By FRANCO PANIZO
The U.S. Open Cup has had its share of surprises this year, but mostly MLS teams remain as the tournament heads into its quarterfinals stage.
Still, there is a trio of underdogs from third division USL Pro that remain. And they are hoping to keep their dreams of lifting the Open Cup trophy alive next Tuesday when they go on the road to take on more talented MLS teams.
The Harrisburg City Islanders, Charlotte Eagles and Dayton Dutch Lions will be aiming to advance to the semifinals next week, but they all have difficult matches ahead of them in order to make that happen. The City Islanders will be visiting affilliate Philadelphia Union at PPL Park, the Eagles will take on Juan Agudelo and Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center, and the Dutch Lions will travel to Livestrong Sporting Park to battle Sporting Kansas City.
None of the USL Pro teams will be expected to come out with a win. But then again, their presence at this point in the tournament is something few could have foreseen when the tournament began.
Here's a closer look at each of the remaining underdogs in the U.S. Open Cup:
HARRISBURG CITY ISLANDERS
The City Islanders are coming off a big victory over the New York Red Bulls, one in which forward Sainey Touray shined in. Touray scored twice in the match (including on the decisive goal early in extra time), but he is hardly the only player to have shined for Harrisburg. Goalkeeper Nick Noble came up with several quality saves to thwart a desperate Red Bulls attack, and the midfield did well to pressure their Red Bulls counterparts.
The Eagles may not have faced an MLS side in the last round, but their 2-1 extra time win over the San Antonio Scorpions marked the second consecutive round in this competition that Charlotte has gone on the road and won. Charlotte has pulled off upsets in the last two rounds with wins over FC Dallas and San Antonio, and head coach Mark Steffens appears to have his team believing in their abilities. On top of that, several players are currently contributing to the team's cause, meaning there is not just one marquee player for opposing teams to focus on.
DAYTON DUTCH LIONS
Of the three USL Pro teams left, the Dayton Dutch Lions had the easiest opponent in the fourth round. But they knocked off the Columbus Crew in the previous round, so they should not be overlooked even though they have yet to win in league play this season. Dayton goalkeeper Matthew Williams is currently in great form, having made crucial saves in the win over the Crew and in Tuesday's 2-1 extra time victory over PDL side Michigan Bucks.
Which underdogs do you think will advance to the semifinals? Who do you see as having the best chance of winning the whole tournament?
Share your thoughts below.