The USOC Third Round is Set, and It Includes Eric Wynalda’s Amateur Side, Cal FC

He has coveted an MLS coaching job for years now, only to be repeatedly denied by league execs presumably wary of his, um, shoot-from-the-hip style.

Now, outspoken former U.S. national team striker Eric Wynalda will get a chance to coach head-to-head against an MLS side—one that just so happens to be owned by an exec, Merritt Paulson, who called Wynalda “a frickin Twitter trainwreck” this past February.

Wynalda’s Cal FC—an amateur team from the USASA, the fifth tier of the U.S. Soccer pyramid—trounced the Wilmington Hammerheads 4-0 last night in the second round of the U.S. Open Cup. They will now face Major League Soccer’s Portland Timbers in the third round.

The Hammerheads are a professional team from Wilmington, North Carolina; they were founded in 1996 and play in the third-tier USL Pro circuit. Cal FC’s Danny Barrera—a former standout at UCSB who also played for the U.S. U-17s and U-18s—scored two goals in the drubbing.

Two other amateur sides made it to the third round, as fourth-tier PDL teams the Michigan Bucks and Ventura County Fusion (not an alt-country band, it turns out) both advanced.

Below are all the matchups (along with a chart of the US Soccer pyramid):

US OPEN CUP THIRD ROUND

Tuesday, May 29
7 pm ET: D.C. United at Richmond Kickers (USL PRO) — Richmond City Stadium; Richmond, Va.

7 pm ET: NE Revolution at Harrisburg City Islanders (USL PRO) — Skyline Sports Complex; Harrisburg, Pa.

7 pm ET: LA Galaxy at Carolina RailHawks (NASL) — WakeMed Soccer Park; Cary, N.C.

7:30 pm ET: Chicago Fire at Michigan Bucks (PDL) — Ultimate Soccer; Pontiac, Mich.

7:30 pm ET: Colorado Rapids at Tampa Bay Rowdies (NASL) — Al Lang Stadium; St. Petersburg, Fla.

7:30 pm ET: Dayton Dutch Lions (USL PRO) at Columbus Crew — Columbus Crew Stadium; Columbus, Ohio

7:30 pm ET: New York Red Bulls at Charleston Battery (USL PRO) — Blackbaud Stadium; Charleston, S.C.

7:30 pm ET: Rochester Rhinos (USL PRO) at Philadelphia Union — PPL Park; Chester, Pa.

8:30 pm ET: Charlotte Eagles (USL PRO) at FC Dallas — FC Dallas Stadium; Frisco, Texas

8:30 pm ET: Houston Dynamo at San Antonio Scorpions (NASL) — Heroes Stadium; San Antonio, Texas

8:30 pm ET: Orlando City (USL PRO) at Sporting KC — LIVESTRONG Sporting Park; Kansas City, Kan.

9 pm ET: Minnesota Stars FC (NASL) at Real Salt Lake — Rio Tinto Stadium; Sandy, Utah

10 pm ET: Chivas USA at Ventura County Fusion (PDL) — Ventura College; Ventura, Calif.

10:30 pm ET: Ft. Lauderdale Strikers (NASL) at SJ Earthquakes — Cagan Stadium; Stanford, Calif.

Wednesday, May 30
10 pm ET: Atlanta Silverbacks (NASL) at Seattle Sounders — Starfire Sports Complex; Tukwila, Wash.

10:30 pm ET: Cal FC (USASA) at Portland Timbers — JELD-WEN Field; Portland, Ore.

U.S. Soccer Pyramid:

Tier 1: Major League Soccer (MLS)

Tier 2: North American Soccer League (NASL)

Tier 3: United Soccer Leagues Professional Division (USL Pro)

Tier 4: United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League (PDL) AND National Premier Soccer League (NPSL)

Tier 5: United States Adult Soccer Association (USASA) AND U.S. Club Soccer (USCS)

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THREE-ATTLE!

