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2017 US Open Cup format unveiled with record number of teams

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The United States Soccer Federation announced Tuesday that the open division qualifying tournament for the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup has been canceled. This means, the 18 amateur clubs that advanced from Round 2 have all qualified for the 104th edition of the tournament.

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Eric Wynalda hired to lead LA Wolves for 2017 US Open Cup run

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LA Wolves Los Angeles WolvesUPDATE (3/1/17): The Los Angeles Wolves have officially qualified for the 2017 US Open Cup after the US Soccer Federation canceled the third round of open division qualifying. DETAILS HERE

The qualifying round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup rarely has any earth-shattering news, but that changed over the weekend.

The Los Angeles Wolves FC, one of the powerhouses in the United Premier Soccer League (UPSL), announced they have hired US Soccer Hall of Famer Eric Wynalda to be the team’s new head coach. The former U.S. international will take over the team for league play and for the team’s run in the 2017 US Open Cup.

Wynalda’s head coaching experience has been limited, but both jobs have been history-making ones. In 2012, he led Southern California-based amateur club Cal FC to a pair of upsets of professional teams, including a 1-0 road win over Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers. It was not only the first time a USASA team had defeated a MLS team in regulation (the only other upset by Dallas Roma FC over Chivas USA in 2006 was by penalty kicks), it was also the first time a USASA team had scored a goal against a MLS team. At the time, Cal FC was one of six amateur teams in the Modern Era (1995-present) to reach the Fourth Round, where they lost to the Seattle Sounders FC, 5-0.

Wynalda later joined the Atlanta Silverbacks of the North American Soccer League (NASL) in 2014, and helped them make history as well. He led the Silverbacks to the best cup run in club history. Atlanta upset a pair of MLS teams (Real Salt Lake, Colorado Rapids), marking the first time the Silverbacks had ever eliminated a top-tier side. The run would end in the Quarterfinals with a 3-1 home loss to the Chicago Fire.

The story of Wynalda’s new job has spread all over the soccer media from Soccer America to outlets that rarely report on amateur soccer. But what has been missed by some of the reporting is that the Wolves have yet to qualify for the 2017 competition. The Wolves have cruised to back-to-back wins in this year’s open division qualifying tournament (4-1 over Real Sociedad Royals and a 9-2 win over Inland Empire FC), but there’s still at least one more step to take before they qualify for the 104th edition of the tournament.

The third round of the competition was postponed until March of 2017, and according to the US Soccer Federation website, the draw for the third round was supposed to be announced in “mid-January.” The Wolves are still waiting to find out who they will face. And if they survive Round 3, there could be a fourth round of qualifying, which is scheduled to take place the weekend of April 8-9.

There is also the possibility that the third round of the open division qualifying tournament could be canceled, like it was last year, which would likely send all of the remaining clubs (with the exception of Minneapolis City SC, who are expected to be disqualified) into the tournament proper.

Wynalda inherits a quality Wolves roster. LA has won the UPSL Western Division in each of the last two seasons, including a perfect 16-0-0 finish during the Fall season. However, the Wolves have fallen short in each of their first two playoff runs, losing in the Spring championship game and suffering a first round upset in the Fall.

The Wolves made waves in their their US Open Cup debut last year. After a 2-1 win over fellow UPSL side Del Rey City, the Wolves defeated Cal FC by the same scoreline to qualify for the tournament. Once they got in, they got a free pass into Round 2 after the Ventura County Fusion (PDL) forfeited. Next, they upset their first professional team by holding the USL’s Orange County Blues to a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes and winning the penalty kick shootout 4-2. Their cup run would end at the hands of 2016’s Open Cup darling La Maquina, another UPSL rival, by the score of 2-0.

Wynalda is expected to continue his work as a broadcaster where he works as an analyst for Fox Sports and hosts a show with SiriusXM Satellite Radio.

US Open Cup qualifying history: Major League Soccer (Division 1)

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Jeremy Hall of the New York Red Bulls battles for the ball against Marko Perovic of the New England Revolution in a 2010 US Open Cup qualifying match at Red Bull Arena. Photo: New York Red Bulls

Jeremy Hall of the New York Red Bulls battles for the ball against Marko Perovic of the New England Revolution in a 2010 US Open Cup qualifying match at Red Bull Arena. Photo: New York Red Bulls

Major League Soccer has been the United States Soccer Federation’s (USSF) Division I league since its inception in 1996 and has taken part in the US Open Cup since that inaugural season. However, the way the teams have been chosen over the years had changed considerably over the years.

After doing away with the qualifying process from 2000-06, a pre-tournament competition was brought back from 2007-11. The games were very poorly attended and in 2012, the federation announced that going forward, every US-based professional team would take part in the US Open Cup.

