Louisville City FC's Paolo DelPiccolo and FC Cincinnati's Corben Bone could renew acquaintances when the two sides square off on Wednesday night in the Fourth Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. | Photo courtesy Em-Dash Photography / Louisville Ci
The Fourth Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup wraps up on Wednesday night when the remaining five clubs from the USL Championship will take on opposition from Major League Soccer looking to continue their runs in the 106th edition of the tournament.
Highlighting the night’s action – and arguably the tournament’s round overall – is the renewal of the rivalry between two-time USL Cup champion Louisville City FC and former Championship club FC Cincinnati, now part of Major League Soccer.
The meeting at Nippert Stadium is one of five on Wednesday night to feature Championship clubs against MLS opponents that also sees Memphis 901 FC at home to face former LouCity Head Coach James O’Connor and Orlando City SC and three current USL Cup Playoffs contenders hit the road looking to spring an upset.
North Carolina FC will try to conjure some of the Open Cup magic it experienced earlier this decade when it makes the trip to Belson Stadium on the campus of St. John’s University to take on a New York City FC side that appears set to be understrength due to international call-ups. “[The Open Cup is] important for us,” said New York City FC Manager Dome Torrent. “The problem is right now we have just 13 field players. But the competition is in this moment, on FIFA days, and I repeat I will try to win the first game, and after that when you start another competition, the goal is to try to win.”
North Carolina, on the other hand, is coming off arguably its best victory of the regular season, a 3-1 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies that saw Dre Fortune score twice as the visitors to Al Lang Stadium handed the Eastern Conference-leading Rowdies their first regular-season loss of the season. With two trips to the Open Cup’s Quarterfinals having arrived in back-to-back seasons in 2013 and 2014, Head Coach Dave Sarachan and his squad on paper have a big opportunity to advance to the Round of 16 this year.
One of the fiercest rivalries in the USL Championship’s history will be renewed at Nippert Stadium with a new context surrounding the clash between visiting Louisville City FC and hosts FC Cincinnati. For the first time the clubs will meet as members of different leagues following FCC’s move to Major League Soccer this offseason, but the passion surrounding the game figures to be as intense as always thanks to a pair of fanbases that loves nothing more than to defeat the other in what has been dubbed in some quarters as the Dirty River Derby.
LouCity will be hoping it can sustain the success it had in previous visits to Nippert Stadium. The two-time defending USL Cup champion took victory on the road in the first meeting between the clubs back in 2016 and won in both of its visits a season ago to post a 3-1-1 record in the USL Championship regular season against its rival. Cincinnati held the upper hand in the only previous meeting in the Open Cup, however, when Djiby Fall’s goal sent the hosts through in the 2017 tournament. With the chance there will be plenty of familiar faces on both sides from previous encounters, this should be a must-see.
OKC Energy FC returns to face FC Dallas for the first time since the 2016 edition of the Open Cup with the goal of reversing its defeat in a penalty shootout at the same venue as Wednesday night’s clash between the two clubs. Only one player from that matchup remains on the Energy FC roster in defender Kyle Hyland, but the club’s positive form this season could have it confident of success against an FC Dallas side that could contain some surprises in its lineup.
The biggest challenge Energy FC might face is the players it is missing from its squad due to call-ups for the Concacaf Gold Cup that kicks off on Saturday, with four players named to their national team squads from Head Coach Steve Cooke’s group. Among those that remain, though, are the standout Jamaican duo of Deshorn Brown – who has five goals in six road games this season – and Omar Gordon as well as French playmaker Alexy Bosetti. OKC’s defense could have to face up to the standout player in USL League One this season with North Texas SC and United States U-17 international forward Ricardo Pepi potentially set to play a role for Dallas, but after their barnstorming 4-3 win against the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the last round there should be plenty of confidence around Energy FC’s camp as it heads south.
The life of an expansion club has been difficult for Memphis 901 FC in league play where the side has scored only 12 goals in 13 regular-season games this season. When it comes to the Open Cup, though, things have been much different, which offers a glimmer of hope as Orlando City SC comes to the Bluff City for Memphis’ first competitive game against a club from Major League Soccer.
OCSC has been up and down in recent weeks to remain hovering around the playoff line in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference, but in its last outing posted a 3-0 victory on the road against the second-place Montreal Impact in one of its most impressive displays of the season. Memphis, meanwhile, has racked up seven goals in two games in its previous two Open Cup outings, and after recording its best result of the season at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex against Hartford Athletic in the Third Round, 901 FC might be hoping there’s a bit more magic where that came from in its biggest game of the season.
New Mexico United will return to Colorado for a second consecutive round as it looks to continue its run against the Colorado Rapids, who have put in a solid turn of form in recent weeks after a poor start to the Major League Soccer season. Tied for the most goals scored in the Championship this season, though, United will be hoping its potent attack can be the difference as it faces MLS opposition for the first time competitively.
United has gone to extra time in each of its previous outings in the Open Cup, advancing 2-1 against fellow Championship side Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC in the past round as Kevaughn Frater’s penalty kick in the opening half of the additional 30 minutes earned NMU victory at Weidner Field. Frater sits with a career-best 10 goals to lead the Championship this season, with teammate Santi Moar one back on nine and both Devon Sandoval and Chris Wehan offering strong support. The Rapids could provide a big test for their visitors, though, with the club on a five-game undefeated streak that has lifted it off the foot of the MLS Western Conference over the past month, conceding only four goals in that span.