Hours after Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Pat Brennan (@PBrennanENQ) broke the news that Major League Soccer (MLS) is visiting Cincinnati on Tuesday, May 29th, FC Cincinnati learned that it was supposed to travel to Minnesota United for their Fourth Round US Open Cup match. The matchup was drawn by USSF to take place in St. Paul, Minn., but the MLS side never applied to host a Fourth Round match and the game has now been moved to Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium.
After initially being drawn to host FC Cincinnati in the fourth round, Minnesota United FC confirmed to tournament organizers this afternoon that the club had only applied to host possible Round of 16 and Quarterfinal matches over the next three rounds and had not applied to host a fourth-round game because of a lack of a suitable venue on the scheduled date. After reviewing the original paperwork, U.S. Soccer concurred. As a result, FCC will host the game instead. – FC Cincinnati Press Release
The oldest ongoing competition in the United States is in its 105th year and features 94 teams playing in a knockout-style tournament with the winner representing the United States in the CONCACAF Champions League. FC Cincinnati defeated MLS clubs, Columbus Crew SC and the Chicago Fire in the Fourth and Fifth Rounds of the 2017 version of the cup on its way to the semi-finals where it took the New York Red Bulls to extra time, before falling 3-2.
The June fixture date is sandwiched between two road matches for the Orange & Blue. FC Cincinnati will travel to New Jersey the Saturday prior to the USOC match to take on New York Red Bulls II. FC Cincinnati will then have to travel back home before traveling to Cary, N.C. to face 15th place North Carolina FC. This match will be interesting to see how Coach Alan Koch will rotate his group. Currently, NYRBII sit in 8th and with North Carolina’s low table position and track record there is a chance several key players such as Emmanual Ledesma, Richie Ryan or Dekel Keinan make their first USOC appearance vs. Minnesota. As it stands, FC Cincinnati will have seven matches in the month of June with a midweek match vs. Bethlehem following the road trip to NC.
FC Cincinnati defeated amateur foe Detroit City FC in the Second Round and USL rival Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC in the third round to earn its chance to play the MLS opponent. Over the past two competitions, lower division sides have knocked off an MLS opponent eight times in 35 games. Those eight wins were had by five teams with the NY Cosmos (one game) and Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (two) winning in 2016 and Miami FC (two), Sacramento Republic FC (one), and FC Cincinnati (two) in 2017. Stats would say Cincinnati’s chances of advancing in consecutive tournaments are slim with five different clubs advancing over the past two seasons, but the NY Cosmos defeated MLS clubs in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 seasons and the Carolina Railhawks (now NCFC) advancing over MLS clubs in 2012, 2013, and 2014.
Minnesota currently sits in eighth place in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference with a record of 4W-7L-1D on 13 points. This match will be its final competition before their league’s World Cup break. United will be without defender Francisco Calvo as he was called up to the Costa Rican national team for the World Cup. Adrian Heath’s club has had defensive struggles in 2018 conceding 22 goals in 12 games, tied for fourth worst in MLS. Their 14 goals are fifth worst in MLS with leading scorer Darwin Quintero leading the team with three goals in seven matches. Fans may recognize the name of Ethan Finley. The former Columbus winger was traded to Minnesota in August of 2017. He has started seven matches, scoring twice for the Loons. Minnesota is a beatable team especially how in the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium. While not the Hell Is Real derby, this will be an interesting matchup as Cincy will most likely face MNUTD in MLS in 2019.
The winner will be redrawn for their fifth round match on June 7 that will be broadcast live from the U.S. Soccer House in Chicago.