Here is a look back at past US Open Cup qualifying results for MLS:

1996

The Dallas Burn, Kansas City Wiz, Los Angeles Galaxy and Tampa Bay Mutiny were chosen by Major League Soccer as the participants in the 1996 US Open Cup. However, Los Angeles Galaxy would drop out of the tournament citing fixture congestion and were replaced by eventual champion DC United.

1997

The Colorado Rapids, Dallas Burn, defending champion DC United, Kansas City Wizards, Metrostars, New England Revolution, San Jose Clash and Tampa Bay Mutiny entered the 1997 US Open Cup. The Columbus Crew and Los Angeles Galaxy did not enter

1998

The defending champion Dallas Burn joined the Columbus Crew, DC United, San Jose Clash and expansion team Chicago Fire were automatically entered into the 1998 US Open Cup by a blind draw. This left the Colorado Rapids, Kansas City Wizards, Metrostars, Los Angeles Galaxy Tampa Bay Mutiny and the second expansion team Miami Fusion to play qualifying games, which were just regular season games doubling as qualifiers. However, the New England Revolution declined entry and DC United and the Galaxy withdrew their entry due to their participation in the 1998 Copa Merconorte. This left the Rapids (the team that finished the lowest of the remaining teams) and the Fusion to play for the final Open Cup entry. On May 2, Miami defeated Colorado 3-2 to clinch a spot in the tournament.

1999

There were four automatic qualifiers for the 1999 US Open Cup from MLS: Chicago Fire (1998 US Open Cup champion), Columbus Crew (1998 US Open Cup runner-up), Dallas Burn (1997 US Open Cup champion) and DC United (1996 US Open Cup champion). Three more entries were determined by league games doubling as qualifiers with the Colorado Rapids winning a shootout with the Kansas City Wizards after a 1-1 draw (April 17), the Metrostars beating the Fusion 3-2 (May 15) and the Mutiny needing to win a shootout against the Galaxy after a scoreless draw (May 15). The eighth and final spot would be awarded to one of the three losing teams (Kansas City, Miami, Los Angeles). The final spot would go to the team with the highest point total in league play through June 1, or by the highest point-per-game average if the teams have not played an even number of games. The Galaxy would have a 5-6 record (3-4 in shootouts) on June 1 and would earn the final Open Cup berth.

2000-2006

No MLS qualifying

2007

The top three teams from each conference from the previous season automatically qualified for the 2007 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup (DC United, FC Dallas, New England Revolution, Chicago Fire, Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA). The remaining six teams from last season were entered into a qualifying tournament with games played separately from the league schedule.

Real Salt Lake won a 2-1 extra time decision against the Kansas City Wizards (April 18) and Nate Jaqua’s lone goal gave the Los Angeles Galaxy a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew (April 24) to set up a pair of “Win and You’re In” matches. The Galaxy and Red Bulls played strong lineups and it looked like Juan Pablo Angel’s goal for New York was going to punch their ticket, but Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick in second half stoppage time and Kyle Martino and Santino Quaranta scored in extra time to send the Galaxy to the tournament. In the other match, Jacob Peterson’s second goal of the game was the game-winner in second half stoppage time as the Rapids defeated Real Salt Lake 2-1.

First Round
Apr 18 Real Salt Lake 2:1 (AET) Kansas City Wizards
RSL – Jeff Cunningham 12’, Andy Williams 109’
KC – Sasha Victorine 88’

Apr 24 Columbus Crew 0:1 Los Angeles Galaxy
LAG – Nate Jaqua 17’

Final Round
May 8 Los Angeles Galaxy 3:1 (AET) New York Red Bulls
LAG – Landon Donovan 92’ (PK), Kyle Martino 103’, Santino Quaranta 120’
NYRB – Juan Pablo Angel
Los Angeles qualify for 2007 U.S. Open Cup

May 23 Colorado Rapids 2:1 Real Salt Lake
COL – Jacob Peterson 48’, Jacob Peterson 90’+
RSL – Chris Klein 64’
Colorado qualifies for 2007 U.S. Open Cup

2008

Just like last year, the teams at the bottom of the overall league standings from the previous year held qualifying games for the 2008 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. 2008 marked the return of the San Jose Earthquakes, adding an additional team to the tournament. Also, the automatic qualifiers were the top six teams based on the overall standings (rather than determined by conference standings).

