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Night of U.S. Open Cup carnage sees Galaxy, six other MLS teams out of competition

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It’s hard to imagine Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cub action being any tougher on Major League Soccer’s teams. Fourteen of U.S. Soccer’s first division sides were in action. Only seven advanced to the fourth round. While I guess it’s theoretically possible fewer MLS teams could have advanced to the Round of 16, nobody was expecting to see this much carnage.

The most prominent dismissal saw LA Galaxy, now winless in nine games, lose in Cary, North Carolina to the Carolina Railhawks. This, however, may have been the least surprising upset of the night. Los Angeles has not been most enthusiastic team as it concerns extra-MLS competition, so it’s little surprise they started a second-string squad on Tuesday.. Without Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, and David Beckham, the Galaxy were seen out by the second division Carolina Railhawks, 2-1.

Maybe the Railhawks are some kind of super second division side, you might ask. Yeah, about that: Carolina is winless in nine NASL matches this season, though they did finish first in last year’s regular season.In that way, they’re kinda the Galaxy of NASL.

Apparently that was enough to dismiss the defending MLS champions, who sent out a B-squad that was captained by … (wait for it) … Pat Noonan.

It was just one of the early upsets in what was ultimately a ridiculous night of U.S. Open Cup action. I don’t mean ridiculous as in “MLS teams should never lose to lower division sides.” That, after all, is part of the magic of cup competitions. I mean ridiculous in terms of “My God, this isn’t the best way to roll out a new U.S. Open Cup: By seeing a bulk of MLS’s entrants give this a ‘meh’.”

But did they give it a “meh”?

  • LA sent out a B-team and lost, but …
  • New England went out on kicks to Harrisburg (3-3 a.e.t) despite playing a number of regulars,
  • Chicago rested most of its stars in losing 3-2 to PDL side Michigan Bucks,
  • A largely changed Houston side fell 1-0 to the NASL’s San Antonio Scorpions,
  • FC Dallas played a number of first choice players but was still lost 2-0 at home to USL PRO’s Charlotte Eagle,
  • An RSL defense that featured Jamison Olave gave up three goals at home to the Minnesota Stars, losing 3-1,
  • And then there’s Columbus, who failed to hold a 1-0 lead against a Dayton Dutch Lions team that is winless in eight USL PRO (third division matches), losing 2-1.

And some people wonder why the U.S. Open Cup has failed to gain traction. One or two shock results are charming. Seven surprised hints the competition is not being taken seriously. After all, if 10 Premier League sides bowed out of the FA Cup 90 minutes after taking the field, would you think “What an amazing competition” or “What’s going on here?”

No matter what’s going on, the second and third division sides who sprung upsets deserve credit. They’ve advanced to the final 16, and given the bracket, at least two lower division teams (second, or lower) will make the final eight.

MLS Cup: Toronto FC all about the team

Toronto FC defender Nick Hagglund, center, celebrates his goal against the Montreal Impact with teammates Michael Bradley, right, and Steven Beitashour (33) during the second half of the second leg of MLS Eastern Conference championship series, in Toronto on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP)
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Toronto, Ontario (AP) Team has been the theme for Toronto FC in the buildup to the MLS Cup final.

From boisterous practices to team-first media interviews, the All for One club motto has been plain to see ahead of the championship game Saturday against the visiting Seattle Sounders.

“You don’t get to this point by mistake or by accident. You get here because a group of special guys who have all bought into a philosophy, an identity,” said Toronto midfielder Will Johnson, an MLS Cup winner with Real Salt Lake and Portland.

“I say the same about Seattle. They’re bought into what they’re good at. We’re bought in, very motivated and want to sacrifice and put aside egos to get to a point as a team to compete for the big trophy.”

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

Star striker Jozy Altidore, no fan of chatting with the media, was downright prickly when a reporter asked him if he had taken time to reflect on his personal journey to the championship game.

“No,” he said definitively. “This isn’t personal, this is a team game. We’re here to try to help Toronto to be a winning team. This has nothing to do with individuals. So it has nothing to do with what I’ve been through. This is what the city’s been through, what the fans have been through, what this club has been through. That’s far more important.”

Fullback Justin Morrow, a seven-year MLS veteran, has never played this deep into the season before.

