Finalists for the 100th U.S. Open Cup will be decided tonight as D.C. United visits Chicago and Portland visits Real Salt Lake. They count the same in a technical sense – and yet one just feels so much larger.
There is ample history on the line at Toyota Park in suburban Bridgeview tonight. This is the only chance for D.C. United to salvage something from a season gone wildly awry. And this does look like an improved team, recently fortified by Luis Silva and loanee Donor Doyle.
Chicago can still make the MLS playoffs, but the task remains an uphill climb. Safe to say that for both of these proud clubs, each with some rich Open Cup history, tonight’s encounter rates high on the “meaningful” meter.
For Chicago, whatever squad rotation is in the works following the weekend’s big, confidence-inspiring win at Philadelphia, expect to see Mike Magee, a.k.a. Magic Mike, the Fire’s saving grace in 2013, against a Black and Red back line that team officials somehow refuse to improve.
Meanwhile in Utah, two giants collide in a match heavy with significant subplot.
Start here: Wednesday’s winner from Rio Tinto Stadium will host the final. Either site would be epic.
There’s Will Johnson’s return to Real Salt Lake, where he made his MLS bones. An offseason trade sent Johnson to Portland, where he has established himself as captain and a league MVP candidate.
There’s Caleb Porter vs. Jason Kreis, two of the top, young managerial minds in the U.S. game. Porter said he has “looked forward to playing them for a long time.” There are lots of similarities in the teams’ styles, both reliant on possession and disciplined spacing and movement.
RSL is currently top of the West in MLS, and Kreis’ team keeps getting closer to its best 11. Chris Wingert and Tony Beltran, the teams’ top outside backs, are expected to start tonight for the first time since late June.
Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando have played one match since returning from their essential part in the U.S. Gold Cup triumph.