Automatic qualifiers: DC United, Chivas USA, Houston Dynamo, New England Revolution, FC Dallas, New York Red Bulls

2008 qualifying tournament

First Round
Apr 30 Real Salt Lake 4:0 San Jose Earthquakes
RSL – Kyle Beckerman, Kyle Beckerman, Yura Movsisyan, Andy Williams 90’

Second Round
May 27 Colorado Rapids 1:0 Los Angeles Galaxy
COL – Conor Casey 80’

May 27 Columbus Crew 2:0 Real Salt Lake
CLB – Steven Lenhart 26’, Robbie Rogers 53’

Final Round
Jun 4 Kansas City Wizards 2:2 (AET) Colorado Rapids
KC – Ryan Pore 20’, Ivan Trujillo 86’
COL – Herculez Gomez 36’, Jacob Peterson 57’
Kansas City qualifies for 2008 U.S. Open Cup on penalties, 5-3

Jun 10 Chicago Fire 3:2 (AET) Columbus Crew
CHI – Stephen King 10’, Andy Herron 65’, Andy Herron 116’ (PK)
COL – Emmanuel Ekpo 63’, Jason Garey 67’
Chicago qualify for 2008 U.S. Open Cup

2009

The Seattle Sounders made the move from the United Soccer Leagues to MLS, adding to the number of teams that had to qualify to get into the 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. The top six teams from last season (overall standings) automatically qualified.

Automatic qualifiers: Columbus Crew, Houston Dynamo, Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Chivas USA, and Kansas City Wizards.

First Round
Apr 7 Colorado Rapids 0:0 (AET) Los Angeles Galaxy
Colorado advance on penalties, 4-2

Apr 22 FC Dallas 0:2 D.C. United
DCU – Fred 21’, Brandon Barklage 66’

Apr 28 Real Salt Lake 1:4 Seattle Sounders
RSL – Will Johnson 32’
SEA – Sebastien Le Toux 25’ (PK), Sanna Nyassi 27’, Stephen King 52’, Sebastien Le Toux 54’ (PK)

Apr 29 New York Red Bulls 2:1 San Jose Earthquakes
NYRB – Mike Petke 2’, John Wolyniec 80’
SJ – Pablo Campos 71’

Final Round
May 20 New York Red Bulls 3:5 D.C. United
NYRB – Dane Richards 44’, Jorge Alberto Rojas 48’, Jorge Alberto Rojas 61’ (PK)
DCU – Chris Pontius 8’, Thabiso Khumalo 18’, Brandon Berklage 21’, Fred 28’, Chris Pontius 52’
DC United qualify for 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

May 26 Colorado Rapids 0:1 Seattle Soudners
SEA – Kevin Forrest 62’
Seattle qualifies for 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

2010

The top six clubs from last season (overall standings) were automatically entered into the 2010 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, leaving nine teams (including expansion team Philadelphia Union) to battle for the final two spots.

Automatic qualifiers: Columbus Crew, Los Angeles Galaxy, Houston Dynamo, Seattle Sounders FC, Chicago Fire, and Chivas USA.

Qualifying tournament

First Round
Apr 27 Philadelphia Union 1:2 New York Red Bulls
PHI – Sebastien Le Toux 68’
NYRB – Conor Chinn 16’, Conor Chinn 41’

Second Round
Apr 14 Real Salt Lake 3:3 (AET) San Jose Earthquakes
Real Salt Lake advance on penalties, 5-3
RSL – Robbie Findley 7’, Nelson Gonzalez 60’, Nat Borchers 117’
SJ – Chris Leitch 68’, Arturo Alvarez 88’, Bobby Burling 108’

Apr 14 Colorado Rapids 2:1 Kansas City Wizards
COL – Wells Thompson 24’, Wells Thompson 80’
KCW – Teal Bunbury 4’

Apr 28 FC Dallas 2:4 D.C. United
FCD – Bruno Guarda 52’, Dax McCarthy 57’ (PK)
DCU – Adam Cristman 4’, Christian Castillo 39’, Andy Najar 51’

May 12 New England Revolution 0:3 New York Red Bulls
NYRB – John Wolyniec 36’, Sinisa Ubiparipovic 62’, John Wolyniec 64’

Final Round
May 26 Colorado Rapids 0:3 New York Red Bulls
NYRB – John Wolyniec 11’, John Wolyniec 43’, Conor Chinn 56’
New York qualifies for 2010 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

Jun 2 Real Salt Lake 1:2 (AET) D.C. United
RSL – Will Johnson 81’ (PK)
DCU – Luciano Emilio 75’ (PK), Andy Najar 107’
DC United qualify for 2010 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

2011

Just like they have the last three years, the top six clubs from last season based on the overall league standings were automatically entered into the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. This left 10 teams (including expansion team Portland Timbers FC) to battle for the final two spots.

Automatic qualifiers: Los Angeles Galaxy, Real Salt Lake, New York Red Bulls, FC Dallas, Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders FC.

