SAN JOSE, Calif. – It should come as no surprise that the San Jose Earthquakes are enjoying this year’s edition of US Open Cup more than at any other time since their 2008 rebirth.
After four consecutive years of being knocked out while trying to secure one of MLS’ two non-guaranteed berths in the USOC bracket, the Quakes – along with the other 15 US-based MLS clubs – automatically earned entry into this year’s third round.
San Jose responded with their first USOC victory since 2005, a 2-1 decision over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League. On Tuesday, the Quakes face the NASL’s Minnesota Stars FC at Stanford University's Cagan Stadium with a chance to move into the quarterfinals (11 pm ET, streamed live at sjearthquakes.com).
Quakes coach Frank Yallop prefers the new format.
“If you’re going to do a tournament, let’s have all the teams in it," he told MLSsoccer.com. "I’m not saying it’s not been good before, but it’s been like a Reserve Cup. By putting all the teams in it, it says the best team hopefully is going to win it.”
The Quakes’ hopes of being that best team were buoyed when they managed to survive their match against the Strikers, which came just 54 hours after a 2-1 road loss to Sporting Kansas City. San Jose, having traveled nearly 2,000 miles in the interim, rested as many players as they could, going with Josh Suggs (an untested rookie) and Brad Ring (normally a holding midfielder) as their outside backs so Ramiro Corrales and Steven Beitashour could recuperate.
“It’s not an easy game, with the travel and coming off an [MLS] game, and then [Fort Lauderdale], they’re pumped up, they want to be world-beaters,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch told MLSsoccer.com. “So that first game is always a tough game.”
Against a Minnesota side that’s unbeaten in 2012, the Quakes can come close to fielding a full-strength squad, although Chris Wondolowski (US) and Víctor Bernárdez (Honduras) remain on international duty.
Busch, who also rested against Fort Lauderdale, is excited to see the Quakes move on. Having backstopped the Columbus Crew to a USOC title in 2002, Busch – perhaps more than any Quake – has a true affinity for the tournament.
“I think it’s always been important,” Busch said. “It’s another championship. It’s another cup. I was fortunate enough to win it in Columbus, so I know how it feels. As a player, you want to win trophies, period, no matter if it’s Open Cup or MLS Cup.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.