And then there were 16.
The 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup rolls on this week with eight matches spread Tuesday through Thursday, to whittle the field down to eight teams vying for the oldest trophy in North American soccer. With all matches airing on ESPN+, here’s your guide to the Round of 16:
Survive and advance?
Columbus Crew vs. Atlanta United | Tues. 7 pm ET | ESPN+
Atlanta United squeaked by the Charleston Battery in the Fourth Round, after a postponement, venue change and extra time. But that’s all that matters. Now, they hit the road to face the Columbus Crew.
Weather permitting, circumstances will be a bit more normal than their last encounter, played under heavy rain. The cast of characters will be changed as well. With Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes at the Gold Cup, Zack Steffen having played his last game for the club ahead of his transfer to Manchester City, and injuries to Harrison Afful and Federico Higuain, the Crew’s lineup will look vastly different than the XI they used in their 2-0 win over Atlanta on March 30.
On the Five Stripes’ side, the game is likely to represent another chance to start for Andrew Carleton, who is looking to recapture the momentum he had earlier in his young career.
Keaton Parks’ encore
D.C. United vs. NYCFC | Wed. 7 pm ET | ESPN+
Parks’ long-awaited first NYCFC start couldn’t have gone any better, as the midfielder scored a brace in his side’s 4-0 rout of North Carolina FC. Now, he is expected to make his second start for the club as his side travel to play D.C. United.
The American youth international isn’t the only intriguing young player who impressed in NYCFC’s last win, as Homegrown midfielder Justin Haak started alongside him and teenager Juan Pablo Torres made his club debut in an unfamiliar fullback role. Will all three retain their places against D.C.?
Speaking of #PlayYourKids…
FC Dallas vs. New Mexico United | Wed. 8:30 pm ET | ESPN+
Ricardo Pepi, 16-year-old academy product and US youth international, got his FC Dallas debut in the club’s Fourth Round Open Cup win over the OKC Energy after tearing up USL League One with North Texas SC. He wasn’t the only youngster on the pitch for FCD.
Fellow academy products Bryan Reynolds (17), Jesus Ferreira (18) and Brandon Servania (20) all received starts last time out, while Paxton Pomykal made the bench following his exploits at the U-20 World Cup. The kids will be in for a big test against New Mexico, who outlasted the Colorado Rapids and are one of the two remaining non-MLS sides in the Open Cup Round of 16.
The Brian Fernandez Show
Portland Timbers vs. LA Galaxy | Wed. 11 pm ET | ESPN+
Let’s keep this succinct: As long as Brian Fernandez is in this brand of pyrotechnic form, he’s must-watch entertainment.
Fernandez now has six goals across four appearances (three starts) at the beginning of his Portland Timbers career. His pace and direct running is electric, he can strike the ball with both feet and he wears his heart on his sleeve, meaning you never have to guess how mad he is at himself on the rare occasion that he doesn’t score.
A striker on the other side of the field knows a thing or two about must-watch runs of form, but will Zlatan Ibrahimovic play? TBD. He was rested in the Galaxy’s win over Orange County, where 16-year-old Efra Alvarez was the star.
LAFC’s onslaught continues
LAFC vs. San Jose Earthquakes | Thurs. 10:30 pm ET | ESPN+
Another game, another Carlos Vela goal, another multi-goal LAFC win. Their 2019 excellence is almost getting boring. The Supporters’ Shield leaders are looking to collect as much silverware as possible this year and that has manifested itself in a strong Open Cup lineup and performance in the Fourth Round. What does the Round of 16 have in store?
Even without Walker Zimmerman, Tyler Miller and Mark-Anthony Kaye, LAFC were able to call on a very strong XI, and are expected to do the same against San Jose. The Quakes’ season hit its nadir with a 5-0 loss against LAFC, the fourth of their four consecutive losses to open the season, and are a different team to the one that showed up that day. Will they get revenge?
- The Houston Dynamo continue their title defense at home against Minnesota United (Tuesday, 8 pm ET | ESPN+). The Loons got a pair of long-overdue dominant performances from Darwin Quintero and Angelo Rodriguez in their Fourth Round thrashing of Sporting Kansas City.
- After a wild 3-2 triumph over the New York Red Bulls, the New England Revolution stay on the road to face Orlando City SC (Wednesday, 7:30 pm ET) with both sides fighting to earn a place in the Open Cup quarterfinals.
- FC Cincinnati will face another former foe from their USL days as they travel to Saint Louis FC (Wednesday, 8:30 pm ET | ESPN+), who are fresh off their elimination of the Chicago Fire last round.