Mehdi Ballouchy was the best player Hans Backe brought with the New York Red Bulls to play the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. That is not the way to grow the game. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)

U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals: Sounders Join FC Dallas, Fire and Richmond Kickers In Semis

Third division side makes history by advancing to semifinals where they will play the Chicago Fire.

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U.S. Open Cup: Seattle Sounders Advance To Fifth Straight Semis

Nate Jaqua continued to show an impressive goal-scoring form in U.S. Open Cup, notching his eighth career goal in the 98-year-old tournament on Wednesday as the Seattle Sounders beat the Los Angeles Galaxy 3-1 at Starfire Sports Complex. The Sounders have now advanced to five straight Open Cup semis -- dating back to their days as a USL franchise -- and are attempting to become the first team to ever win the Cup three straight years.

"I think we have a lot of confidence going forward. I think that's why we're playing well right now," Jaqua said. "It's just something if you can keep using that momentum going forward."

The Sounders jumped out to an early lead when Jaqua scored in the 4th minute off an assist from Pat Noonan. Jaqua came close on several other occasions, but Josh Saunders was able to make some key saves to keep it close. He couldn't stop Fredy Montero's 25th minute shot, though, that gave the Sounders a 2-0 lead.

Adam Cristman eventually halved the lead and the Galaxy threatened to tie it up, but Sounders goalkeeper Terry Boss was up for the challenge each time. Boss, who improved to 3-0-0 in Open Cup play during his two seasons with the Sounders. Lamar Neagle iced the game away for the Sounders with a 74th minute goal off an assist from Alvaro Fernandez.

Both teams fielded lineups with a fair number of regulars. Landon Donovan started and Juninho, AJ DeLaGarza and Todd Dunivant all went the full 90 for the Galaxy. The Sounders' starting lineup included Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez, Osvaldo Alonso and Jeff Parke.

The Sounders will now host FC Dallas in the Open Cup semifinals, currently scheduled for Aug. 30.


U.S. Open Cup: Red Bulls May Have Well Forfeited - Once A Metro

To call New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe's treatment of the U.S. Open Cup "disrespectful" may be a bit kind. The coach didn't bother to travel with his team for their quarterfinal match against the Chicago Fire. He didn't send his top assistant. He didn't even send a full bench, with just 14 players making the 2.5-hour flight from New York to Chicago. In case you're wondering, though, Red Bulls fans don't seem particularly happy with the decision. Once a Metro, SB Nation's Red Bulls blog, goes as far to say that Backe may have well forfeited the match and save the ignominy of sending such a short-handed team:

When your manager can't bring himself to travel with the team or even name a full bench (only Alex Horwath, Teddy Schneider and Sacir Hot were available as subs), you get what you deserve - nothing. Managing a squad fatigued by international play and facing a hectic league schedule and a host of upcoming games (not to mention the thoroughly meaningless Emirates Cup in London), Hans Backe chose to throw in the towel on this tournament, the oldest in our nation's soccer history. He might have been better off forfeiting and saving on travel, because it's hard to see what players like Tyler Lassiter and Matt Kassel could have learned from Tuesday's ass-kicking.


U.S. Open Cup: FC Dallas Holds Off Motivated Real Salt Lake

With Schellas Hyndman and Jason Kreis each employing what amounted to close-to-first-choice lineups, FC Dallas maintained their dominance of Real Salt Lake at Pizza Hut Park with a 2-0 win in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. FC Dallas got an 18th minute goal from Jair Benitez to take the early lead and capped it with a Jackson Goncalves goal in the 54th minute. FC Dallas is now 10-0-1 against RSL at home, which includes a victory in last year's MLS Cup playoffs.

RSL used a lineup with just three changes from Saturday, one of which was normal starter Nat Borchers regaining his spot after sitting out the last match with a red-card suspension. Goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alvaro Saborio, who stormed into the locker room after being pulled from Saturday's match, also did not play.

The Toros, though, were up for the challenge. Kevin Hartman did not face a single shot on goal and Dallas outshot their opponents 13-6. They now await the winner of Wednesday's Seattle Sounders-Los Angeles Galaxy match. A Sounders win would mean the Toros go on the road for the semifinals, while a Galaxy win would mean another match at Pizza Hut Park.


U.S. Open Quarterfinals: Richmond Kickers Make History, Top Sporting Kansas City

The U.S. Open Cup just doesn't seem like the U.S. Open Cup unless there's a good Cinderella run. Luckily, the Richmond Kickers are ready for their fitting. The third-division side advanced to the semifinals by beating Sporting Kansas City 2-0 after a lengthy weather delay on Tuesday at Livestrong Sporting Park.

