Open Cup: It's Worse...but not that bad...

The Chicago Tribune's reporting staff almost prompted me to write a "holy-shit-the-sky-is-falling-and-it's-on-fire" kind of post, courtesy of a passage that appeared in their report on the Chicago Fire crashing out of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (LHUSOC) on Sunday.

"The Fire became the fourth MLS team eliminated in the third round, joining Los Angeles, D.C. United and Houston on the sidelines. Only FC Dallas and New England remain."

It takes only a quick look at the competition bracket, usefully posted on the U.S. Open Cup's official site, to know this isn't the case. For one, Chivas USA hasn't played their Round of 16 game - that's on "June 16, 2007" against the Seattle Sounders. And that's in Seattle, by the way, the significance of which will be made clear later. There's also the fact that the Colorado Rapids is still in the tournament.

Getting back to that "significance" flag I planted earlier, maybe the Tribune's staff is stupid like a fox. For starters, they can't be blamed for forgetting Colorado is not an MLS team; I do it all the time, at least when I don't forget the Rapids' existence entirely. As for Chivas, maybe the Trib's staff knew all about Chivas' road record and figured that, combined with the Seattle Sounders' current hot-streak, would, in fact, leave New England and Dallas as the only two teams that one can say without smirking belong in MLS.

In reality, though, there are a minimum of three MLS teams remaining in this year's tourney. And the way the brackets break down means that at least one lower-division team will make the semifinals - and given how MLS teams are faring in LHUSOC play this year, why would one bet against them? If a USL-1 - or, god forbid, USL-2 - team wins the tourney this season, what the hell, y'know? For all the interest MLS teams and schedulers show in the tournament, it would be justice, wouldn't it?

That returns, rather nicely, to the post I was going to write. And if you read the report on Chicago's loss in Windy City Soccer, you'll read this priceless line:

"This was a night where the Fire was clearly second best in every aspect of the night except goalkeeping where Jon Busch kept the match close."

It shouldn't be this goddamn hard to tell which team on the field is top-flight.



elopingcamel said...

Having a USL-1 or USL-2 team this year's cup would definitely feel like justice for the piss-poor job of scheduling that has gone on this year. It screams terrible things about the current state of the MLS. A random upset of an MLS team's reserve roster is understandable, but when just about every lower division team has their way with full strength MLS squads... it is embarrasing.

Braden said...

I never pay much attention to the Open Cup, but are the losing MLS teams really playing their starters? If not, I can understand why they're losing. It's not like MLS is known for its depth. In fact, most USL squads probably have substantially better starters than the MLS reserves... I mean, that's what you get when you pay players less than $20,000.

The Manly Ferry said...

braden: not always. But, on the occasions where they have either started their "a-team" or introduced star players at the half, MLS teams haven't fared much better. At the same time, you're generally correct that MLS teams haven't consistently, and across the board, fielded their best.

As argued in an earlier post on this, though, I don't think that should matter: top-flight should be top-flight - and the schedulers should arrange things to make that so.

Braden said...

I'm with you on that point... And props to New England for keeping the spirit of the Open Cup alive. The only Open Cup match I have ever been to was New England vs. Rhinos last year and the Revs fielded pretty much everyone except Dempsey and Noonan. The Rhinos took them to overtime...