|(photo credit: TheCup.US facebook)|
The Charleston Battery are no strangers to success in the Cup, and have made quite a name for themselves as giant-killers, in their own right. In 1999, the Battery topped DC United 4-3 in an extra-time thriller. Two years later, the Pride of the Lowcountry drubbed the New York MetroStars 4-1 at Blackbaud Stadium. Charleston are one of the only lower division sides to ever make an appearance in the final stage of the tournament, falling 2-1 in heartbreaking fashion to DC United in 2008. Perhaps my favorite Battery Open Cup match was the 3-1 rout of Chivas USA in Charleston...Not only did Charleston net three fantastic goals, the goats were so upset at their own manhandling that by the end of game they started a fight and several of their players were ejected with only seconds to play.
The powers that be have made it clear that another successful Open Cup run is a priority for the Charleston Battery this year, and with a huge bundle of cash and Champion's League spot up for grabs, why not?? Unfortunately, as its slated up, May is one of Charleston's busiest months in terms of fixture congestion, but it will interesting to see how the pieces come together when the Battery enter the fray in the second round. For an in-depth analysis of how Charleston enters the draw, check out CHSSoccer.net.
But first things first. Technically, the dance has already begun. Two play-in matches took place Tuesday night to determine the final field in the first round. In typical Open Cup style, even these preliminary matches were high scoring nail-biters. FC Hasental (NPSL, and yes their crest bears a rabbit) downed the Fresno Fuego Future with four straight goals as the match finished 5-3. Interestingly enough, the other match finished 5-3 on PK's, as the Georgia Revolution (also NPSL) squeaked by the Colorado Rovers after extra time. If you haven't already seen it, here's a look at the first round of play:
There are a handfull of oddballs from smaller conferences and associations and its always nice to have those wildcard darkhorse teams to spice things up. You'll also notice there are several representatives from the ever-expanding grassroots league, the National Premier Soccer League. Of course there are several PDL clubs in the mix and even a few USL Pro squads in the first round. Here are the teams to keep your eye on:
Ocean City Nor'easters: Ever the underdog, these boys understand what the tourney is all about. In a previous USOC tangle with DC United, their fans managed to intimidate the screaming eagles and only just fell short of a glorious upset.
Reading United AC: The Battery hosted this side last year and the PA squad can be tough competition. Reading's alumni have really begun to go places...we're talking MLS and beyond.
Chattanooga FC: These boys are known for quality football and their supporters, the Chattahooligans are largely responsible for inciting a football culture revolution in Middle Tennessee. Nos vemos, El Conductor!!
Michigan Bucks: Drawing on a wealth of college talent, the Bucks have won the PDL title and had an excellent run in the Cup last year. Don't be surprised if they knock off a few big names this go around.
I love this competition and what it means for the Beautiful Game in America. I'm practically beside myself with anticipation! Let it begin! Let it begin!!