2011 qualifying tournament

First Round
Mar 29 Chivas USA 0:2 Portland Timbers
POR – Jack Jewsbury 84’, eric Brunner 86’

Apr 6 Philadelphia Union 2:2 (AET) D.C. United
D.C. United advance on penalties, 4-2
PHI – Carlos Ruiz 18’, Brian Carroll 118’
DCU – Josh Wolff 45’,Daniel Wollard 111’

Second Round
Mar 30 Colorado Rapids 1:2 Chicago Fire
COL – Andre Akpan 46’
CHI – Gaston Puerari 45’, Jalil Anibaba 61’

Apr 6 Sporting Kansas City 1:0 (AET) Houston Dynamo
SKC – C.J. Sapong 92’

Apr 26 New England Revolution 3:2 D.C. United
NER – Kheli Dube 37’ Kheli Dube 47’, Alan koger 67’
DCu – Branko Boskovic 73’, Branko Boskovic 83’

May 3 San Jose Earthquakes 1:0 (AET) Portland Timbers
SJE – Ike Opara 120’

Final Round
May 24 Chicago Fire 2:2 (AET) San Jose Earthquakes
CHI – Orr Barouch 61’, Yamith Cuesta 76’
SJE – Ellis McLoughlin 14’, Justin Morrow 43’
Chicago qualify for 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on PKs, 5-4

May 25 New England Revolution 0:5 Sporting Kansas City
SKC – Chance Myers 9’ Chance Myers 19’, C.J. Sapong 24’, Aurelien Collin 81’, C.J. Sapong 88’
Kansas City qualify for 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup

2012 – present: US Open Cup qualifying for MLS discontinued

How league form has impacted the US Open Cup Final

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You don’t need to be long-time soccer fan to know that there’s a big difference between league games and cup competitions. The Philadelphia Union are heading into Wednesday’s US Open Cup Final at PPL Park having earned seven out of a possible 15 points in their last five league matches. Their opponent Sporting Kansas City have five during that same span.

So who has the advantage going into the 102nd edition of the US Open Cup Final?

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Once upon a time, before the proliferation of podcasts, social media and YouTube, there was an internet radio show based out of Lansing, Mich. that was the only one of its kind that covered every level of American soccer, from the still-fledgling Major League Soccer (MLS) to the birth of what is now the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL).

In 2003 the host of the show, Josh Hakala, was approached with an idea. Since the “Soccer Fanatics Radio Show” was one of the few, if not the only, live shows that was giving full coverage to the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, why not start a website that covers the tournament?

That’s how TheCup.us (originally USOpenCup.com) began. And now, more than a decade later, the site remains the only place where fans can find in-depth information and coverage about one of the best-kept secrets, not just in American soccer, but in American sports.

While the site has never been affiliated with the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) in any way, many people over the years have mistaken TheCup.us as the tournament’s official site (which is flattering). This reflects the high standards the site has held over the years in aspiring to give the soccer community a professional media outlet that helps fans keep up with the tournament and learn about its rich history.

USOpenCup.com is born

In 2003, Hakala was approached by soccer website company Demosphere International about helping to manage a website that they had just created under the domain name USOpenCup.com. At the time, Hakala was co-hosting an online radio show with his friend Scott Yoshonis in Lansing, Mich., called the “Soccer Fanatics Radio Show.” The show spent a lot of time focusing on coverage of the US Open Cup, and Demosphere felt that it would be a win/win – Hakala could use the site to promote his radio show and help cover a tournament that he was obviously passionate about and Demosphere had a website to show off some of the great work they could and would do for soccer clubs, organizations and tournaments worldwide.

In the early days of the site, it was a modest operation with schedules, results, some recaps and news, but what was sorely lacking was a historical archive. Hakala then recruited Chuck Nolan Jr., who researched soccer history as a hobby and had a small website of his own where he posted the information. With Nolan on board, the site was on its way, forming a balance between the past and present. As time went on, more volunteers continued to contribute and the more the writer roster expanded, so did the coverage.

The radio show came to a close in December 2003 after Hakala moved to Philadelphia, but he continued to operate the website. Every year, the site grew, and for Hakala and Nolan, it became a little more than a hobby.

Pass the offering plate

As the years moved on, the work on the site became nearly a full-time commitment, especially during the running of the tournament. USOpenCup.com was maintained alongside full-time jobs, full-time college and family commitments. Every year, the traffic on the site continued to grow, so they inquired about the possibility of inserting advertisements into the site in an effort to compensate the two of them for all the time and money they were putting into this project. It had also become increasingly difficult to recruit people to help with the site when there was no way to pay them.

At that point Demosphere, who owned the domain name USOpenCup.com, was told by the USSF that the Federation had a right to the domain name due to the fact that they held the copyright and trademark for the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, but that it was pleased with the work that was being done on the site. After all, their marquee tournament was receiving comprehensive coverage from a dedicated group of volunteers and it wasn’t costing them a penny. But if money was being made by anyone else on a domain name that they had a legal right to, that was a problem for the Federation’s legal department, which could lead to the USSF simply confiscating the entire operation as a legal remedy.

