Well this season hasn’t gotten off to the best start to say the least. We crashed out of CCL in a borderline unexplainable way, we are below the 9 out of 14 team playoff line in the Western conference (at least we still have time to recover on that front), and the injury bug has hit our side in a way that we simply avoided last year.
I can see some people saying that throwing the US Open Cup at this point to focus on recovering in the league standings would be a logical thing to do. We don’t need more midweek matches when our opponents will likely also be playing midweek matches. We got knocked out by San Antonio last year, and we had a great season. Heck even if we win the US Open Cup, are we just going to get beat by another unknown team in CCL?
All of those points are valid, but frankly this club has never won anything of value. Sure a Copa Tejas in a Frisco parking lot was a nice moment, but we aren’t hanging Copa Tejas banners at McKalla. Of all of the trophies that Austin FC competes in, the US Open Cup is the easiest to win. After last season’s successes, we even got a bye to the 4th Round, so we only have to win 5 matches to have Austin FC be etched in history. This year, we even get our opening match at home, which avoids a difficult road trip to an unfamiliar pitch.
Speaking of Copa Tejas, both Frisco and Houston have won a US Open Cup in the last decade, and I shall note that both of them did not sell out their clinching title match at home. It’s the only piece of silverware they have won in the past decade, but it’s real silverware that they have that we don’t. It also means it’s a tournament that we should frankly win in the near future.
I may be an outlier here, but I am fine with focusing more on the Open Cup than the MLS regular season at this point. Sure, we can still make the MLS playoffs this year, but we are not trending in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Open Cup presents us with a ready made playoff with a kickoff match at home. If we can take care of business at home (where we haven’t lost any knockout matches-even if the 2-0 win over Violette felt like a loss), we move onto the Round of 16 with a Midwestern or Southeastern opponent, most likely.
This season is way too young to be a lost cause. A Cup run can revive some of the verde spirit that we have been missing and gives us a real reason for hope and excitement around this club. So for a bolt of full optimism ahead towards the rest of 2023, I’m all in on a big US Open Cup run!