That’s the headline on the Seattle Sounders FC website this morning after the club made history last night, beating the Chicago Fire 2-0 to win a third straight US Open Cup final in front of a record crowd of 35,650 at CenturyLink Field.

Fredy Montero buried the rebound of a Jeff Parke header to put the home team up 1-0 in the 79th minute, and Osvaldo Alonso iced it late with a brilliant solo run.

Take a look at the highlights and postgame comments:

With the win, Seattle joins New York Greek-Americans (1967-69) as the only teams to win three consecutive USOC trophies—and we’re 99.9% sure they’re the only team ever to win it each year in their first three years of existence as a club.

The victory also ensures that veteran goalkeeper and future first-ballot Hall of Famer Kasey Keller, who is retiring at the end of the season, will go out with at least one trophy.

Seattle, Chicago Set to Make History in U.S. Open Cup Final

No matter what happens in the U.S. Open Cup final on October 4th, a slice of history will be made.

If the Chicago Fire win the 98th edition of the event, they will join Maccabi Los Angeles and Bethlehem Steel as the only five-time champions of the nation’s oldest soccer competition.

If Seattle Sounders FC win, they will match New York Greek-Americans (1967-69) as the only teams to win three consecutive USOC trophies.

Most observers would probably tab Seattle as the favorites at this point. They’ll be playing at home, they have won five games in the past two weeks, and they wrapped up their torrid month with a 1-0 USOC semifinal win over fellow Western Conference contenders FC Dallas on Tuesday. That victory, courtesy of Fredy Montero’s 40th-minute goal, gave Seattle a 7-0-1 record in August.

But Chicago is also heating up, having defeated the Richmond Kickers 2-1 in Tuesday’s other USOC semifinal for their third win in nine days. Sebastian Grazzini and Dominic Oduro scored for the Fire, who have a record 15 ties in MLS this season.

In addition to their rising form, the Fire should have plenty of motivation to spur them on in the USOC final: Since they are all but out of the MLS playoffs, the USOC represents a golden chance for them to salvage something from the 2011 season, and add another trophy to their collection, which already includes hardware from the 1998 MLS Cup, the 1998, 2000, 2003, and 2006 U.S. Open Cups, and the 2003 Supporters’ Shield.

Seattle will no doubt be eager for a third straight USOC trophy, but they are also contending for MLS Cup 2011 (they’re currently second in the West standings) and they’re in the thick of the CONCACAF Champions League group stage. Fatigue and injuries could come into play for them.

Whatever the outcome on Oct 4, the CenturyLink Field setting will guarantee an exciting atmosphere (Seattle has sold out their home stadium for 44 consecutive MLS matches).

Fox Soccer will televise the game, at 10:00 p.m. ET.

Backpost on the Road: U.S., MLS Roundup

Hey folks, we flew the BP coop for the beach this week, and before we get to the soccer, we’d like to thank the inventors of non-aerosol spray-on sunscreen. Those people deserve a Nobel prize.

If you’re a parent, you are nodding your head in agreement right now.

If not, just know that that stuff can get two toddlers beach-ready at 7:30 a.m. in a fraction of the time with none of the fuss of the old-school goop, and is therefore worth its weight in gold.

It already costs something like 16 bucks a can (and lasts about three days), but we would happily pay twice that. We couldn’t say what number would have to appear on the price tag to make us balk at buying the stuff, but we’re pretty sure it would have to be in triple digits. This is one of the great overlooked advancements of our time.

Okay, Gold Cup final: Yeah, not good. After an incredible start to the game, and a brilliant second goal that went Adu-to-Dempsey-to-Donovan-to-back-of-the-net to put them up 2-0, the Yanks crumbled like Feta cheese (or maybe it was Queso Blanco) and lost, 4-2.

The Mexico comeback had an air of inevitability about it, and El Tri’s ability to get behind the U.S. backline at will was downright terrifying for U.S. fans. The U.S. camp pointed to the early exit, due to injury, of Steve Cherundolo, as an explanation, and while the veteran defender’s calming presence was certainly missed—he may have been the most consistent U.S. performer in the tournament—his absence alone doesn’t explain the problem.