“Each week we build on top of each other and we get closer as the year goes on. It really feels like it’s a culmination this week,” he said.

[ UCL: Who can Arsenal, Man City, Leicester draw? ]

Coach Greg Vanney has made a point of praising the entire squad, including reserves who function as the scout team in practice. While he has done soccer’s equivalent of shortening his bench for the playoffs, the squad has stayed on point. If anyone has beefs, they have been kept to themselves.

That’s no small feat considering the salaries on the squad range from $7.12 million for star striker Sebastian Giovinco to $51,500 for youngsters Mo Babouli and Tsubasa Endoh.

For Morrow, being part of a tight-knit group allows you to forget that it is your job.

“When teams aren’t doing well, players tend to focus on that – their job and not about the other people on the team,” Morrow said. “And I think when teams are doing well, it becomes about the relationships between the players.”

Report: Atlanta United to acquire Parkhurst; Guardado hopes fading

COLUMBUS, OH - MARCH 12:  Michael Parkhurst #4 of the Columbus Crew SC controls the ball against against the Philadelphia Union on March 12, 2016 at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
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Atlanta United is adding MLS experience to its high-flying international acquisitions.

The expansion side is set to acquire Michael Parkhurst from the Columbus Crew, according to a report from The Sporting News.

[ MORE: Mourinho worried about Zorya pitch ]

Parkhurst, 32, has been a fixture for the Crew since returning to MLS after stints with Nordsjælland and FC Augsburg. The 25-times capped American defender would join a relatively loaded expansion unit that reportedly will also add veteran Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, it seems the first-year club’s hopes of landing Mexican star Andres Guardado are fading.

From Ives Galarcep for The Sporting News:

The club has one remaining designated player slot it is expected to fill ahead of its inaugural 2017 season, but transfer target Andres Guardado appears less likely to be the player to fill that slot, sources have told Goal USA.

The Crew was a massive disappointment last season, failing to make the playoffs one season after making a run to the MLS Cup Final. Is Parkhurst a good gamble for Atlanta?

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Men in Blazers podcast: Conte v. Pep, Cherries comeback, Spurs-Swans

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Rog and Davo relive the tactical battle between Antonio Conte and Pep Guardiola, marvel at tiny Bournemouth’s comeback win over high-flying Liverpool and duck-and-cover while recapping Spurs 5-0 Swansea.

All of the MiB content — pods, videos and stories can be seen here, but to really stay in touch, follow, subscribe, click here:

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Mourinho accepts Zorya compliment, but says best coach “doesn’t exist”

Manchester United's coach Jose Mourinho, centre, attends a training session with his team at Chernomorets stadium in Odessa, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 7, 2016, ahead of Thursday's Europa League group A soccer match against FC Zorya Luhansk. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
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On the eve of his side playing Manchester United in the UEFA Europa League, Zorya Luhansk boss Yuriy Vernydub called counterpart Jose Mourinho the best manager in the world.

And Mourinho disagreed.

Well, in principle.

[ MORE: Designing the best UCL Round of 16 ]

The Portuguese was flattered by Vernydub’s compliments and isn’t one to turn down praise. Yet at the same time, Mourinho thinks a coach’s success is year-to-year. There’s no clear best in the sport, according to Mou.

From ManUtd.com:

“He was nice by saying that but I don’t think he is right. I don’t think there is a best coach in the world. It doesn’t exist in my opinion. Every season one has to win the FIFA Gold Ball but I don’t think there is the best. You can say the best of the year and that I agree. Every year there is one with the most important result. So he is just being nice, no more than that.”

That’s almost meta, Mou.

Conceptually we understand, and Mourinho would feel he was the best in the world three seasons ago but not last year or this year (yet). Yet it’s difficult to say that the bodies of work from Pep Guardiola, Mourinho, Carlo Ancelotti, Unai Emery, Antonio Conte, Luis Enrique, and Jurgen Klopp couldn’t be measured against each other, right?

[ MORE: United, Saints advancement scenarios ]

Onto the little picture Mourinho is worried about a potentially rock hard pitch at Zorya affecting the game. This, from the BBC:

“The pitch is very hard, the pitch is very icy,” said United boss Mourinho.

“They are putting warmth on the top of it, but the pitch is very difficult and people cannot make miracles. Let’s hope everything goes well.”

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