The 2017 edition of our nation's national knockout tournament, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, was one few in Cincinnati will ever forget.
Securing breathless victories over an NASL champion, two MLS clubs - and nearly a third - in a run to the semifinals, FC Cincinnati captured the hearts of the city and eyes from far beyond.
As fun as it was though, none of that matters in the 2018 edition. But that doesn't mean we're not hungry for more.
Tomorrow, we will begin our journey in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup the same way as we have our previous two tournaments: against a lower division side from the National Premier Soccer League, or NPSL.
Wednesday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m., FCC will play host to Detroit City FC. The second-round Open Cup match will be played across the street from the Orange & Blue's normal digs at Nippert Stadium, taking place at the smaller ground on UC’s campus that's played host to two of our preseason friendlies earlier this year, Gettler Stadium.
Tickets are no longer available with the match, selling out nearly a week ago, but even if you didn't snag tickets, you'll still be able to watch the game. The club will be providing a stream, which will available on ussoccer.com as well as here on our website.
After pegging back in-state rivals Michigan Bucks -- one of the most successful amateur clubs playing in the USL's Premier Development League (PDL) and known for claiming the scalps of five professional clubs in previous editions of the tournament -- Detroit City FC earned a place in tomorrow's second-round match in dramatic fashion with a win in penalties last Wednesday at their historic Keyworth Stadium.
The win was just Detroit's second in four appearances in the Open Cup, with the team qualifying for this year's tournament thanks to a Midwest Region Championship en route to the NPSL national semifinals in 2017. The last time Le Rouge advanced to the second round came in their previous appearance in 2016, when they nearly toppled a tough Louisville City side before falling on penalties themselves. So while they might be an amateur club, taking them lightly could prove very dangerous.
That's doubly true when you consider how our previous two debuts in the tournament have gone against clubs hailing from the NPSL. In 2016, a plucky Indy Eleven reserve side pushed our inaugural squad to its limits before we advanced with a 2-1 win. And last year in 2017, we edged the reigning NPSL national champions, AFC Cleveland, by a 1-0 scoreline.
With the fanbases already prickly in the run-up to Wednesday's matchup, the tie is easily one of the most anticipated of the U.S. Open Cup's second round. And that's for good reason.
While many NPSL clubs are stocked with college talent looking to stay sharp and competitive during the summers, Detroit City FC actually have a strong veteran presence. The most prominent of those is Detroit-native and former Colorado Rapids and U.S. Men’s National Team winger Josh Gatt. But he's not the only name worthy of consideration.
Seb Harris, a 30-year old who spent time with Northampton Town in the English third tier back in 2009, and is now in his fourth season with the club. And the speedy Cyrus Saydee has been tearing up the wings for DCFC since 2012. Plenty of other interesting talent fills in the gaps, too, both young and old.
But they'll still be facing an uphill task when taking on FCC at Gettler tomorrow night, even if head coach Alan Koch opts to heavily rotate his squad as expected.
With the Orange & Blue coming off their heaviest defeat of the 2018 campaign last Saturday and a few of the team's early-season star players already carrying some knocks, tomorrow's match against lower-league competition presents the perfect opportunity to again test his squad's depth.
So it's quite possible that several players in Koch's squad who have seen limited time this year will get their first opportunity to impress this week.
That could mean minutes for attackers like Russell Cicerone -- a Bloomfield Hills, Mich., himself - and Daniel Haber, as well as English striker Tomi Ameobi.
At the other end of the pitch, Dutch defender Sem de Wit and Irishman Paddy Barret could be in the fold, too.
Though knowing how the second-round team looked in 2017, don't be surprised if a few regular starters are on the bench just in case.