Wednesday, September 06, 2006

US Open Cup Semifinals Preview

Chicago Fire vs. DC United
8:30pm ET
Chicago - USOC record 24-5 (vs. MLS teams 14-4), DC - 17-7 (4-5)

DC goes to Chicago with the wind again getting behind their back, however the Fire has this odd history of dethroning United (see MLS 2005 playoffs for more). In addition, Chicago has consistently been a great USOC team, while DC hasn't been to a final since 1997.

The Fire will be without forward Andy Herron, but they are still finding ways of making things happen up top. With Chris Rolfe, this will be a difficult team for DC to contain. However, United have a fellow named Christian Gomez that will also need to be contained.

The keeper situation will be interesting as DC did not play Troy Perkins in their last USOC match. Nick Rimando did a fine job against New York, but if DC is really serious about winning this one, Perkins will be in front of net. For the Fire, Zach Thornton should be back from injury and between the posts.

This will be Chicago's 9th match in just over three weeks while DC has played 7 over the similar period. Normally this sort of thing could point to fatigue for the Fire, however all put one of those games was in Chicago. The lack of travel makes such a run much more bearable.

United will play this match like it matters. DC has the chance of doing something no team has ever done, win the treble. DC is well on their way to taking the Supporters' Shield, but if they can claim the US Open and MLS Cups, they would win all three domestic tournaments in which MLS teams take part.

However, the Fire has this thing about betting United and this match should continue that tradition. The Fire is playing the best soccer in the league and has overcome their early poor home form. Look for extra time or kicks to decide this one.

LA Galaxy vs. Houston Dynamo
10:30pm ET
LA - 19-6 (10-4), Houston - 2-0 (1-0)

Houston takes their unbeaten USOC record to LA, however, much the way Chicago seems to have DC's number, LA always found a way to drop San Jose from the Cup.

LA find themselves in run of uneven play, which for them is an improvement while the Dynamo seem to find news ways to lose games. Part of the problem for Houston is not having Brian Ching due to injury, however word is he might come in as a sub tonight. The Dynamo need Ching to provide another target for Dwayne De Rosario and to draw defenders to him. Also in the midfield, Brad Davis will be out for Houston meaning rookie Stuart Holden will have to provide cover on the left side.

Over on the Galaxy side, injuries are not really a problem for the team. Santino Quaranta is fitting in nicely after his move from DC and Landon Donovan is rediscovering his skill. Combine this with a defense, which even during their long losing streak (May-June) was not the worse in the league and you have something.

In the end, LA will do what they always do and win a September match at home, giving them a chance to repeat as Cup Champions. Houston will make it interesting during the first 45-minutes, but the team will not be able to hold during the second half.

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