In an effort to avoid future conflicts, Demosphere signed the domain name over to the USSF. All parties involved agreed that the website would not change as a result of the official change in ownership of the domain name.

This created a difficult situation for Hakala and Nolan, since they were spending hundreds of hours keeping the website updated with the latest news and information and continuing to build the site’s historical archive, yet it was impossible for them to be compensated for their time. Since advertisements and donations were out of the question, the only logical step was for Hakala and Nolan to be paid by the USSF. They created a proposal and negotiations began at that point. Those discussions ended with the USSF deciding that it was unable to find any money in its budget to fund or even contribute to the website.

Having exhausted all other options, Hakala and Nolan began to explore other ways to continue to provide the high-quality coverage that fans and media members have come to expect from USOpenCup.com. An important first step was finding a domain name that did not conflict with USSF’s copyrights and trademarks.

After a long and exhaustive process, the domain name TheCup.us was purchased and a new website was created.

TheCup.us era begins

The site has grown more popular with each passing year, both on social media (Twitter, Facebook) and with reader numbers. Nolan’s full-time job and other commitments saw his ability to contribute diminish, but he still occasionally uncovers, and then covers, some historical diamonds in the rough. Hakala has pretty much been a one-man show running the site, which has become more and more challenging due to his full-time job, freelance broadcasting work, the addition of three kids to his family (including a set of twins), and a family medical crisis that took up the better part of a year and a half.

Thanks to a volunteer army of writers TheCup.us has covered hundreds of Cup games from coast to coast. Without them, this site could not function as it does. Among the many people who have contributed to the site over the years, one person deserves special recognition: Gerald Barnhart. A former communications director at the United Soccer Leagues, the Washington native played a massive role in keeping the site alive when Hakala was overwhelmed by life, whether that be wrangling his kids or dealing with that medical crisis that nearly forced the site to close. The last couple years would have been nearly impossible to manage without him.

The future

The future for this tournament is bright. One thing that Hakala has repeated in numerous interviews over the years is that the FA Cup in England reached its peak and no longer holds the place on the sports mantle that it used to. After more than a century, the US Open Cup, on the other hand, has never reached its peak. When it receives the proper media attention and promotion it deserves, in a country that worships the underdog-inspiring, one-and-done drama of the NCAA basketball tournament, it will finally reach that peak.

Anyone who follows and appreciates the US Open Cup knows that while the tournament has grown in popularity slowly but surely, there is still a long way to go until it receives its due as one of the most historic cup competitions in the world and we hope that this new era for TheCup.us will go a long way to facilitate that growth.

new era for TheCup.us will significantly facilitate that growth.

2017 US Open Cup qualifying: Minneapolis City has eye on rare tournament berth after OT win over Oakland County

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FINAL (AFTER EXTRA TIME)
Oakland County FCOakland County FC  
1 : 2
Minneapolis City SC    Minneapolis City SC
 National Sports Center – Blaine, MN 

Whitney Browne of Minneapolis City celebrates one of his two goals against Oakland County FC in the second round of the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

Whitney Browne of Minneapolis City celebrates one of his two goals against Oakland County FC in the second round of the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

Courtesy of FiftyFive.One

Minneapolis City SC emerged the victor from a closely fought cup tie with Rochester Hills, Mich.’s Oakland County FC, thanks to an extra time goal from winger Whitney Browne. City frequently had the run of play on the afternoon, but County goal keeper Nathan Steinwascher repeatedly frustrated the Crows, keeping County in the game and forcing 30 additional minutes.

Whitney Browne was a deserved Man of the Match, scoring 22nd and 95th minute goals for the Crows. County winger Shawn Sloan — scoring in a second-straight US Open Cup qualifier — opened the scoring in the 17th minute.

Over 300 people were in attendance at the National Sports Center on a beautiful fall day. Temperatures stayed in the low 60s with little wind and few clouds in sight.

The two teams ran out with starting XIs of similar shape. Player-manager Nicolino Morana set up his County teammates in a 4-2-3-1. Nathan Steinwascher started in goal behind a back four of Mike Pugh, Jamie Foxwell, Ryan Messick and Jacob Prud’homme. Moussa Diallo and Brent Schmid formed the base of a midfield triangle, with Theo Foutris at its point. Dangerman Shawn Sloan started on the right wing opposite Joe Beshara before swapping sides early in the first half. Mikel Alia operated as a lone striker.

City technical director and Open Cup head coach Jon Bisswurm countered with a 4-3-3, using a single holding midfielder to County’s pair. Matt Elder played between the posts, guarded by a back four of Brian Chapman, Joey Gustafson, AJ Albers and Charlie Adams. Miles Stockman-Willis sat in front of defense and behind Martin Browne and Ben Wexler in the center of midfield. Tim Wills spearheaded the Crows’ attack as a center forward, flanked by Abbai Habte and Whitney Browne.

