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US Open Cup fourth round wrapup – five more MLS teams tumble out


The fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is now complete, and there are still some Cinderella stories left as it moves to the quarterfinals.

The most recent round wasn’t fully complete until this afternoon when the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew played after kickoff Wednesday was postponed 16-1/2 hours due to inclement weather.

Now, the quarterfinals are set without last year’s defending champions, and with two lower division teams still in the mix, it’s sure to give us an intriguing finish.

Sporting KC 0-1 Orlando FC

With their second straight MLS upset, the Lions have officially burst onto the scene in the U.S. Open Cup. They shocked their MLS affiliate and defending Cup champions Sporting KC with a quick-fire 2nd minute goal by Chinese striker Long Tan.

The goal, conceded after a turnover in their own half by Kansas City, was dubbed by KC manager Peter Vermes as “a terrible mistake.”

After going 1 up, Orlando dropped back and played solely on the counter-attack.  Despite just two shots in the first half, Orlando was actually unlucky not to be up 2-0 at halftime.  Tan had a close-range effort agonizingly saved by Eric Kronberg.

Orlando, currently sitting in first place in the USL Pro, will look to be just the second non-MLS team to win the Cup since MLS teams entered in 1996.  They were also the only away side to win in this round of play.

D.C. United 3-1 Philadelphia Union

Dwayne de Rosario decided he’d seen enough of the MLS standings.  Despite sitting in last place, a hat-trick from de Rosario sent the Black-and-Red on to the quarterfinals.

A goal from red-hot youngster Jack McInerney wasn’t nearly enough for Philadelphia as they get a taste of their own medicine.  The Union defeated D.C. United in the same round and venue during the competition last season.  Unfortunately for United, they did lose Chris Pontius in the process, after he took two blows to the head in the span of a few minutes and was subbed off at halftime.

You can watch de Rosario’s hat trick, plus a horribly awkward postgame interview, here.

Chicago Fire 2-1 Columbus Crew

It was a horror night for Columbus, as not only were they knocked out of the Cup despite leading 1-0 early, but they also may have lost Brazilian central defender Glauber for an extended period of time.

The 29-year-old, who was only recently acquired in January, left in just the 9th minute with a knee injury.  The extent of the injury is not known, but with Eddie Gaven already having blown out his ACL in the previous Cup match, it’s fingers crossed for Crew fans.

The one positive for Columbus is Konrad Warzycha’s header goal in the 22nd minute marks the first time father and son have scored in the U.S. Open Cup, following in the footsteps of Crew head coach Robert Warzycha.  Unfortunately, the red-hot Mike Magee responded just six minutes later to equalize, and then Patrick Nyarko provided the winner for Chicago in the 78th minute.

Real Salt Lake 5-2 Charleston Battery

You wouldn’t know it by the scoreline, but this match actually went to extra time.  Having already defeated San Jose in the previous round, Charleston found themselves 2-0 up on Real Salt Lake just 18 minutes in and could taste another upset.  Unfortunately, the #2 team in the West realized what was happening and turned on the afterburners.

Devon Sandoval opened the scoring for the MLS side in the 66th minute, and Joao Plata converted a penalty 12 minutes later to equalize. Extra time saw Sandoval’s second 7 minutes in for the winner, and Salt Lake added two more for insurance against the exhausted Battery.

Carolina Railhawks 3-1 Chivas USA

Things are going from bad to worse for Chivas USA, as extra time proved deadly to the MLS side and gave Carolina their second straight upset win, having already slid past L.A. Galaxy in the competition.

Cesar Elizondo and Brian Ackley both netted in the extra period to give the NASL club the quarterfinals berth.  It was hot in North Carolina, but the sides were hot-headed as well, as seven yellow cards were handed out in the match.

In an odd bit of news, new Chivas manager Jose Luis Real was in attendance for the match, but did not coach.  Instead, Sascha van der Most continued his interim coaching duties.

New England Revolution 4-2 New York Red Bulls

The Revs continued their season revival by thrashing the Red Bulls in their first home match in the Cup in four years.  New England went ahead after just four minutes as Kelyn Rowe scored the first of his brace, and they kept scoring all the way until their fourth in the 87th minute.

New England are on a vicious run, unbeaten in their last seven matches in all competitions, and they’ve outscored their opponents 19-4 during that span.

Dallas FC 3-0 Houston Dynamo

The “Texas Derby” found its way into the U.S. Open Cup, and MLS leaders in points didn’t disappoint.  Kenny Cooper’s brace gives him five goals on the year for Dallas in all competitions, and they both came off set pieces taken by Brazilian midfielder Michel.

That sounds really familiar….oh right, that’s exactly what happened when the two clubs met in the league back in March.  Dallas have an MLS match on Saturday, but played a pretty full-strength lineup anyways, only missing international call-ups Raul Fernandez and Blas Perez, plus David Ferreira sat.

