The second interim era for Bobby Murphy kicks off tonight as Orlando City travels to Maryland to square off with D.C. United. With a win, the Lions would set a date with the Philadelphia Union in the quarterfinals and equal their deepest run in the tournament in club history.
The Open Cup is a bit of an enigma on the American soccer scene, with a potential berth in the Concacaf Champions League and prize money on the line and very little investment from Major League Soccer sides until the final rounds. To give some insight on what to expect from Ben Olsen’s side in the competition, Ben Bromley, Managing Editor of SBNation’s Black and Red United, stopped by to answer some questions:
Orlando and D.C. haven’t met since the first week of the season. How has United changed over the past few months since the last match?
Ben Bromley: D.C. United has changed a lot and not very much over the past few months. The big change has been that Paul Arriola has been moved into central midfield, and it has worked very well. It has allowed them to get all of their good attacking midfielders on the field, and it improved the No. 8 position to boot. On the other hand, the defense across the entire back line has been bad, and because of that they have done hilariously bad things like give up a three-goal lead or just not being able to win any games. For all of the attacking talent on this team, the defense is inversely bad.
What has been the general reception of the fans to the home matches a decent distance outside D.C.?
BB: The U.S. Open Cup matches are always at the Maryland SoccerPlex, but they’ve had two home MLS games away from home: one at the aforementioned Plex and the other at Navy/Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, the home of the Navy Midshipmen. Games at the ’Plex are always a curiosity, because it is a hike: It can be anywhere from 30 to 120 minutes from people who regularly go to D.C. United games. We all would have preferred the stadium to have been completed before this season started, but the machinations of D.C. politics don’t care about your sports.
Since D.C. won the Open Cup in 2013, the club has failed to progress to the quarterfinals of the tournament. How much emphasis is put on this trophy from United fans and the organization?
BB: This year is actually the most seriously the team has taken the USOC in a while. In years past, Ben Olsen would try and find a way to rest as many starters as possible for the first few USOC matches. This year, he played at least half of his starters in the first round, and seems likely to do the same or start even more regulars since there are 10 days until the next match after this one. I still think that Olsen is using this to help his MLS season, but I think that he thinks getting starters more time together here helps his MLS team more than rest.
What is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
BB: Travis Worra; Oniel Fisher, Jalen Robinson, Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora; Chris Durkin; Zoltan Stieber, Paul Arriola, Ian Harkes, Bruno Miranda; Patrick Mullins.
2-1 D.C. United.
Thanks again to Ben for taking the time to answer our questions.