By CALEB SONNELAND
In the latest installment of the 2011 U.S. Open Cup, seven teams marched into the third round of the competition while one postponed match remains to be played to arrange matchups with eight of Major League Soccer's heavy hitters.
Drama ran rampant in North Carolina, as the Wilmington Hammerheads, having initially trailed the Charlotte Eagles, 2-0, midway through the second half, stormed from behind to take the game, 3-2, after extra time.
Two quick goals in the 78th and 81st minutes forced extra time, where the Hammerheads sealed the win in the 103rd minute through midfielder Luke Mulholland. The Hammerheads now face the tough task of traveling to Rio Tinto Stadium to put Real Salt Lake to the test.
The Rochester Rhinos also booked their place in the third round after edging the Harrisburg City Islanders, 1-0, off an 88th-minute penalty kick converted by Tony Donatelli. Despite being pinned back by the Islanders for the majority of the match, some late drama salvaged the result and set up a clash with the Chicago Fire at the Rhinos' Sahlen's Stadium.
Rochester wasn't the only club to progress from the spot, either. FC New York converted six penalty kicks to edge the New York Pancyprian Freedoms, 6-5 on penalties, in the Big Apple. The win sees the club face the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in a derby matchup in the next round.
The Kitsap Pumas ousted the Real Colorado Foxes, 3-1, at Bremerton Memorial Stadium in Washington to arrange a "Ferry Derby" match with the two-time defending Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders. The matchup is oozing with side plots. The Pumas are coached by Sounders broadcaster Pete Fewing; Pumas goalkeeper Bryan Meredith was drafted by the Sounders this year; and Zach Scott of Seattle will could line up against his brother, Daniel Scott, when the clubs meet at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Wash.
The last of the derby clashes will take place when the Los Angeles Blues play host to the Los Angeles Galaxy at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif. The Blues took down the Ventura County Fusion, 1-0, through former Galaxy striker Israel Sesay.
Orlando City topped the Charleston Battery, 1-0, after a 39th minute goal from defender Rob Valentino booked the club's spot in the next round. Orlando City now has the challenge trekking to Pizza Hut Park to clash with high-flying Brek Shea and FC Dallas.
The Columbus Crew learned its next opponent when the Richmond Kickers throttled the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, 4-1, at City Stadium. The hosts found the scoresheet through strike partners David Bulow and Matthew Delicate, who each scored twice. The USL Pro side will fly on out to Ohio to Crew Stadium to try and find its way past the 2010 Open Cup runner-up.
The clash between the PDL's Chicago Fire Premier and NPSL's Madison 56ers was postponed after just 17 minutes of play with the Fire up 1-0 when the game was called for lightning. The game will be played in its entirety on Wednesday at Breese Stevens Stadium in Madison, Wisc. The winner will get the prize of facing off against Sporting Kansas City at Livestrong Sporting Park in the next round.
Here's the schedule for the third round (all games to be played on June 28, all times Eastern):
Rochester Rhinos vs. Chicago Fire, 7:30 p.m.
Columbus Crew vs. Richmond Kickers, 7:30 p.m.
New York Red Bulls vs. FC New York, 8 p.m.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Chicago Fire Premier/Madison 56ers, 8:30 p.m.
Real Salt Lake vs. Wilmington Hammerheads, 9 p.m.
FC Dallas vs. Orlando City, 9 p.m.
Seattle Sounders vs. Kitsap Pumas, 10 p.m.
Los Angeles Blues vs. Los Angeles Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.
Which derby matchup has the most appeal of the three? Who do you think is favorite to win the Cup this year? Which underdog do you see springing the upset?
Share your thoughts below.