On Notice – Which USL Teams Have the Best Chance at an Upset in the Open Cup

After a couple weeks off, it’s time to start up the 102nd edition of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup yet again! In the third round, USL went 6-0-1 against second division NASL sides and 7-0-1 in all matches with eight teams advancing.

As much fun as it is to dwell on the demise of the NASL this season (they have just two teams left in the tournament), it does not do to dwell on past accomplishments in the face of present challenges. Make no mistake, there will be plenty of trials for the USL in the fourth round of the Open Cup. However, there will also be plenty of opportunity for more giant-slaying antics. Here are a few teams that I have pegged to move on to the fifth round of play.

Also, this will be a lot of fun for me as I’ve watched maybe 45 total minutes of MLS play this season. Talk about failing to see a return on investment for MLS Live…

Rochester Rhinos over Philadelphia Union

Tuesday, June 16 at 7:30 pm ET (Stream)

I’d be an idiot if I didn’t say the league-leading Rhinos didn’t have a shot at upending the Union on Tuesday night. Rochester is the sole unbeaten team remaining in the USL across all competitions, so I feel pretty good about their chances. While Philadelphia has had success recently, taking full points in three of their last five MLS matches, they have been a dumpster fire on defense.

Yes, Sebastian LeToux lives for the Open Cup. His 15 goals are the best total in the Open Cup’s Modern Era.  But he’s only scored two goals all season. CJ Sapong is Philly’s top scorer, but he’s bagged a paltry four goals. So long as Pat McMahon, Vasileios Apostolopoulos and the rest of the backline keep those two occupied, this should be easy going for the Rhinos. After all, they’ve given up just four goals in 12 league games, far and away the best in the USL.

While not an incredibly potent offensive side, scoring a fairly pedestrian 16 goals by USL standards, the offense should be able to get the job done. After all, the Union have given up an MLS-worst 25 goals this term.

OKC Energy over FC Dallas

Tuesday, June 16 at 8 pm CT (No Stream)

This one feels like the easiest pick for me. The Energy are riding high at the moment, having won seven straight games and posting five straight clean sheets. I mean, sure only one of those shutouts came against a team currently on the right side of the playoff cut, but confidence is at a premium for these type of games.

FC Dallas hasn’t won a game in over a month, with their last win coming on May 9 against the Galaxy. They most recently were handed a 3-0 reversal by the Seattle Sounders, and the defense has let in nine goals over the last four games. The formidable tandem of Danni Konig and Kyle Greig, who have combined for 13 goals in league play this season, should be salivating with that sort of leaky defense.

While World Cup Qualifying call-ups haven’t helped the Hoops’ side recently, it’s never good when a team is only scoring one goal in five games. Jacob VanCompernolle is playing solid, steady minutes in the heart of the defense during his rookie campaign, and should continue to do so here. Did I mention the fact that Evan Newton has posted five straight clean sheets in all competitions?

The only true letdown is that, due to field work at Toyota Stadium, there will be no streaming available because Texas Christian’s soccer field apparently lacks the capabilities to stream. So it’s basically like watching an Energy game on YouTube anyway. Moving on.

Colorado Springs Switchbacks over Colorado Rapids

Tuesday, June 16 at 7 pm MT (Audio Only)

Another team that has quietly been rounding into fine form are the first-year Switchbacks. They’ve rattled off six consecutive wins heading into their match against the Rapids, who if we’re being frank are hot garbage at best.

The Rapids have taken just a point per game this season through 14 matches. A team that has also experienced very little in the way of actual victories in the last month, their last triumph came over the Vancouver Whitecaps on May 23. Unlike Dallas, however, they are actually scoring goals and Kley Bejarano and company will have their hands full. With a fantastic blend of youth and experience though, Colorado Springs should be up to the task.

With 25 goals to their credit, the Switchbacks are tied for the second-most goals among USL teams and boast a +9 goal differential. While they’ve only given up 13 goals this season, the Rapids will struggle to address the three-headed beast that is Miguel Gonzalez (6 goals, 3 assists), Luke Vercollone (6 goals, 7 assists) and whoever else decides to show up on Tuesday because they have three other players who have at least scored two goals this season.

Oh, and before I forget, the Rapids are 1-2 (small sample size!) against third division sides.

Richmond Kickers over Columbus Crew

Wednesday, June 17 at 7 pm ET (Stream)

The Kickers have hit something of a slump, going 2-1-2 in their last five games, so this one is my dark horse. Here’s what makes it attractive to me. The Columbus Crew, like their Pioneer Cup rival Dallas, haven’t experienced the sweet taste of three points since May 9. Then just compound that with their leading scorer riding on the struggle bus for the last few games.

Richmond is much like the Switchbacks in that their offense is an undying hydra of misery for opposing defenses. Four different players have scored four-plus goals this term, led by Matthew Delicate with six. Columbus has given up 22 goals this season, so this should be a fun one for the Kickers, and not so much for the Crew.

All roads lead through Kei Kamara for the Crew, and he has 10 goals on the season so far. While he has scored three goals in his last five matches, he’s failed to even get a whiff of the back of the net in his last three games, putting just three shots on frame. William Yomby should be a good matchup for Kamara, and I expect with, a little help defense, that Yomby will get the better of this fight.

The 90th Minute

– Please, I beg you, stop trying to make every game a derby. While I realize I’m probably just shouting into the wind at this point because apparently every matchup has to have a name, the latest club to draw my ire is the Charlotte Independence. Sure, maybe it’s a “fun” thing for the fans, but as Mark Kastner would say, “D O N ‘ T.”

– Hey, Sacramento fans! Rodrigo Lopez is finally done with his three-game purgatory for the who-knows-what-happened foul against OKC. You may even get to see him when you guys take on the San Jose Earthquakes.

(image courtesy of rhinossoccer.com.com)

About Jordan Beech

You can follow Jordan at @JBeech13 or @TotalUSL