and “holy, holy, holy blurred together without recognition. None of the men wanted to travel anywhere to play soccer. The women just kept on winning. Either way, no one ever talked about soccer in Lake Wobegon, where all the women score goals, the men go fishing, and the children sew scarves.
When pairings were drawn for the third round of the US Open Cup, the Minnesota Stars got home field against 2009 MLS Cup Champions, Real Salt Lake. No travel. Holy, holy, holy! Finances are tough for everyone. Same for every second, third, and amateur level sports franchise. Real Salt Lake offered to buy the rights to host the match. Enough so Minnesota could fly to Salt Lake City. Seventeen thousand Real Salt Lake fans showed up. More for a pre-final match than in the 99 year history of the US Open Cup. Real Salt Lake had bought a sure win. Ole, ole, ole!
Kevin Venegas controlled an attempted clearance by Real Salt Lake Keeper, Kyle Reymish in only the third minute of the match. Venegas headed the ball barely under the crossbar and Minnesota was on the board. 17,000 hadn’t found their seats. Real Salt Lake suffered a Goliath collapse. Falling 3-1. Lake Wobegon United scored more than once. They finally won. But they weren’t even the least likely of the Davids to pluck the heart of Goliath.
Only half the Goliath MLS clubs played at a level you would expect. Barely making news. They simply delighted, like the New York Red Bulls in winning 3-nil over Charleston Battery.
2009 DC United, 2010 Columbus Crew, 2011 Chicago Fire, 2012 (?)
Other Goliath MLS winners included, Philadelphia Union ravaging the Rochester Rhinos 3-nil. Colorado Rapids toppling Tampa Bay 3-1. Kansas City took no pity on Orlando City 3-2. Chivas USA crumbled Ventura County 1-nil. San Jose Earthquakes shook Fort Lauderdale 2-1. And DC United gave the boot to the Richmond Kickers 2-1.
The other half of the MLS squads collapsed in historic fashion. There were fewer witnesses to the Goliath carnage as in Salt Lake, but the results were equally epic.
Harrisburg City and the New England Revolution took a nil-nil draw into overtime. Then split six goals. Level again at the end of overtime the clubs went to PK’s. The Revolution couldn’t hack the penalty kick pressure, losing 4-3.
Other Goliath MLS collapses included Michigan Bucks putting out the Chicago Fire 3-2. Dayton Dutch played something closer to their homeland Dutch style “total football” than the Columbus Crew, whom they ousted 2-1. San Antoinio knocked out rival, and 2012 MLS Cup runner-up Houston Dynamo 1-nil. Charlotte Eagles took the other MLS-heart out of Texas, knocking out FC Dallas 2-nil. Carolina RailHawks ousted 2012 MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy 2-1.
That is only 14 of the 16 third round matches. 7 up. 7 down. Leaving the two best for last.
Like Real Salt Lake, Seattle Sounders FC bought hosting rights for their draw with the Atlanta Silverbacks. Atlanta drew the right to host, and Seattle made an offer Atlanta accepted. Seattle hosted the third round match at Starfire Sports in Tukwila. Where they have hosted all but two home matches in their three-year run. The other two home matches have been the finals at Century Link Field.
Unlike Real Salt Lake, Sounders FC did what any MLS squad is expected to do to an early US Open Cup round opponent. Especially if you are the owner of three consecutive cups. Crushing Atlanta 5-1.
Down the I-5 corridor in Portland was a Goliath woebegone story beyond anything Garrison Keillor could imagine.
The Portland Timbers did everything possible a team could do to win. Except actually win. Their inability to win was so perplexing their loyal fans seemed unsure what to cheer, or who to cheer for. Not out of anger, or not caring, but confusion. There was simply no way they could comprehend how they lost. They will never see another match like it as long as they live. There will never be another match like it.
Cal FC is an amateur team. Managed and handpicked by former MLS star and US International player Eric Wynalda. Castaways from MLS, other professional leagues, and guys who think they just need the right opportunity to be seen. Wynalda believes all his players deserve a shot at a professional contract. “If these guys aren’t with professional teams in August, then I didn’t do my job”, said Wynalda.
The star players of the first three rounds of the US Open Cup have all come from Cal FC. Rounds one and two were Danny Barrera. The third round underdog hero, or “he who shall not be named” in Portland, is Artur Aghasyan.
The Timbers are an outstanding attacking team. They don’t lack soccer creativity. But their finishing has become mysteriously missing. Statistics in this case speak for themselves. Portland Timbers took 37 shots, with 15 on frame. None found net. Enough goal scoring creativity for four matches. Enough frustration to consider taking a flight out of orbit.
Portland’s most notable shot came on a penalty kick in the 80th minute. Designated Player, Kris Boyd stepped up. Bald strikers always seem to be the best at taking heady PK’s. Boyd got under the ball to avoid showing direction to the keeper. To give it lift over the keepers outstretched arms and under the crossbar. A technically sound match winner. If it stays under the crossbar. Instead the shot foreshadowed the 8th death of Goliath in the 3rd round of the US Open Cup. Boyd’s shot took angels wings and embarked on an orbit off NASA’s radar.
Both squads were level after 90 minutes. Then came the two 15-minute overtime periods. In the fifth minute of the first overtime Danny Barrera played a perfectly timed, perfectly placed through ball to the running feet of Artur Aghasyan, who suddenly turned into Fernando Torres of Spain in the 2008 European Championships, and eloquently timed a lofted ball over Timbers Goalkeeper, Troy Perkins as Perkins went for the block.
The first goal by an amateur United States Adult Soccer Association team against a top professional MLS team.
Now the Sounders move on to face Cal FC. The US Open Cup Goliaths against unpaid David. It’s been over twenty-two years since he said it, but if the Sounders don’t que up the goal finishing, someone will likely que up Al Michaels classic, “do you believe in miracles”. A happy tale for the winner, and an ice-age of woebegone for the loser.
© 2012 Sales on Sounders by Ryan J Sales