The USL-Pro team is just the second third-division side to advance to the semifinals and the first since the San Francisco Bay Seals accomplished the feat in 1997. They will play the Chicago Fire on Aug. 30 at Toyota Park for a chance to play in the finals. After becoming the first lower-division team to win back-to-back road games against MLS teams, they will now try to become the first third-division team to advance to the finals.

"We’ve only got about 15 healthy players on our roster that just played 3 games in 5 days," Richmond head coach Leigh Cowlishaw said after the match, according to TheCup.Us. "We played in a great stadium with most of their starters — it wasn’t a reserve team — and it was their first defeat in the stadium. To do all that is just a statement about what this squad is all about. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished."

Making the result all the more impressive were the circumstances surrounding it. The game had to be stopped in the 66th minute tied 0-0 because of lightning and there was a distinct possibility that the game would have to be replayed in its entirety. 

When the game did eventually resume, Shaka Bungara scored just 30 seconds later to give the Kickers a 1-0 lead over a Sporting team that included many first-teamers. David Bulow then converted an 83rd minute penalty to seal the victory. Bulow's goal was his sixth of the tournament and gives him 14 in his career, a record during the professional era.


U.S. Open Cup: Fire Thump Purposefully Short-Handed Red Bulls

Hans Backe apparently thinks so little of the U.S. Open Cup that he didn't even bother to travel with the purposefully short-handed New York Red Bulls, who lost in their quarterfinal match to the Chicago Fire 4-0 on Tuesday. The Red Bulls, who only travelled with 14 players, were outplayed from start to finish as Dominic Oduro scored in the 7th minute and the Fire finished off their reserve-laden opponents with three second-half goals. Yamith Cuesta scored in the 48th minute and Orr Barouch added two more in the 51st and 69th minutes.

Mike Petke served as the head coach, as assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen also did not travel. The Red Bulls starters had combined to appear in just 46 MLS games this season, with only Mehdi Ballouchy being a regular contributor. Among the starters were three players who have not made a single appearance during MLS play. 

The Fire, on the other hand, featured a lineup that looked a lot like the ones the regularly use during the regular season. Marco Pappa, Patrick Nyarko, Sean Johnson, Logan Pause, Cristian Nazarit and Oduro were among the starters.

The Fire will next face the winner of Sporting Kansas City-Richmond Kickers, which was delayed at the end of regulation due to inclement weather. 


U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals: Coaches Like Hans Backe Set Tournament Back

As the U.S. Open Cup continues to be whittled down, we are getting to a point where real differences between the various teams' motivations. For a few, there's no doubt that they take the tournament seriously.

The Richmond Kickers, as a USL-Pro team, probably consider this bigger than their regular season. Expect them to throw everything they have at Sporting Kansas City.

While not quite as a big of a deal, there's no reason to doubt that Sporting, Real Salt Lake, FC Dallas and the Seattle Sounders also put relatively high value on the tournament. All four teams have put substantial resources behind their efforts either this year or in years past.

The Chicago Fire probably fall somewhere in the middle. Historically, they are arguably the tournament's most successful team since MLS teams began competing in 1996. This year, they have supposedly been unable to put in stronger bids, but they have been using first-choice players.

The same can not be said for either the Los Angeles Galaxy or the New York Red Bulls. Bruce Arena has never tried particularly hard to hide his disdain for the Open Cup. Expect him to use a lineup full of reserves when they visit the Sounders on Wednesday. The Galaxy front office doesn't seem to put a particularly high value on the competition either, as they apparently put in the worst bid of the four potential semifinalists on that side of the bracket and will go on the road even if they manage to win.

Hans Backe, though, deserves the most criticism of the bunch. The Red Bulls coach only took 13 players with him for Tuesday's match against the Fire and only Mehdi Ballouchy was a regular player. Of course, his team also has the Emirates Cup -- a series of midseason friendlies that will be played in London -- as well as being involved in the All-Star game.

Attitudes like his -- and that of the Red Bulls organization -- is one of the biggest things holding the Open Cup back from growing in popularity. If coaches and organizations don't take this tournament seriously, how can we really expect fans to?

Here's hoping for a quick exit from the tournament so that we can all be treated to a semifinals and finals that raises the tournament's profile, instead of treating it like a nuisance. 

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