The U.S. Open Cup is back, and the Roots are in it, and after a USL Championship-bloodbath this week, the Roots get their chance on April 7 at 4:00 p.m. away in Greenville, South Carolina to prove that they are not sleeping on US League One. The match will be broadcast on ESPN+. The La Brigada del Pueblo guys say they’re watching at Ale Industries, so if you have a job that lets you peace out at 4:00 p.m., you can catch the game with them.
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup purports to be the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States, having been first contested in the 1913-1914 season. The trophy for winning the U.S. Open Cup was donated by distiller Thomas Dewar, which really could not be more perfect for the unrivaled debauchery of U.S. soccer fans.
Gaze into this window of U.S. soccer history:
The New York Pancyprian-Freedoms and Greek American AA both still play, now in a new league called the “Eastern Premier Soccer League.” A cross-town derby from the same diaspora, with a combined seven Dewar Cups. Stix, Baer and Fuller is, disappointingly, a department store name, from a defunct St. Louis department store. The Fall River Marksmen grew out of a disbanded team called the Fall River Rovers, and were initially called Fall River United, but after being taken over by a new owner named Sam Mark, switched to the Marksmen. At no point should U.S. teams be trusted to name themselves.
The competition itself was renamed in 1999 by the U.S. Soccer Federation to honor Lamar Hunt. Hunt was the son of H.L. Hunt, who bought land in East Texas that had a lot of oil on it, and whose Wikipedia gets really grim really fast. Lamar founded the AFL (and founding member the Kansas City Chiefs) and MLS itself, as well as two of its founding members the Kansas City Wizards and the Columbus Crew. The man could not get enough of the flyover. I wrote some about the Wizards in my preview post for the Sporting KC II match last year.
The U.S. Open Cup has been completely dominated by MLS since MLS’s founding, and the reigning champion is Atlanta United F.C, which is a little funny because the cup has not been played in two years, and Atlanta has basically fallen apart in the interim.
Greenville Triumph S.C. was founded in 2018 and began play in the 2019 season. Principal owner Joe Erwin was chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party for awhile in the early 2000s, selected South Carolina State to host a democratic presidential debate in 2003, which was the first time a presidential primary debate had been held at an HBCU, and endorsed Barack Obama in 2007 (i.e., long before it was obvious he was even a top-2 candidate). For that reason, Erwin will be catching no shit from me today.
Other than ripping off the Sounders, I have no immediate problem with this crest. I am sure I will have no problems with what the club has to say about it.
“That’s why the mountains are a darker blue in the crest” killed me, and I am not sure I can articulate why. I think it’s the awkward transition from the assertive “our city! our colors!” to a “look, we get this is a little weird, but here’s why it makes sense! Can’t we give each other some slack?” No. We cannot.
The white T clearly stands for our lord and savior jesus christ, but it’s also kinda tree-shaped. It exists on the badge among the mountains just the way our region technically exists among the mountains. We have several postal codes! The SC officially means “sous chef” reflecting our region’s french culinary history, but we’re all about happy coincidences like how it appears to read “STC” like we’re referring to the party drug.
I genuinely don’t think I could say anything meaner than “the perceptible pride we take in where we live.” If pressed, Triumph supporters will not deny that they live in Greenville, and you can tell just by looking at them that they would give their region at least a B-.
Greenville have played in every USL League One final, winning in 2020. Greenville finished last season with a 3-0 loss in the USL League One final against Union Omaha. They went down in the 7th minute and never really recovered.
I can only get so deep on roster turnover for an Open Cup opponent, but comparing the final from last season to the first game of this season, Triumph returned six starters including the keeper, mostly on defense. For that reason, last season’s form might not be particularly instructive.
Greenville started their 2022 season with a 2-0 loss Central Valley Fuego FC in Fresno. The opener in the 56th came out of almost nothing. Some idle floated headers back and forth fell for a Fuego forward’s feet, and the Greenville central defenders collapse in on him about 30 yards out from goal. He gets a second touch before they get there and squeezes the ball through to Christian Chaney, who is running into the space the defenders have just left wide open. Chaney takes a half-dozen stutter steps and then curls around the keeper who is completely stranded. Chaney got a second in the 69th, picking the keeper’s pocket and poking it in from a very tight angle.
Greenville had some enormous chances and a combination of bad luck and bad finishing really let them down. From the highlights, this could have been a much better result for Triumph.
This week has seen Charleston Battery, Las Vegas Lights, Colorado Springs Switchbacks, Monterey Bay Union Football Club of Seaside, El Paso Locomotive, and Indy 11 (all of the USL Championship) lose to teams from lower leagues. San Diego Loyal and Phoenix Rising each had narrow escapes from the same fate. Oakland absolutely cannot sleep on a top-tier USL League One team.
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I thought that Oakland looked pretty good against New Mexico, and because I think New Mexico are pretty good, I took it as a big improvement.
I got some push-back from Aaron on my New Mexico evaluation, but we’re all in agreement that the Rowdies game was a step forward. The Rowdies are good, and at all points the Roots looked like an even or better team (it was only even for about 10 minutes). The Roots have been on the wrong side of a lot of 50/50 calls, and their shots just did not quite hit the mark against the Rowdies, but it’s a building block.
The Roots may not play their exact preferred 11 against Greenville, but I still think it will be a strong lineup, and I think the team is moving in the right direction.
Lineup and Score Predictions
The Roots cannot sleep on Greenville, but I think they are going to run out a strong team, while still taking the opportunity to tinker with the lineup. Notwithstanding the rotation, the Roots are going to dominate. The travel is a pain, but it’s early in the season and I think the Roots are hungry. Plus, there is no room for moral victories in a knockout tournament. 3-0 Roots, despite Jon’s flagrant attempt to jinx this result.
I think there will be some squad rotation and a potential return to the Back 4. My guess is Tarek Morad starts alongside Barbir with Emrah backing them up. Joseph Nane starts with Max Ornstil—who is also on the trip—backing up the CDM spot. My guess is Darek Formella fills in up top for Ottar Magnus Karlsson with Juan Carlos Azocar moving up higher into the wing role and Chuy Enriquez getting his first start. My score prediction, 3-1 Roots, and no one hates me.
Hopefully Oakland traveled to Greenville with enough advance time to beat the jet lag. I’m guessing we’ll see some rotation but I don’t have enough time to think it all the way through. My guess is the travel and the new lineup results in an unsteady start, and Oakland may even go down a goal early. Still I am pretty confident that Oakland can take this one. I predicted 2-1 on the Pod, and I’m sticking to that. Jon has decided to anger the gods, though, by looking ahead. If something goes wrong, we all know where the blame lies.