Hosts Minneapolis had a full bench consisting of defenders Evan Wright, Emmanuel Brown and Landy Mattison, midfielders Tom Corcoran and Chase Carey, forward Keido Toure, and goalkeeper James Neher.

Oakland County had made the 12-hour trip by bus with a spartan 13-man roster, leaving only forward Kevin Pinkos and player-coach Morana in reserve.

FIRST HALF

Minneapolis City (left) and Oakland County FC squared off at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota in the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

Minneapolis City (left) and Oakland County FC squared off at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota in the 2017 US Open Cup qualifying tournament. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

Oakland County controlled most of the possession in the first five minutes, but was unable to threaten Minneapolis’ goal during that opening stretch.

The first scoring chance of the game occurred in the 6th minute. Whitney Browne — making a diagonal run behind his mark — ran on to the end of a through ball, then squared his path parallel to the edge of the 18-yard box. The winger played a square ball towards the center of the penalty area for a streaking Wills, but the forward’s resulting effort went low and wide of Steinwascher’s left post.

A minute later, on City’s opposite flank, Habte was nearly played in on goal, but a well-timed sliding challenge from County’s center back Foxwell smothered the opportunity.

Neither side was finding much success playing through the middle of the field, with both teams packing the center with three midfielders. City was starting to find space for its wingers on the flanks via long diagonal balls played out from its back line and midfield. When able to work the ball up near County’s 18-yard box, the Crows were able manage a bit of short combination play, but were unable to find the final ball needed to break down County’s back line.

Rallying back from being pinned on its heels for near 10 minutes, County found success with a bit of build-up play.

Sloan let loose with a well-struck volley from just inside the penalty area in the 15th minute, forcing Elder to parry. The goal keeper was able to get a pair of hands on the ball while at full-dive to his left.

Two minutes later, Schmid played the ball between City’s ranks, putting Sloan one-on-one with City’s full back Adams. Checking the ball on to his right foot after a feint, Sloan was able to drive the ball inside the near post and past Elder, putting County up 1-0.

“Honestly, I watched the Liverpool game earlier today, and [Philippe] Coutinho did that same exact thing, where he faked the shot, cut it back against the grain, and hit it near post,” Sloan said. “In my head, I was just thinking play like that, and it worked out.”

“We knew Sloan was the guy to guard,” said Bisswurm. “We singled him out as one guy to pay attention to, we had a mental breakdown, and look what happened.”

City tried to answer back three minutes later when a Martin Browne pass carried Wexler into County’s penalty area, but Foxwell and Pugh smothered the creative midfielder and Wexler’s shot was blocked.

Martin Browne would again attempt to set one of his City teammates up in the 22nd minute, playing a ball between Pugh and Foxwell for his brother Whitney. The winger was able to hold off a defender on his back, and bearing down one-on-one with Steinwascher, slotted the ball low to the keeper’s left. Steinwascher was able to get part of his hand to the ball, but was unable to redirect it around his post. The ball rolled across the goal line, leveling the score at 1-1.

The goal had come from a slightly unexpected source, as the key pass was made from distance along the ground, whereas a majority of City’s prior play had consisted of long diagonal balls sprayed out to the wings, or attempts at short combination play.

“Martin found me on a diagonal run, and I was able to finish,” offered the younger Browne, succinctly. “We watched [County] on film together, and we talked about it before the game — where my spots were going to be.”

Browne nearly scored again in the 28th, beating Pugh off the dribble. Driving towards goal with a defender on his shoulder, the winger could only manage to scuff a shot in the direction of Steinwascher, as the goal keeper comfortably collected the ball.

Misfortune struck Oakland County in the 33rd minute. Alia — who had been noticeably limping for several minutes — was deemed unable to carry on, and County was forced to make a substitution, sending Kevin Pinkos on in his stead.

More than 300 fans were in attendance at the National Sports Center to support Minneapolis City in their 2017 US Open Cup qualifying match against Oakland County FC. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

More than 300 fans were in attendance at the National Sports Center to support Minneapolis City in their 2017 US Open Cup qualifying match against Oakland County FC. Photo: Daniel Mick | http://www.danielmickcreative.com/USOC-Minneapolis-City-v/

“We had a game plan going in, about exactly how the subs would go,” said Morana. “We weren’t going to make any in the first half, but you could tell… he tweaked [his leg], but he told me he was going to fight through it. It was unfortunate, but it happens.”

Shortly after Pinkos had come on, City came close to scoring again. Wills, making a run directly in on goal, was picked up by Whitney Browne who was in possession along City’s right flank. The cross found the outstretched foot of Wills, but the forward only managed to softly settle the ball for Steinwascher to gather.

