Considering Cal FC’s stunning Open Cup upset

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Was Cal FC’s upset Wednesday over Portland the biggest upset in U.S. Open Cup history?

Tough to say, in all honesty, because research material on the tournament, approaching its 100th birthday, is painfully thin in some spots.

But stamp this one “major stunner” for sure, one we’ll talk about for a while.

Consider that:

  • Portland was at home. While the Timbers ground has hardly been Fortress Jeld-Wen this year, it’s still a tough place for achieving results.
  • Some of the upsets over the last two nights in Open Cup action – eight MLS clubs fell to lower tier sides – were more predictable than others. Teams from the second-tier NASL, for instance, aren’t outrageously distant in quality from MLS teams. (And the gap closes further when the Major League Soccer entries reach deep into the bench, as some did.)
  • But Cal FC is a second-tier team; it’s an amateur outfit. The team is out of Oxnard, Calif., training once or perhaps twice a week and competing in the Gran Liga. You could probably call it the fifth tier of U.S. Soccer’s hierarchy.
  • The last amateur team to notable beat down an MLS team was Roma FC back in 2006. Roma, from Dallas, traveled to California to beat Chivas USA, advancing into the Round of 16 (where Roma lost to the L.A. Galaxy). The victory was in penalty kicks, but consider the strength of that Chivas side. Playing that day for Chivas was longtime Mexican internationals Francisco Palencia and Claudio Suarez, MLS veteran Jesse Marsch, U.S. international Sacha Kljestan and Aston Villa goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Either way, congratulations to the Cal FC side, managed by former U.S. international Eric Wynalda (who has attempted to deflect the “Wynalda” angle and point the praise back at his players). The amateurs from Oxnard face Seattle next.