USL Represents Well But Cannot Topple MLS in USOC


The USL has failed to advance a team to the fifth round of the 2016 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup tournament. Six teams from US Soccer’s third division had a chance to upset squads from the MLS in the fourth round on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, but they all fell short. According to, Wilmington Hammerheads FC and OKC Energy FC will split the $15k prize allocated to the best USL finisher.

Five of the six USL teams gave the MLS sides just about all they could handle, instilling hope in lower-division fans until the very last. Two of the matches required penalty kick shootouts to determine which team would advance. Three of the remaining four contests were decided by a single goal.

Moral victories are reserved for sides that actually lost, but the USL teams acquitted themselves quite well against MLS sides that featured a mixture of regulars and reserves. Nevertheless, the Charlotte Independence will enjoy a second year of making the claim of being the last USL team to defeat an MLS side in meaningful competition.

Colorado Rapids 1-0 Colorado Springs Switchbacks FC

This was a back-and-forth contest in which the visitors from the USL held their in-state MLS foe scoreless until late in the match. Dillon Serna struck the game winning shot for the Rapids in the 84th minute.

Real Salt Lake 2-2 (3-1 PKs) Wilmington Hammerheads FC

The Hammerheads held a 2-0 lead in the second half, but could not hold on for the victory. A blast from Mael Corboz opened the scoring in the 34th minute. A shot by Justin Moose deflected off an RSL defender to double Wilmington’s lead in the 58th. Joao Plata and Burrito Martinez scored during a late rally for the home side to send the match into extra time. After two scoreless extra time periods, Wilmington skied a few chances from the mark and its chance to advance.

Philadelphia Union 3-2 Harrisburg City Islanders

This match felt slightly less incestuous now that the Union has abandoned its long partnership with the City Islanders in order to (re)create Bethlehem Steel FC as its USL affiliate.

Philadelphia got on the board early and dominated play in the first half. Walter Restrepo, who has made 6 appearances for Bethlehem this season, knocked in the first goal in the third minute. Roland Alberg capped off the first half with a goal for the Union in stoppage time.

Harrisburg, though, would not go gentle into that good night. Craig Foster erased part of the deficit with a goal in the 79th minute. Bobby Warshaw looked to be a hero with an equalizer in stoppage time while the City Islanders were playing down a man. Alberg spoiled the upset, scoring on a gem of free kick for the Union before the whistle blew for full time.

Rochester Rhinos 0-1 New York Red Bulls

In another back-and-forth first half, neither team could put away its opportunities during the course of play. Sacha Kljestan gave the visitors the lead in the 20th minute by converting a chance from the mark. The Red Bulls took more control of the match in the second half, and the only non-MLS team to win the tournament since MLS began competing was eliminated.

FC Dallas 2-2 (6-5 PKs) OKC Energy FC

Jordan Rideout opened the scoring for OKC in the 27th minute after gathering a deflected shot and making good on his own. A pair of Carlos Lizarano goals in the 37th and 43rd, both of which were assisted by Coy Craft, gave Dallas the halftime lead. A header by Michael Thomas in stoppage time sent the match into extra time. Neither team could find a goal in the overtime periods, and Dallas advanced after PK shootout that went tit for tat until the very end.

Houston Dynamo 4-0 San Antonio FC

The only expansion side from USL to advance this far in the tournament was the only USL team that failed to put up much resistance against its MLS competition. San Antonio gifted the first goal to Houston in the 39th minute when a defender slipped in the box, leaving Mauro Manotas open to score. It was all downhill for San Antonio from there. Three additional Dynamo players went on to score, and San Antonio remained without a win against the Dynamo or its reserve squad in 2016.

2 thoughts on “USL Represents Well But Cannot Topple MLS in USOC

  1. Rapids on top of the MLS table and started all but two regular starters, Jones (USA) and Gashi (Albania), both involved I huge international tournaments. Switchbacks conceded in the 84′. Best performance from USL side.

    • Glad to see the Rapids taking the tournament seriously and that the Switchbacks held their own. Some of the other MLS teams played with a lineup that had considerably fewer regulars.

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