Portland Timbers 2-0 Tampa Bay Rowdies

Portland proved the only MLS team to easily put away their lower division opponents in the fourth round.  Tampa Bay had already defeated Seattle in the previous round, but Portland went ahead early in the ninth minute via Michael Nanchoff and never looked back.

It’s Portland’s first ever visit to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.

Quarterfinal matchups:

New England Revolution at D.C. United
Orlando City at Chicago Fire
Carolina Railhawks at Real Salt Lake
Portland Timbers at FC Dallas

‘Ravens’ challenge soccer orthodoxy in Belarus

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MINSK, Belarus (AP) Less than three years ago, Alexander Skshinetsky’s soccer career seemed over.

The former under-21 international found himself unemployed after his career stalled, and was working on construction sites when an offer came. Would he consider joining an amateur team that had been playing seven-a-side soccer but now wanted to go pro, founded by a small group of fans staking thousands of dollars of their own money to build a club from scratch?

Two seasons and two promotions later, the 26-year-old midfielder is a key player in one of European soccer’s most unlikely success stories. In only its third professional season, Krumkachy Minsk is playing top-flight soccer, beating established names and challenging the economic orthodoxy in one of Europe’s most closed-off countries.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Krumkachy – “Ravens” in Belarusian – has soared into the country’s top league with a shoestring budget but an enthusiastic and growing fan base of hipsters, families and others turned off by the stagnation of soccer in the ex-Soviet nation. Before a recent run of losses, it was even challenging for Europa League qualification.

The secret has been finding talented players on the verge of leaving the game, or even those who have already quit, “people who have been underestimated and put down,” in the words of co-founder Denis Shunto, who set up Krumkachy with friends in 2011. “We get those guys and we can really make them into a team.”

After starting out in recreational competitions, Shunto and his friends decided to aim higher. Belarusian soccer has a three-tier league system packed with clubs backed by various government agencies and state-run factories in the country’s Soviet-style economy, a set-up which prefers predictability over ambition and can give rise to conflicts of interest. With a spot open in the third tier, but without a state patron, Krumkachy scraped together a few thousand dollars to apply. Each subsequent step up the pyramid brought predictions of imminent financial collapse.

“Everyone said we wouldn’t have the money, we couldn’t take part,” said Skshinetsky, the midfielder. “We played for free in the second division, and in the first division it wasn’t much. Maybe $100 for a win in the first division and salaries maybe $150 (a month).”

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

On a freezing Friday night in Minsk, the crowd was small and the game scrappy. Goalkeeping errors helped to hand Krumkachy a 2-1 win which all but ensured the club’s top-flight survival for 2017 in the Belarusian league’s calendar-year system. Financial survival is always a trickier question.

“We’ve got the smallest budget (in the league) and we’re still putting money in ourselves,” said Shunto, who wonders if the approach of going without government funding may be “too romantic.”

At Friday’s game, commercial tie-ups were prominent and Krumkachy’s shirts were covered in a myriad of small logos from various businesses which have chipped in as sponsors, while opposition Granit Mikashevichi bore only the logo of its backer, a state-run quarry. Consumerism may be the norm in most European leagues, but in Belarus’ state-dominated economy, it’s the mark of the plucky underdog.

After ending a nine-game wait for victory, the players came over to celebrate with the sparse crowd. An hour later, the reserve players were still sharing the field with fans and their children having a kickabout.

“It’s an atmosphere like home, very warm. It’s been helping the guys not to give up,” said Vasily Khomutovsky, one of Krumkachy’s two co-coaches.

At a recent away game, “a woman with two children who went there, with two small kids 7 and 10 years old, she made each player a little souvenir by hand and signed it, something different for each player,” Khomutovsky said.

There’s a family atmosphere within the club, too, with Shunto’s brother serving as a backup goalkeeper and Skshinetsky’s wife in charge of fitness training.

[ MORE: Power rankings — Going to the playoffs edition ]

Vladimir Harlach, one of the team’s supporters, said Krumkachy reminds him of AFC Wimbledon, the English club founded by fans after owners relocated its previous incarnation to another town, and which has since shot up several divisions.

“That’s a bit different, there was history,” Harlach said. “Here, it’s from scratch. History is being written in front of our eyes. You could compare it to other countries 100 years ago, when (soccer) was all being created.”

Krumkachy’s average home attendance of about 1,500 is tiny by European standards, but enough to put it comfortably above all but the biggest clubs in Belarus, as well as higher than that of FC Minsk, the city government-run club whose stadium Krumkachy is using.

Some at the club wonder whether European qualification might be possible next year, another improbable step up, but the top spot in Belarus appears far out of reach. Able to outspend rivals with cash from occasional Champions League appearances, BATE Borisov has just sewn up its 11th straight title.

Khomutovsky welcomes the comparison to Leicester, a team which was promoted to top division in England, survived one season, then won a wildly unlikely title the following year.

“I hope next year,” Khomutovsky said, “we do what we can to become the Belarusian Leicester.”

MLS Cup Playoffs Weds. preview: Toronto, LA host openers

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco, right, celebrates after scoring his team's second goal against the New England Revolution during first-half MLS soccer game action in Toronto, Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP
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Here we go, sports fans.

