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Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup: MLS teams take center stage in regional Round of 64 matchups; here’s what to watch

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The most storied competition in American soccer marches on with some regional midweek matchups set. Founded in 1914, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup was canceled in the past two seasons due to COVID complications. Atlanta United are the reigning champions despite having won in 2019, so it’ll be interesting to see if they can retain their title. But outside of watching Atlanta United, there are plenty of storylines to watch as some teams play their first-ever Open Cup games against MLS sides and regional rivalries take hold between the divisions. Seventeen MLS sides enter the cup in this round while the remainder will join in the round of 32.

The Battle for Miami

Miami FC will host Inter Miami at Riccardo Silva Stadium at FIU, featuring $10 dollar tickets and free parking to give Inter Miami a taste of what could have been had they built a stadium in the city in time for their expansion. It’ll be quite the atmosphere as the USL Championship side will want to do everything it can to topple the “bigger” Miami side. For Phil Neville’s side, Inter Miami have been rounding into form without Gonzalo Higuain. Once he returns to health, big decisions will need to be made for the continuity of the team. Miami FC coach Anthony Pulis will also have some familiarity with Neville being the son of Tony Pulis.

Donovan takes on Galaxy

Landon Donovan and the San Diego Loyal are in the midst of their debut campaign in the Open Cup and there are few things more poetic than a legendary player taking his USL side against his former team. Donovan has led San Diego to the top spot of the Western Conference although the Colorado Spring Switchbacks — who are level on points — have two games in hand. It should be an interesting clash as Donovan and Greg Vanney clash with a trip to the fourth round of the competition on the line.

Can Atlanta defend its crown?

With injuries to Josef Martinez, Ozzie Alonso and Brad Guzan, Atlanta’s depth is being seriously tested. The Open Cup is a good time to see which players are able to step up and possibly fill some of those holes during MLS play. But they can’t overlook Chatanooga FC who look to carry the banner of the new National Independent Soccer Association (NISA) as far into the cup as they can. Atlanta United want to win every competition that they’re in, but balancing rotation will be hard right now.

Everything’s bigger in Texas

Austin FC are flying high under Josh Wolff, occupying the second spot in the Western Conference, but San Antonio will want to rain on their parade hosting the MLS side. Austin will need to be aware of Elliot Collier, who leads the line for San Antonio and has three USL goals on the season. Austin atop the West and Houston occupying a playoff position is further proof that the state of Texas is inching closer back to soccer prominence. Last season, no MLS teams from the Longhorn State made the playoffs while Rio Grande Valley FC and San Antonio carried the banner for USL. All of the teams look to be improved this season which will make for heated Open Cup matchups.

Schedule 

All games are available to stream on ESPN+ and all times U.S./Eastern.

Tuesday, April 19

Flower City Union vs. D.C. United, 7 p.m.
Cincinnati vs. Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 7 p.m.
Miami FC vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m.
Detroit City vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.
Chicago Fire vs. Union Omaha, 8:00 p.m.
Birmingham Legion vs. Tormenta, 8:00 p.m.
Houston Dynamo vs. Rio Grande Valley, 8:30 p.m.
FC Dallas vs. FC Tulsa, 8:30 p.m.
San Jose Earthquakes vs. Bay Cities, 10:30 p.m.
Tuscon vs. California United Strikers, 10:30 p.m.
Los Angeles Galaxy vs. San Diego Loyal, 10:30 p.m.

Wednesday, April 20
Rochester New York vs. FC Motown, 6 p.m.
Richmond Kickers vs. North Carolina Fusion U23, 6:30 p.m.
Hartford Athletic vs. New York Red Bulls, 7 p.m.
Greenville Triumph vs. Charlotte FC, 7 p.m.
Orlando City SC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies, 7 p.m.
Louisville City vs. St. Louis 2, 7:30 p.m.
Atlanta United vs. Chattanooga, 7:30 p.m.
San Antonio vs. Austin FC, 8:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake vs. Northern Colorado, 9:30 p.m.
Phoenix Rising vs. New Mexico United, 10:30 p.m.
Sacramento Republic vs. Central Valley Fuego, 10:30 p.m.
Los Angeles FC vs. Orange County SC, 10:30 p.m.





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Jordy Delem joins USL’s San Antonio FC

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Jordy Delem has signed with San Antonio FC of the USL Championship, the team announced on Thursday. Delem has been training with the Seattle Sounders for most of the year while recovering from a torn ACL he suffered early in 2021.

