Minnesota Thunder opens U.S. Open Cup campaign

The Minnesota Thunder took some more lumps over the weekend. They squeezed out a nil-nil draw on Saturday night at the California Victory, but then were soundly dispatched by the Vancouver Whitecaps last night. Only a heroic performance from goalkeeper Nic Platter kept the game close. The team has now dropped to a dismal 1-6-4.

The sole bright side for the squad is that eight of the first eleven games have been played on the road. In fact their road record is a semi-respectable 1-3-4, good enough for seven points. That's actually equal to the team's total road points for all of last season. The problem is that the Thunder have dropped all three contests at home. If the 2007 campaign isn't going to be a complete debacle they'll have to drastically improve their home form.

The team will get their first shot at righting the ship tomorrow night at The Jimmy when they take on the El Paso Indios USA in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup. This 94-year-old tournament is open to pretty much any pro or semi-pro club in the country. Two years ago the Thunder made a thrilling run to the semifinals, knocking off three MLS teams by a rather astounding combined score of 13-6.

Last year, by contrast, the Thunder crapped out in the first round, losing to the lowly Des Moines Menace despite playing much of the game with a man advantage. I'd just returned from the World Cup in Germany. Watching that pathetic Open Cup game in a nearly empty stadium was more depressing than witnessing the U.S. flail miserably on the world stage. It was just godawful.

Following tomorrow night's date with El Paso, the Thunder will have five straight regular season home matches. Hopefully it's not too late to salvage the season.

After the Open Cup match folks will be gathering to watch the U.S.-El Salvador Gold Cup game at the Sweetwater on tape delay. Viewing should commence about 9:30. The U.S. has already secured passage to the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF championship with wins over Trinidad & Tobago and Guatemala. A tie or a victory tomorrow night will guarantee that they win their group.

Mexico, meanwhile, is hilariously close to not making it out of the group stage. After getting humiliated by Honduras, they'll need a result against Panama on Wednesday.

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