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U.S. Open Cup majors in upsets Lower-level teams score with victories against their MLS counterparts; Notebook

Cinderella's alive and kicking.

The new order of American professional soccer is helping breathe fresh life into this country's oldest continuous soccer competition, the U.S. Open Cup.

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With clear definition among four levels of play -- three professional and the other amateur -- for the first time, upsets in this knockout tournament are easier to fathom, if not explain away.

And upsets there have been in quest of a refurbished Dewar Cup, until recently a misplaced, tarnished silver trophy that in every way symbolizes this 84-year-old tournament.

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The Dewar Cup was first awarded in 1913, but the tournament's luster faded so much that the award disappeared, probably in the 1970s. Earlier this year, however, the U.S. Amateur Soccer Association found the thing in a basement; hence, its rebirth.

How Cinderella still is taking a Dewar shot is this:

Eight Major League Soccer teams, theoretically with the best American pro players, entered Cup play in late July. Only five, though, were still alive as quarterfinals opened last week along with two "Cinderellas" from the D3 Pro League -- the same third-division, low-minors level the Baltimore Bays compete in -- and one from the second-division A-League.

The MLS's Kansas City Wizards and Colorado Rapids got early-outs, both by 2-1, to D3's San Francisco Bay Seals and Chicago Stingers. That's akin to the Bowie Baysox and Portland Sea Dogs eliminating baseball's Royals and Rockies. Then the New England Revolution fell in double-overtime, 4-3, to the A-League's Long Island Rough Riders, tantamount to the Red Sox tripping over the Rochester Red Wings.

D.C. United, the first MLS champion and last year's U.S. Open Cup winner, managed to advance to the Open's quarterfinals with a 3-2 penalty-kick elimination of the A-League's first-year Hershey (Pa.) Wildcats last week.

"What they did," said Mike Kammarman, United's press officer, "was basically play a 10-1 -- one guy up top and everyone else defending."

In the quarters, the MLS Dallas Burn ousted Chicago's "Cinderella" on Sunday, 3-0, with these pairings still to be scheduled: the MLS New York/New Jersey MetroStars visiting their A-League affiliate, Long Island; the MLS San Jose Clash playing host to their D3 neighbor San Francisco; and the United meeting Tampa Bay at home in an all-MLS battle.

The Open semifinals have been scheduled as a doubleheader Sept. 3 at the University of the Pacific's stadium in Stockton, Calif.

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That goal

Nearly 14,000 saw it in person at Memorial Stadium on Aug. 7. Far more saw it on TV -- over and over, thanks to videotape. But soccer nuts are still debating the breakaway goal by Ecuador's Wellington Sanchez that beat the U.S. national team. Was he onside or not?

A referees' Internet chat group hasn't reached consensus. Two ESPN replays missed the most important factor in deciding: Exactly where was Sanchez when Jimmy Langdon, some 40 yards back in his own end, launched the ball over the pulled-up U.S. defense?

Was Sanchez in his own half? (If so, off-side was moot.) At least one Ecuadoran was in an off-side position, although well left of the action and thus immune. Three U.S. defenders said two Ecuadorans were off-side but, well, they weren't sure about the streaking Sanchez. And that distance between kick and reception made the play a tough call, too.

No play demonstrates better the wheeze "live by the off-side trap, die by it." This was yet another example of a defense trusting officials who only have to miss one call for an undesired result.

Except in this case, that undesired result may well have been a correct no-call. Any more tapes out there?

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Pub Date: 8/15/97



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