Major League Soccer starts its playoffs with a pair of knockout round games on Wednesday and another two on Thursday.

[ MORE: MLS Cup predictions ]

Philadelphia Union at Toronto FC — 7:30 p.m. ET

The Union are back in the playoffs for just the second time in playoff history, the same amount as Toronto. The difference is that Toronto has made the postseason in back-to-back season and isn’t entering the second season on a brutal cold streak.

Philly has lost three-straight and five of seven, making the playoffs on goal differential and — as Brotherly Game points out — has the lowest points-per-game of a playoff team since 2006.

That’s probably not going to fly at the new, loud BMO Field, where TFC’s supporters will finally get a home playoff match. Sebastian Giovinco is close to full fitness, Jozy Altidore has been on fire, and Michael Bradley isn’t exactly a player who shirks the big game spot light.

But it’s going to be players like Drew Moor and Clint Irwin who keep TFC calm under the bright lights. They’ve been here before. In fact, Moor has actually been at BMO in the playoffs, when Colorado trumped FC Dallas for a 2-1 win at MLS Cup 2010.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Real Salt Lake at LA Galaxy –10:30 p.m. ET

Before the season began, LA looked like it had an embarrassment of riches that could challenge for one of the best records in MLS history. Between Giovani Dos Santos, Robbie Keane, Ashley Cole, Nigel de Jong, Steven Gerrard, and Gyasi Zardes — let alone the rest of the crew — the Galaxy were terrifying.

CARSON, CA - SEPTEMBER 11: Robbie Keane #7 of Los Angeles Galaxy celebrates his goal with Giovani dos Santos #10 to take a 4-1 lead over the Orlando City FC at StubHub Center on September 11, 2016 in Carson, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Dos Santos and Keane (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

About 700 miles northeast was a team expected to do, well, not much. Real Salt Lake had its mainstays in Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, but had the club done enough to make up a 10-point playoff deficit from 2015?

Injuries and defections stopped the Galaxy from reaching its potential, while RSL rode a hot start into the playoffs. Both teams finished their seasons in cold fashion; In Real’s case, ice cold.

The Galaxy only lost one game at the StubHub Center this season, and it’s realistic to think that trend will continue on Wednesday. But there’s something about RSL and the playoffs — and the potential absences of not just Zardes but Keane and Gerrard — that lead us to believe something strange could be coming by the time Thursday morning hits the East Coast.

USMNT’s Zardes nearing return for LA… but not this week

CARSON, CA - FEBRUARY 09:  Gyasi Zardes #11 of Los Angeles Galaxy attemps to break away from Leiton Jimenez #30 of Club Tijuana at StubHub Center on February 9, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
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Gyasi Zardes waits on X-rays, and it’s not just a matter for LA Galaxy concern.

Yes, the MLS side is chasing its sixth Cup and has as many as two playoff matches coming in the next five days.

But Jurgen Klinsmann has regularly called upon the 25-year-old attacker for the United States men’s national team who, in case you haven’t heard, have two of the toughest World Cup qualifiers on their slate in the next few weeks.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

There’s good news and bad news. First, the good, from

Gyasi Zardes, returning from a broken foot this past August, happily took to the field with his teammates in a sign of a potential return in time for the postseason. The offensive favorite spent a little under an hour with the team, not quite completing a full training session, but definitely close to returning to his usual fitness.

Now the less good: Zardes cannot return until his next scheduled X-ray on the aforementioned broken foot.

That X-ray comes next Thursday – well after Wednesday’s game and any weekend matches.

Will a fit Zardes instantly reclaim a spot in Klinsmann’s 23? Wingers have had strong performances in his stead, and the coach’s take on that position is a bit unknown as we anticipate the United States and Mexico in Columbus on Nov. 11.

Juventus CEO: agent to earn $30 million for Pogba transfer

VERONA, ITALY - JANUARY 31:  Paul Pogba of Juventus celebrates the victory after the Serie A match between AC Chievo Verona and Juventus FC at Stadio Marc'Antonio Bentegodi on January 31, 2016 in Verona, Italy.  (Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images)
Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images
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TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus CEO Giuseppe Marotta has revealed that Paul Pogba‘s agent will be paid 27 million euros ($30 million) for the player’s record transfer to Manchester United.

Pogba returned to United in August for a world-record fee of $116 million.

Marotta was quoted by Italian media as telling Juventus’ shareholders meeting Tuesday as saying “27 million (euros) will be paid to (Pogba’s) agent Mino Raiola. So the total net gain for Pogba was 72 million ($78 million)” after other fees are taken into account.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high in MLS Playoffs ]

Marotta says that Pogba joined Juve from United in 2012 for a bargain price of 1.5 million euros ($1.6 million).

Marotta adds that Juan Cuadrado‘s two-year loan from Chelsea costs 5 million euros ($5.4 million) per season and if Juventus wins Serie A this season it will be obliged to buy Cuadrado’s full rights for an additional 20 million ($22 million).