Eight MLS sides fell at the first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup hurdle this week and sparked an uproar in the process, plus a look at the brief look at the lone match in Week 13.1. Is it really that much of a surprise to see half of the MLS teams exit the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in their first match?: No, not at all. In three of the past six seasons (the only seasons during this era of expansion that required MLS v. non-MLS matchups at the first instance), MLS teams have won no more than half of their third-round fixtures (2007, 2009 and 2012). Throw in the regular upsets in similar competitions around the world and the quality of lineups often employed by MLS sides in this particular tournament and the success of lower-league sides shouldn't come as much of a shock.
2. If lower-league sides are fairly successful in the competition, then why did this particular set of results set off so much discussion?: Two reasons immediately spring to mind: (1) MLS previously limited its exposure by entering just eight teams at the third round stage, but the arrival of all 16 American-based sides exposed the league to a greater number of upsets this year; and (2) an amateur team from California somehow managed to travel to Portland and dump the Timbers out of the Open Cup.
3. Is there a way to quantify the magnitude of Cal FC's achievement on Wednesday night?: Before ex-Chivas USA and Real Salt Lake trialist Artur Aghasyan sent his side through with a deft finish in extra time, no amateur side had ever scored a goal against a MLS team in this competition. Roma FC managed to oust Chivas USA on penalty kicks at this stage back in 2006, but neither team scored during the 120 minutes. In addition to the dearth of positive precedent prior to the match, the Thousand Oaks-based group trained once in the buildup to the match and found itself thrust into a 120-minute affair after a dogged and skillful display. So, in the end, it's another wonderful accomplishment for a group that had already knocked out PDL champs Kitsap Pumas and USL PRO heavyweights Wilmington in the earlier rounds.
4. Will lightning strike twice in Tukwila next Tuesday?: FOX Soccer announced on Thursday night that it planned to show the fourth-round tie between Cal FC and three-time defending champions Seattle, though no official confirmation on the TV plans has arrived from the hosts as of yet. All of the interest in the match may ultimately yield to a rather more mundane reality. Sounders FC dispatched NASL side Atlanta 5-1 at Starfire Sports Complex on Wednesday night and will expect to treat Cal FC in similar fashion. After taking care of business at the first attempt and watching the game tape from the Timbers' defeat, Sigi Schmid and company won't take Cal FC lightly as they pursue an unprecedented fourth straight title. Even with those caveats in mind, the amateur side showed enough fortitude and skill at JELD-WEN Field to ensure this game won't be a walkover for Seattle.
5. How can MLS sides replicate Seattle's easy path to the fourth-round in the future: The first step: playing more starters from the outset. Fixture pileups and travel demands often force MLS coaches to shuffle their packs for non-league matches, but those decisions can exact serious consequences. At this stage of the league's 19-team existence, there simply isn't enough strength in depth to expect players 15 through 30 to walk onto the field and brush aside a committed and motivated lower-league side. A decent number of the players turning out for NASL, USL PRO and PDL sides boast some form of MLS experience and refuse to succumb to the usual pressures of the day. A potential return to the top flight, after all, provides plenty of motivation. Perhaps some of this week's underperforming reserves should take a cue from their similarly talented and somewhat less fortunate brethren when the Open Cup commences next season.
Last week: 5/9 (55%)
This season: 46/103 (44%)
Chicago @ New England (7:30p.m.) – Goal.com match preview
Overview: Both sides will attempt to ignore their midweek Open Cup failures and set themselves on the right path heading into a bye week next week. Neither team has produced the type of consistent form required to push up into the upper reaches of the Eastern Conference, but this match should offer plenty of goals (New England scored two or more times in four of five of its May outings, while Chicago has tallied in eight of its past nine league affairs) for the neutral to enjoy.
The onus here falls on the Revolution: if Jay Heaps' side pushes forward imprecisely, the Fire can acquire possession and hit quickly on the break. New England has struggled to meet that standard of care with the quietly influential Clyde Simms (left ankle tendonitis) sidelined, but it should benefit from this particular matchup in midfield (not a ton of high tempo defensive work in the five-man Fire midfield to disrupt Benny Feilhaber and Lee Nguyen) and improve accordingly. The result is there for the taking if the Revs restrict the Fire's deft counter to the occasional dangerous foray.
Prediction: New England win.
Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter by clicking here.