No, the U.S. is simply not as good as Mexico right now. With West Ham winger Pablo Barrera, Tottenham attacker Giovani Dos Santos, and Manchester United striker Javier Hernandez (who scored 20 goals in 45 appearances for the Red Devils this past season), this is one of Mexico’s best teams ever, and they ran roughshod over the Yanks.

Would things have been different if the U.S. had Stuart Holden and Timothy Chandler at the Gold Cup? Probably, but the fact remains that the Yanks lack depth, and have some real concerns as they head toward qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

The backline is full of question marks due to age on the one hand and inexperience on the other. The midfield is a strong suit but still lacks a playmaker in the Claudio Reyna or Tab Ramos mode (though Adu could fill that role; more on him later). And up top, we’re still awaiting the second coming of Charlie Davies.

Let’s look at the good, the bad, and the future of coach Bob Bradley in the wake of the 2011 Gold Cup:

The Good

Freddy Adu! The (still-only) 22-year-old did nothing short of revive his entire career with his Gold Cup performance, showing great skill on the ball and an ability to spark the U.S. offense. Frankly, we’re still in disbelief. It will be a very interesting next season for Mr. Adu.

Eric Lichaj showed a lot of poise, great speed and decent skill on the ball. He’s only 22. If he and Timmy Chandler were the starting outside backs in the qualifying cycle, U.S. fans would take it. Especially as the excellent Cherundolo is 32.

Juan Agudelo and Jozy Altidore. Both showed flashes of the potential to be top-class strikers. Agudelo came on in emergency circumstances vs Jamaica and did very well, and Altidore scored two goals, one of them a blinder, before injuring his hamstring.

The Bad

• Backline depth is very suspect, as exposed by the injury to Cherundolo. Jonathan Bornstein did nothing to dissuade his (many) critics, and Tim Ream showed he’s not quite ready for the best international competition.

• Shockingly, given his track record, Tim Howard had an awful game against El Tri. He was too easily beaten on Barrera’s second goal, an outside-of-the-foot shot that wasn’t all that hard-hit or well-placed, and he was at sea flailing at Dos Santos in the box before the Mexican attacker hit his incredible chip to the far upper 90.

The Coach

Is Bradley done after his team’s failure to win the Gold Cup and a berth in the World Cup dress rehearsal that is the 2013 Confederations Cup?

He could be. The USSF has long said that this tournament was a priority and a measuring stick, and if they were going to make a change, now would be a good time. Any new coach would have time to acclimate before World Cup qualifying starts, and three years to work with the team before Brazil 2014.

Yesterday, The New York Times asked federation prez Sunil Gulati if Bradley would stay on as coach, and his reply was terse: “We’ll have something to say later this week.”

So, what do you think? Will that “something” be a vote of confidence or a dismissal? What should it be? And if Bradley is let go, who would you like to see take his place? (We’re partial to Peter Nowak ourselves.) Let us know in the comments.

U.S. U-17s

The young Yanks tied New Zealand 0-0 in their third group-stage game at the youth World Cup and ended up tied with the Kiwis in the group standings, on both points and goals. They won the tiebreaker—a drawing of lots—and will play Germany in the knockout stage on Thursday (4:00 p.m. ET, ESPNU, ESPN3.com).

MLS

• The Red Bulls made another blockbuster trade, sending midfielder Dwayne De Rosario, a player they acquired from Toronto in April, to D.C. United in exchange for midfielder Dax McCarty on Tuesday. De Rosario was essentially auditioning for DP money in 2012 from the Red Bulls, and after producing two goals and four assists in 13 games, he apparently botched the audition.  New York cut bait, bringing in the younger (by nine years) and cheaper (by roughly $300,000) McCarty in his place.

• MLS teams began U.S. Open Cup play yesterday and seven of the eight teams from the league won their games to advance to the quarterfinals of the tournament.

Red Bull New York won a unique derby, dropping third-tier FC New York 2-1, with the winning goal coming from John Rooney. The only MLS team to slip up was the Columbus Crew, which fell to the third-division Richmond Kickers 2-1.

