On the final night of the Round of 16, Division II club Louisville City FC defeated fellow United Soccer League aspirants Nashville SC 2-1 to join an all-Major League Soccer cast in the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night.
Division I MLS clubs Orlando City SC, four-time Open Cup championss Chicago Fire and first-year club Los Angeles FC also won tightly contested Round of 16 games to claim the remaining berths in the quarterfinals. Earlier in the Round of 16, Houston Dynamo, Philadelphia Union, Portland Timbers and reigning champion Sporting Kansas City advanced to the quarterfinals, which is scheduled to be played Wednesday, July 18.
AS the sole remaining lower division club in the tournament, Louisville City earned the $25,000 prize awarded to each lower division side to advance furthest in the competition. Previously, FC Golden State Force won $25,000 as the amateur club to advance farthest in the tournament, defeating two higher division opponents before bowing out in a fourth-round match with the LA Galaxy.
After the completion of quarterfinal round, the final draw, which determines hosting priority for the tournament semifinals and final, will be held the morning of July 19.
Just as the four games earlier in the Round of 16 had been, Wednesday’s games were tight affairs decided by a goal or in the case of Orlando City SC and D.C. United, a shootout that the Lions won 4-2 after the sides drew 1-1 through 120 minutes of regulation and extratime. In the night’s other all-MLS encounter, Chicago Fire earned a 1-0 win on the road against Atlanta United, which was cheered on by a record crowd for a stand-alone Open Cup game as 41,012 packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
LAFC needed a last-minute strike from Latif Blessing, who helped Sporting Kansas City claim the 2017 U.S. Open Cup crown with a goal in the final, to escape USL club Sacramento Republic FC 3-2 at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles.
The Round of 16’s previous matchdays featured all-MLS match-ups that saw Portland beat LA Galaxy 1-0, Philadelphia defeat New York Red Bulls 2-1, Kansas City down FC Dallas 3-2 and Houston see off Minnesota United FC 1-0.
D.C. United (MLS) 1, Orlando City SC (MLS) 1 (2-4 PKs)
Persistent rain showers forced a lengthy delay at Maryland SoccerPlex on Wednesday night, but as the show must go on, so does the U.S. Open Cup. And the two MLS clubs delivered a drama-packed Round of 16 clash with Orlando City SC outlasting D.C. United in penalties following a 1-1 stalemate through 120 minutes of play. Luciano Acosta found the opener for the home side in the ninth minute when he smashed home a quick pass into the box from Darren Mattocks. Less than 10 minutes later, Justin Meram got the equalizer for Orlando City, sneaking a water-logged ball through the wickets of D.C. United goalkeeper Steve Clark. After a scoreless second half and thirty minutes of extra time, Earl Edwards Jr. made two penalty saves to set up Josue Colman’s clincher for Orlando City SC. The Lions from Central Florida advance to face Philadelphia Union in the Quarterfinals.
Louisville City FC (USL) 2, Nashville SC (USL) 1
In their third meeting of the year, Louisville City bested Nashville SC 2-1 at that cozy confines of Lynn Stadium on the University of Louisville campus. Paco Craig and Paolo DelPiccolo provided the firepower for the hosts whose hot league form carried over to the U.S. Open Cup and sees the club through to a July 18 Quarterfinal against MLS’ Chicago Fire. In a see-saw affair, it was the Kentuckians who seized the early advantage through consistent possession and a well-played corner kick routine that was finished off by Craig in the 24th minute. While Nashville was able to carve out opportunities on the counter, Louisville looked comfortable taking a 1-0 lead into the locker room.
In the second frame, things got even better for the hosts as their captain, DelPiccolo, converted another smart corner kick in the 58th minute. But the home side were made to sweat as Nashville found some urgency and then a goal from Matt LaGrassa in the 68th minute to make for a wild ending in which both goalkeepers stood on their heads to keep their teams’ hopes of advancement alive. In the end, it was Tim Dobrowolski who was able to infuse his Lou City defense with a little bit of the grit and magic his Alma Mater Loyola University – Chicago displayed earlier this year in a similar knockout tournament to claim the 2-1 victory and a visit to the Windy City for a Last Eight showdown.
Atlanta United FC (MLS) 0, Chicago Fire (MLS) 1
This Round of 16 match was tense and tight from the opening whistle at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where 41,012 fans turned out to cheer on the home team and break the all-time attendance record for a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game. Early on it seemed like the record crowd would be rewarded as Atlanta United took firm control of the contest in the opening stages. It was an ominous sign, however, when the first real chance of note came from the Fire in the 17th minute. Diego Campos sent in a dangerous corner-kick that was struck on the volley by former Champions League and World Cup winner Bastian Schweinsteiger. Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kann was up to the task, making the save, and the German schemer’s appeals that the ball had crossed the line were half-hearted at best. Five minutes later Sal Zizzo fired his effort just inches from the top corner for the home side and both teams had a handful more half-chances before the whistle went for the interval with the score the same as it was at the start.
The crucial moment came in the 53rd minute via a silky, flowing move from the visitors, themselves four-time U.S. Open Cup winners. A brilliant through ball into the box from Schweinsteiger picked out the racing Argentine Luis Solignac, who squared the ball across the face of goal to be poked home by Nemanja Nikolic. It was the Hungarian international’s third goal in 2018 Open Cup play after he bagged a brace in the previous round against Columbus Crew. Current Atlanta (former Barcelona) coach Tata Martino threw on a pair of attack-minded subs as the game clock wound toward 90, and the home team threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the Fire. The best Atlanta could manage, though, was a strike against the woodwork from Tito Villalba as the game finished 1-0 to the visitors, who now face Louisville City of the United Soccer League (USL) in the Quarterfinal.
Los Angeles FC (MLS) 3, Sacramento Republic FC (USL) 2
It seemed at times as though Sacramento Republic FC would will itself past Los Angeles FC in the teams’ 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 showdown, but LAFC’s quality ultimately shown through as the SoCal side escaped their northern neighbors with a 3-2 win at Banc of California Stadium in LA.
It was late heartbreak for a Sacramento side that twice took the lead while also defending gallantly in the face of LAFC’s swift and talented attack that hit the woodwork as often as it found the back of the net. Latif Blessing’s 89th minute winner completed the comeback for the home side as he converted a goalmouth cross from perhaps the player of the game Diego Rossi.
It was Rossi who knotted the game at 2-2 in the 67th minute, pegging back Sacramento after Villyan Bijev’s top-corner dart finished a beautifully worked give-and-go with a pair of teammates to put the visitors up 2-1 on the hour mark. Only three minutes before that, LAFC captain Benny Feilhaber had drawn the sides level at 1-1, making amends for putting a first half PK attempt right into the arms of Sacramento goalkeeper, Josh Cohen, who was immense on the night and one of the main reasons the Republic put a heart-stopping scare into their Division I opponents. Elliot Hord scored the game’s opening goal late in the first half, helping Sacramento gain a toe-hold in a game it looked as though they would not have been so competitive in early on.