The two sides would attempt to catch each other off guard via the long ball, but no real scoring chances materialized for the remainder of the half.

SECOND HALF

Neither team made any changes to its lineup coming out of halftime, and the second half began in similar fashion to how the first had ended.

In the 48th minute, Habte used his pace to drive the ball into County’s penalty area. Drawing a pair of defenders, the winger cut the ball back for Wills. The forward seemed not to make the cleanest of contact with the ball, and the resulting effort was rolled directly at Steinwascher.

Though the forward’s finishing was wanting, Wills’ workrate and movement presented a consistent threat.

Moments later, on the other end of the field, Pinkos was able to split City’s center backs in a footrace for a ball played over the top, as County played long from its back line. Only a clean and precisely timed diving tackle from Gustafson prevented Pinkos from going through on goal, as City’s center back was able to poke the ball away while stretching around Pinkos from behind.

While City enjoyed most of the possession following the resumption of play, scoring chances were split evenly between the two teams over the first 10 minutes of the second half.

In the 57th minute, a County turnover in midfield sent Whitney Browne through a channel towards goal. Wills accompanied in support, but a pair of County defenders were able to recover in time and secure the middle of the field, isolating Wills from Browne. As had already happened multiple times in the game, Foxwell arrived to make a crucial tackle in his own penalty area, averting danger.

Inserting fresh legs into its midfield, City would make its first substitution in the 65th minute. Corcoran came on as a like-for-like replacement for Wexler.

Whether it was a lack of substitutes, having to travel from several states away by road, or superior conditioning on City’s part, County began losing the battle for midfield as the second half drew on. But still, Minneapolis was unable to find a goal.

Chances for County became fewer and far between, but the white and purple were still able to threaten goal when picking their spots.

Diallo sent a dangerous cross in the direction of Sloan around the 70th minute, prompting a jumping, scissor-kick clearance from Adams from inside City’s penalty area.

The Crows won a free kick on the other end of the field a few moments later. Corcoran sent a curling ball towards Steinwascher’s far post from 30 yards out, and the goal keeper was momentarily frozen by runs from Stockman-Willis and Albers. Determining late that neither City player would be able to get a head on the ball, the keeper dove to his left and scooped Corcoran’s free kick off the goal line, deftly playing the short hop with one hand.

After the subsequent corner was cleared, Bashara was able to dribble around Whitney Browne, but lacked the pace to shake the winger in traffic. Falling to the ground and grabbing the back of his leg, the winger drew considerable ire from City’s nearby supporters group, the Citizens, as the officials took no notice.

In the 77th minute, City conceded a free kick on the outside edge of its own 18-yard box. Sloan sent a curling effort in, but it was headed away by a leaping Stockman-Willis.

Schmid was shown yellow in the 81st for a rough tackle, and City nearly took the lead from the resulting free kick. Wills put the ball on the head of Adams, who flicked the ball on for Albers. Fully committing, Albers bundled the ball into the goal from short range as Steinwascher was shaken up on the play. Unfortunately for City, the assistant had flagged for offside, ruling Albers had already moved past the last defender prior to Adams’ header.

Browne, taking matters into his own hands, nearly scored in the 87th minute. Going past a pair of County defenders on the dribble the winger was able to round Steinwascher inside the 6-yard box, but the keeper’s effort to close down had pushed Browne wide. Browne’s resulting narrow-angle shot struck the near post, caroming out towards the penalty spot where it was cleared by Oakland County.

Chapman looked worse for the wear in the 90th minute, and was replaced at left back by Mattison.

Two minutes later, Habte caught County’s back line sleeping. Making a diagonal run to keep onside, Habte darted into yards of space behind County’s defense, receiving a ball played straight up the center of the field. One-on-one with Steinwascher, who had come off his line to cut down Habte’s shooting angle, the winger shot low and to the goal keeper’s left. Steinwascher did notably well to get down and parry the shot with his left hand, preserving the tie.

Where most of the second half belonged to City, it was County that made the most of added time. After a scuffle in traffic just outside the top of the D, Purd’homme emerged with the ball and an open look at City’s goal from 22 yards out. The full back let loose with a powerful shot, but sent the ball over Elder’s crossbar.

Then, just before regulation came to a close, Sloan received a pass just outside City’s penalty area. The winger was dispossessed by Albers, but again the ball fell to Prud’homme. This time, the full back made sure to put his shot on target, and only Elder diving and parrying to his right was able to keep County from stealing the game late.

EXTRA TIME

Habte again found himself one-on-one with Steinwascher after making a diagonal run and receiving the ball behind County’s back line, this time in the 94th minute. Again coming off his line, Steinwascher was able to pressure Habte’s shot, and the winger fired wide of the near post.

