The final eight of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup has been decided and there is a chance that two non-MLS teams will make it to the semi-finals. The Sacramento Republic FC and Union Omaha went to wars, each knocking out at least one MLS side en route to claiming their places. Planning was a little tricky as it would take over a week to complete the four quarter-final matches, but with a derby match and two lower-division games, we have all the makings for an interesting roster.
Let’s take a look at this list along with the three key takeaways for this round.
US Open Cup Schedule
All East Times, all games available on ESPN+
Tuesday, June 22
Los Angeles Galaxy – Sacramento Republic, 10:30 p.m.
Wednesday 23 June
New York Red Bulls – New York City, 20:00
Sporting Kansas City – Union Omaha, 20:30.
Wednesday, June 29
Orlando City vs. Orlando City Nashville, SC 19:00
1 Hudson River Derby Time
Ronnie Dale drops out as NYCFC coach and Nick Cushing stays on, but the goal remains the same: win more trophies and beat your opponents as many times as possible in the process. These are the top two teams in the Eastern Conference, with only one point separating them in the league, so expect some fireworks in this clash. NYCFC boasts one of the best defenses in the league, conceding just 11 goals in 14 games. They also average nearly two goals per game, so they’re just as comfortable beating you in shootouts as they are winning 1-0.
Luquinhas has been successful, scoring three goals in his last three games to give the Red Bulls an offensive lead. This game, built on yet another solid defense, could easily end without points in a penalty shoot-out or see teams enter the racetrack at the Red Bull Arena. A truly must-read novel.
2. Lower division sides stand up
Union Omaha has an Open Bowl history for centuries after knocking out Chicago Fire and Minnesota United. Luckily, they were paired with the undefeated Sporting Kansas City team, stuck in the bottom of the Western Conference. The combination of transparent defense and tenacious attack allows them to mature in capset territory. Union Omaha built on a strong defense that allowed them to concede eight goals in nine games played in USL League One, and their offense was adventurous enough to get things done.
The Sacramento Republic have a bigger challenge ahead of the Galaxy, but they just beat their other team 2-0 on June 18. Will it help you figure out how Greg Vanni wants to play? Also, will Galaxy field a full starting XI before heading to San Jose for a rivalry game and then hosting Minnesota United in the Western Conference decider? The season is just getting started, but that’s when MLS teams need to prioritize where they can use their best players if they’re not strong enough to compete on multiple fronts and win the league.
3. Return to the old Eastern Conference
This game will feel like coming back after Nashville SC was promoted to the Western Conference and because both teams are in the same spot to be the star of the season. Mauricio Pereira has been thrilled with Orlando, having provided five assists this season. Locking him up will be the key to protecting Nashville. The problem is that they have not been as strong as in previous years and have already scored 18 goals this season. Offense lives and dies at the hands of Hani Mukhtar, who picked up where he left off with six goals and three assists, but figuring out who would be second fiddle in attack was a challenge for Nashville manager Gary Smith.
They probably intended Ake Loba to fill the role, but with one goal in 15 MLS appearances this season, things didn’t go as expected. However, a cup match might be just what the doctor ordered.