MLS teams have won 14 of the previous 15 U.S. Open Cups.

For two takes on the USMNT and the future of coach Bradley, see here, and here.

Chicago’s Jalil Anibaba Opens Professional Account with Golazo

This footage is slightly out of focus, but worth wading through in its entirety to see Chicago Fire rookie Jalil Anibaba hit the net from 45 yards to beat the Colorado Rapids in Wednesday’s U.S. Open Cup play-in game.

And that first Fire goal, created by new strike partners Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari, reinforces our hunch that the two Uruguayans are going to be the league’s best foreign signings of 2011. (It also provokes a non-sequitur Seinfeld reference out of one of the announcers, that’s how good it is.)

Seattle 2, Columbus 1: Best U.S. Open Cup Final Ever?

It featured the largest crowd (31,311) ever to watch a USOC final in the 97-year history of the event.

The lineups were composed almost entirely of first-choice players, including Columbus linchpin Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who usually sits out games played on artificial turf, and Blaise Nkufo, Seattle’s in-form Swiss international.

There was a stirring comeback for the raucous home fans, as Seattle recovered from an early Kevin Burns goal and got two from Sanna Nyassi to win 2-1.

But before they could lift the trophy, the Sounders had to weather an onslaught from the Crew that included Robbie Rogers absolutely hammering one off the bar in the dying moments.

Check the highlights:

Both the atmosphere and the level of play at Qwest Field were excellent, with Seattle fans chanting and singing non-stop, and the teams knocking it around crisply, and playing like—well, like they were in a Cup final.

That’s not something one could always say about the U.S. Open Cup since MLS teams started playing in it in 1996. It’s often been an afterthought, but last night, it was an event, and Seattle made history by becoming the first MLS team ever to repeat as USOC champs and the first repeat champ of any kind since 1983.

The Sounders now have a chance to join DC United (1996), Chicago (1998), and Los Angeles (2005) as the only teams to win the double of U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup titles.

So while we can’t speak to the 1921 final—a 4-2 win for Brooklyn Robins Dry Dock over St. Louis Scullin Steel—we’re going to go ahead and say yes, this was the best U.S. Open Cup final ever.

New England, D.C. Drop “Silver Lining” Games

The New England Revolution is 6-12-3 in MLS, its playoff hopes all but extinguished with nine games to play.

D.C. United is 4-15-3, completely out of the playoff hunt, and suffering the worst season in the history of Major League Soccer’s most decorated franchise.

Last night, both teams had a chance to salvage some glory from the wreckage of their 2010 seasons via wins in crucial non-league matches—and both came up short.

The Revs were hosting the final of the 2010 SuperLiga, squaring off against Morelia of Mexico. SuperLiga, in case you don’t know (and let’s face it, if you aren’t coaching, reffing, or playing in it, you might not), is a four-year-old competition between teams from MLS and the top flight in Mexico.

The top four MLS teams not already qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League get SuperLiga berths. Read all about it here.

The Revs won the competition in 2008, but there would be no second trophy last night, as Mexican international Miguel Sabah struck two second-half goals to lead Morelia. New England defender Kevin Alston pulled one back in the 79th minute but Morelia held on for a 2-1 win.

New England will try to keep its MLS playoff hopes alive when it hosts Seattle on Saturday.

In D.C., United hosted the Columbus Crew in the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup, with a chance to advance to its fifth final (DC has won two USOCs) and compete for a trophy in this otherwise dismal season.

But, in keeping with the theme of the year for DC, the Red and Black lost—in heartbreaking fashion.

Despite a red card—a controversial one—to Pablo Hernandez early in the second half, ten-man United carried a 1-0 lead into the 89th minute. That’s when Andy Iro hit the equalizer for Columbus, setting the stage for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s penalty-kick winner in extra time.

Columbus will face Seattle Sounders FC, which downed Chivas USA 3-1 in the other semi, in the final next month at Seattle’s Qwest Field.