A minute later, City would finally grab its second goal. Wills flicked a header in the direction of Whitney Browne and Pugh, and both challenged for the header. Pugh lost his footing following the contact while Browne collected the ball and raced in on goal. The winger was able to cut around Foxwell, giving himself enough space to shoot with his right foot. Steinwascher, hung out to dry, was unable to produce another highlight real save, as Browne put the ball into the back of the net to the keeper’s right.

“The second goal was me working hard,” said Browne. “I was able to come out with a chance, and I finished it off.”

The two teams traded half-chances before Wills nearly set up a second goal in extra time in the 101st minute. The forward slipped a clever ball through for Stockman-Willis, but the midfielder shot wide of a diving Steinwascher.

Shortly thereafter, Bisswurm opted to replace Wills with Carey with an eye towards killing the last 15 minutes.

Morana inserted himself into the game on the wing in the 116th, representing County’s last available substitute.

The player-coach was able to get on the end of a cross from Sloan, and attempted to knock the ball down for one of his teammates, but the ball fell into an empty part of City’s penalty area and was cleared shortly thereafter.

Content to defend deep while protecting a lead, City conceded much of the possession an imitative to County in the game’s final minutes.

Foxwell, pushing forward in search of an equalizer, had his shot from the corner of the 18-yard box parried by Elder in the 108th minute.

Carey was shown yellow in the 113th for a late, rough challenge while closing down one of County’s defenders as the visitors sought to keep the ball in City’s half.

Foxwell, still keeping an advanced position, got on the end of a cross from Diallo, but the center back’s header went wide of Elder’s goal.

Making its only notable charge of the game’s final 15 minutes, City nearly put the contest beyond reach in the 117th when Martin Browne again put his brother Whitney in on goal, but the winger was unable to record a hat trick, shooting low and wide right of Steinwascher.

Steinwascher found himself at the other end of the field in the game’s dying moments. Sloan sent a ball into the penalty area in the 120th minute, finding the goal keeper’s head, but Steinwascher was unable to place the effort on target.

Seconds later, the final whistle was blown, sending City through to the third qualifying round.

City now take another step toward becoming the first amateur team from the state of Minnesota to qualify for the US Open Cup in the Modern Era (1995-present).

REACTIONS

“It could have gone either way,” Foxwell said. “They had, probably, more chances than we had. [Steinwascher] played a hell of a game. We battled, but they got one in on us [late]. That’s just how soccer goes.”

“We came with 13 guys — me being one of the 13 — travelling 12 hours out here… I was satisfied with the result,” reflected Morana. “We had couple chances at the beginning of the game, and a couple at the end of regulation we could have buried. But at the same time [City] had a breakaway that was missed, hit a post… it was one of those games that was going to come down to one or two goals.”

“Nate [Steinwascher] definitely kept us in the game,” added Morana. “He made big stops when we needed them, and he extended the game into extra time. What more can you ask from your keeper?”

“Overall, I think we played well,” said Steinwascher. “We struggled keeping the ball at times. [City] were obviously the more fit team out here, today, and it hurt us. They’re a quality team, and they’re probably going to do well in the next round.”

“Coming into the game, we just wanted to get the win,” said Whitney Browne. “I was fortunate enough to score, but I definitely couldn’t it without my teammates. It’s win or go home. However you get the job just, you just have to get it done.”

“I think we should have scored more goals,” offered Bisswurm. “We hit the post… we outran them… I think it should have been five or six to one.”

When asked if focusing his team’s attack down the wings was part of City’s plan going into the game, Bisswurm replied, “We were taking the opportunity presented to us. We’d prefer to keep possession, but when you’re given those diagonal balls and you have two dynamic wingers…”

On being undefeated as a head coach in Open Cup play, Bisswurm said, “I’m going to ultimately be fired, in any event, so I might as well rack up as many wins as possible before then.”

“I feel like we missed a lot of chances, and could have put the game away early,” Albers said, “But a win feels really great. We pressured them, and worked well together as a team. I’ve liked the training and the few scrimmages we’ve had, which set us up for this game.”

“It was sweet – first Open Cup game for me, for the boys, and for the club… to get a win was awesome,” said Elder. “I knew that if I made a mistake, the way the boys were firing up top, we were going to get one back. So not too much pressure on me. Oakland was a class team, give them credit, but I thought we were better in the attacking third.”

WATCH A FULL REPLAY OF THE MATCH HERE

Oakland County FC Minneapolis City SC
GOALS
SHOTS 12 20
SAVES 4 8
CORNERS 4 3
FOULS 9 9
OFFSIDE 1 6
YELLOW CARDS
RED CARDS
REFEREES REF: 
AR:   
AR:  
4th: 
ATTENDANCE
Oakland County FC
Substitutions
 
 
 
 
 
Minneapolis City SC
Substitutions
 
 
 
 
 
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