When six MLS teams took the field on Tuesday night in U.S. Open Cup play, the group was expected to be able to handle competition from lower level USL teams (and one PDL team). By the end of the night, only D.C. United was able to win in regulation, while four other MLS teams saw their U.S. Open Cup runs ended.
The Chicago Fire, New England Revolution, Chivas USA and Columbus Crew all suffered defeats in third-round play on Tuesday night, while the Kansas City Wizards needed penalty kicks to knock off the Minnesota Thunder.
The tournament's Cinderella story heading into the third round, the Ocean City Barons, put up a brave fight against D.C. United, but eventually fell, 2-0. D.C. needed 74 minutes to finally break through Ocean City's defense and put an end to the PDL team's improbable run through the tournament.
The Wizards nearly became the fifth MLS team to bow out on Tuesday, but eventually downed the Thunder in penalty kicks after squandering the lead on three different occasions.
So why the rash of upsets? It probably isn't a coincidence that three of the four MLS teams that lost on Tuesday also participated in SuperLiga last week. Those coaches had little choice but to play reserves, and all three paid the price.
When it boils down to it, once you strip away the very top players from most MLS teams, the group you have left isn't that much better in terms of talent level than most top USL squads. So when you have teams with comparable talent meet, the groups that actually have games played together is going to have the edge. Nevermind the fact that the U.S. Open Cup means far more to USL players than it does to MLS players.
That shouldn't take away from the accomplishments of the USL teams that delivered Tuesday's upsets. Wilmington still had to face the likes of Bakary Soumare and Patrick Nyarko in beating the Chicago Fire, 1-0, and the Rochester Rhinos still had to take on the likes of Alejandro Moreno and Emmanuel Ekpo in beating the Columbus Crew in penalty kicks. The Charleston Battery still had to take on the likes of Jesse Marsch and Paulo Nagamura, but still posted a 3-1 victory.
Then you had the Harrisburg City Islanders, a USL-2 team, knocking off an injury-ravaged New England Revolution side, winning with an overtime goal to pull off the biggest upset of the night.
The Houston Dynamo and Seattle Sounders will look to restore some pride for MLS tonight in some key rivalry match-ups. The Dynamo take on the Austin Aztecs while the Sounders face long-time rival Portland Timbers in the most highly-anticipated match-up of the third round.
What do you think of all the upsets of MLS teams? Disappointed? Happy for the USL teams? Still wondering why the U.S. Open Cup isn't taken more seriously by MLS teams?
Share your thoughts below.