And then there were two.
Two USL Championship clubs remain in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup, New Mexico United, and St. Louis FC. History is against the USL sides, but with both upsetting MLS clubs in the fourth round, they are poised to possibly make historic runs. The last time two lower division clubs made the quarterfinals was 2017 when FC Cincinnati (now an MLS clubs) and Miami FC both advanced. It’s a much farther trip down memory lane to find the last time a club outside of the MLS won the entire tournament. The last club to do so? Rochester Rhinos in 1999.
For New Mexico United they are will be looking to repeat their performance against Colorado Rapids. Head Coach and Technical Director Troy Lesesne has built a club with a healthy mix of veterans and rookies, and this group is proving that nothing is impossible. Devon Sandoval, who is no stranger to the Open Cup, leads the club with three goals during their inaugural Cup run. His latest was the third-minute opener against Rapids in the fourth round.
Sandoval is expected to be up top again as United are in Texas, taking on FC Dallas on Wednesday night. Under the direction of Lesesne, United has made the Open Cup a focal point of their season. The team sheet against Rapids was arguably the strongest lineup for United this season, despite not having Josh Suggs available. With the expectation of a similar team sheet against FC Dallas, there are plenty of reasons to believe that United can deliver another Cupset.
One of those reasons is the wing play from Santi Moar and Daniel Bruce. Bruce delivered quite possibly his best performance of the season and caused headaches all match long against Rapids. Not only is Bruce dangerous in his own right, but his ability to go at defenders and pull attention opens up space across the pitch for his wingmate, Moar.
Don’t look for Lesesne to change up his game plan too much. What has worked for United has been maintaining possession with a strong midfield and moving the ball into space.
Likely without Suggs again, who is dealing with a knee injury, United’s back four has found a solid core with Justin Schmidt and Sam Hamilton in the middle. They will have a test before them against FC Dallas, particularly if rising U.S. star Ricardo Pepi is in the eleven. The 16-year-old forward was loaned to FC Dallas from North Texas SC ahead of their fourth-round match against OKC Energy. United needs to maintain its line and be quick to close down on the Dallas forwards to prevent them from getting space.
Players to Watch
Kevaughn Frater – After scorching Colorado Rapids with a stoppage-time equalizer, Frater showed precisely why he’s the USL scoring leader. He’s getting service in space, and his finishing is on point.
Ethen Sampson – Sampson will be relied upon to help handle the Dallas forwards. He matches up well with the Dallas forwards and is tough in the defensive third. He gives United some width on defense and an ability to clear the lines.
New Mexico United Team Leaders
Goals: Frater (10)
Assists: Chris Wehan (4)
Saves: Cody Mizell (48)
FC Dallas is having mixed results in the MLS season, but in their first match of the Open Cup they put up four goals against OKC Energy. It would be easy to say that it’s just an MLS side is better than the USL club, but FC Dallas has struggled to score at times this year. With only 22 goals in league play, this could be a low scoring match.
Their leading scorer, Jesus Ferreira, was kept goalless by OKC, as was the previously mentioned Pepi. They provide an interesting matchup provided they are both in the eleven. Juan Guzman in the middle could disrupt their link up play from start to finish. With Pepi likely to get another start, his containment will be paramount for United.
FC Dallas will be without some of their regulars for this match. Bryan Acosta, Reggie Cannon, and Carlos Gruezo were all called up for international duty in other competitions. That doesn’t mean FC Dallas is short on talent, however. Reto Ziegler and Bryan Reynolds performed very well defensively against OKC, and Ziegler managed to find the back of the net we well. Reynolds will likely match up with Moar on the left side.
It will be interesting to see just how seriously FC Dallas takes this match. We heard how Colorado Rapids was taking it seriously, but post-match statements came out that said they were here to win MLS Cups, not Open Cups. If FC Dallas doesn’t take this match seriously, they will be making the short trip back to Dallas and not heading to Minnesota for the quarterfinals.
Players to Watch
Pepi – the youngster has made an impact in his time worth North Texas FC. Enough of one that he was given a short term loan to FC Dallas. Without scoring a goal, he looked good in his debut match.
Jimmy Maurer – Dallas’ second string keeper put together a clean sheet against OKC. It’s highly likely that he will get the start against United and it will be a true test of his abilities.
FC Dallas Team Leaders
Goals: Ferreira (4)
Assists: Michael Barrios (5)
Saves: Jesse Gonzalez (37)
The match will be streamed live on ESPN+ beginning at 6:00 p.m. (Mountain) on Wednesday, June 19. International viewers will be able to watch the match live on YouTube. ESPN+ is viewable online via the ESPN app or across a variety of mobile and connected living room devices, including Amazon’s Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku and more. The match will also be broadcast live on ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM and can be streamed on www.1017theteam.com and the ESPN Radio 101.7 The TEAM app.