There had been some hope that he might rejoin the Sounders once he regained full fitness, but even after João Paulo’s injury the indications from the team were that they were satisfied with their existing depth. Beyond that, there was a distinct sense that the Sounders did not view the 29-year-old Delem as enough of an upgrade to justify giving him minutes over developing players like Josh Atencio, Danny Leyva and AB Cissoko.

While the USL Championship is a step down in terms of competition, San Antonio seems like a good spot for Delem. The club is currently tied for the lead in the Western Conference and is much more focused on winning than on developing young players. There’s also at least one familiar face in San Antonio in former Sounders forward Justin Dhillon. The Sounders have also sent several players to San Antonio on loan over the years.



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Grindy win was just what Sounders needed

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Aside from one particularly attractive attacking sequence, there weren’t a whole lot of memorable or even particularly notable moments from the Seattle Sounders’ 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo on Wednesday. Well, aside from the fact that the Sounders won a midweek road game on short rest and got their first shutout of the MLS campaign, anyway.

But let’s focus on those big-picture takeaways first.

More than anything, this win was a bit of a stress test for the Sounders and it sure looks like they passed. It’s been well established by now that the Sounders spent most of the first two months of the season setting themselves up for what turned out to be a successful run at becoming the first MLS team to win Concacaf Champions League.

One of the main ways that manifested itself is in how Brian Schmetzer chose to rotate his lineups. This was the Sounders’ 11th match to be played on less than five days’ rest this season. In most of those, especially those that came on the road, Schmetzer has chosen to rotate at least part of his lineup. Against the Dynamo, however, he effectively ran back the same group that had beaten Minnesota United on the weekend.

“That group of players actually earned the right to play,” Schmetzer explained. “For that group to kick the rust off, they needed to go back out there again and show what they can do. That was the reason for keeping basically the same starting lineup.”

Perhaps the most notable player in that group was Jordan Morris, who the Sounders have been especially careful with due to his “sprinter” characteristics. But after looking at Morris’ physical metrics, Schmetzer opted to give him a shot.

Morris, like several of his teammates, definitely looked to be feeling the strain at points. There were a couple runs later in that match where it looked like he simply ran out of gas, and he was ultimately pulled in the 77th minute. But he also rewarded Schmetzer’s faith, playing the penultimate pass that led to Raúl Ruidíaz’s goal.

The whole goal sequence as a whole was easily the match’s highlight. It started with Xavier Arreaga jumping a passing lane in Houston’s end to create the turnover and featured 22 consecutive connected passes — nine of which were nominally attacking in nature and all but two of which were in the attacking half — with every outfield player getting at least one touch. The final part of the play saw Nicolas Lodeiro clip a ball to Morris, who then whipped a cross through the box to Alex Roldan on the opposite wing. Roldan then one-touched his pass back to Ruidíaz in front of goal, where he blasted it through a defender.

Although the Sounders never put together a sequence nearly that aesthetically pleasing in the match, it was a good reminder of just how good this team can be when they have something like their ideal XI on the pitch together.

More broadly, the performance was exactly what the Sounders needed to show they were capable of, grindy and sloppy as it seemed at times. Not only did the Sounders generate slightly better chances by Expected Goals (1.3-1.2), they also won all the effort metrics like tackles, duels, blocks and interceptions.

After a slow start to league play, the Sounders now find themselves just two points out of a playoff spot with at least two games in hand on virtually the entire league. The Sounders can potentially jump into a playoff spot if they beat the Colorado Rapids on Sunday.

“We sang Jingle Bells and we had a clean sheet,” Schmetzer said in the postgame press conference, striking a slightly different tune than he had in his on-field interview at halftime. “No one is going to care in September or October how or why we won the game.

“That is a happy locker room. I’m a happy coach. There are happy assistant coaches and I think the whole club should be pleased with the result. It’s a six-point swing against someone who was ahead of us, it puts us in great shape to end the week on a high. I’m not frustrated at all.”



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Team of the Week presented by Audi: Austin FC dominate lineup in Week 12

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Team of the Week (3-4-3, left to right): Brad Stuver (ATX) – Alexander Callens (NYC), Damion Lowe (MIA), Ruben Gabrielsen (ATX) – Xherdan Shaqiri (CHI), Jamiro Monteiro (SJ), Hany Mukhtar (NSH), Sebastian Driussi (ATX) – Lucas Cavallini (VAN), Raul Ruidiaz (SEA), Daniel Salloi (SKC)

Bench: Drake Callender (MIA), Yeimar Gomez Andrade (SEA), Alex Muyl (NSH), Alfredo Morales (NYC), Jackson Yueill (SJ), Emanuel Reynoso (MIN), Omir Fernandez (RBNY)





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