With players new and old cycling through the lineup, the US Open Cup is always difficult to predict. We all think that D.C. United will beat the Pittsburgh Riverhounds tonight; let us know what you think in the comments!
Usually in this space I would throw some news or numbers at you as a justification for why I think D.C. United will win, lose, or draw their next match. I can't pretend to know enough about USL, where the Pittsburgh Riverhounds sit tied for 5th in the East, to tell you one way or the other. What I do know is that it's the Open Cup, where things happen like Cuauhtemoc Blanco punching Clyde Simms, Bodkin Boskovic, and an unknown assailant allegedly cracking a flagpole over the head of the Richmond Kickers mascot after said mascot wiped his bum with a black and red flag. I also know, or at least I'm 85% sure, that we'll be seeing plenty of D.C. reserves, since United will have three matches in the week and a half following this match. We can't have a draw, so let's say it's 2-1 DCU, and on to the next round.
We should see at least three or four legitimate starting-quality players take the field for the Black-and-Red in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, as all of Kofi Opare, Markus Halsti and Luis Silva were left out of Ben Olsen's starting XI down in Orlando, not to mention an in-form Andrew Dykstra. Given the results United's reserves have managed to get against MLS competition so far in 2015 - and with the memories of Rochester last year still fresh - I think the quality is there to get the win this weekend. Miguel Aguilar nets early, and Conor Doyle creates the margin. 2-0 to the visitors.
I expect to see a team full of reserves making the trip to Pittsburgh given the first team is returning from Orlando and will also have 3 more games in the 10 days after this Open Cup match. I guess I know more about the Riverhounds than Sepp Blatter knows about a FIFA free from corruption, but that's obviously the lowest of bars. Gimme a 2-1 DCU victory that's more of a nailbiter than it should be only because Open Cup matches seem to be built that way in the rounds where MLS teams enter the competition.
D.C. United had a lackluster game down in the heat though it should be said Pittsburgh was a couple hundred miles away and played at 10 men for a half hour in a loss to Charlotte on Saturday. They may be up for the game Wednesday, though I imagine that Ben Olsen would have Markus Halsti, Kofi Opare, Miguel Aguilar and potentially Luis Silva to choose from, which if accurate would even be better than the group that went to Rochester last year (jokes about coaches caring about the Open Cup aside). I'd imagine the game goes 2-0 D.C., and the MLS awaits in the next round.
Expect goals. Pittsburgh has had 50 goals scored in the 12 league matches they've been involved in. That's almost two more goals per game than the average American soccer game, and even if you take out the crazy 6-5 outlier you're still looking at a team whose games involve around 3.5 goals on average. In other words, Pittsburgh has no time for shutouts. That's a bad recipe given the talent disparity involved when MLS and USL teams play, and United actually has well-rested attackers for this game. I think the Riverhounds play too open early and pay the price with goals for Luis Silva and Conor Doyle. Pittsburgh pulls one back early in the second half to make things interesting, but United scores a third soon thereafter - I'll take Miguel Aguilar as the scorer - and from there the Black-and-Red smother the home side. 3-1 DCU.