Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Avoiding the U.S. Open Cup

Which players have played the most regular season MLS games without playing in the U.S. Open Cup for an MLS team? Here's the answer:

(active players in italics)

1 Pete Marino
2 Adrian Paz 80
3 D.J. Countess 54
3 Dave van den Bergh 54
5 Janusz Michallik 53
6 Edwin Gorter 49
7 Walter Zenga 47
8 Bouna Coundoul 45
9 Doctor Khumalo 43
10 Jim Brennan 40
10 Robbie Findley 40
10 Richard Goulooze 40
13 Carl Robinson 39
14 Brad Friedel 38
14 Juan Pablo Garcia 38
14 Dane Richards 38
17 Brian Bates 37
17 Maurice Edu 37
17 Manny Motajo 37
17 Henry Zambrano 37
21 Guillermo Barros Schelotto 36
21 Jeff Zaun 36
23 Lance Key 34
23 Dave Salzwedel 34
25 David Testo 33

Juan Pablo Angel, Stefani Miglioranzi, and Danny Dichio are next in line.

There are several reasons players have ended up on this list. The most obvious is that Toronto does not play in the Open Cup, which should lead to a few of their players skyrocketing up the list in the coming years. Already there's a TFC trio (Brennan, Robinson, Edu) in the top 25.

Second, now that only 8 MLS teams qualify for the tournament each year, more and more teams will be left out. And once again, Open Cup qualifying matches are not considered part of the tournament proper. Three players on the top 25 have participated in such matches (van den Bergh, Findley, and Richards). Also, every team did not play in the tournament in the early days of MLS.

Finally, many starting players are rested for the tournament, especially goalkeepers. Coundoul was rested by the Rapids last year during the tournament, while van den Bergh and Richards didn't play last night for the same reason.

The record holder is legendary journeyman Pete Marino, who is notable for many reasons. He's one of only a few players to play for 5+ MLS teams; in fact, he was the first player to accomplish that feat. He's second all time for the most sub appearances in a season without a start (15). He scored in his first game on the first full weekend of MLS action in 1996; as a result for several minutes he was (tied for) the all time leading goalscorer in MLS history.

So he was a super sub, currently ranking 5th all time in substitute appearances, who played for 5 teams in 6 years. A forward, he scored 19 times for Columbus in 1996 and 1997 but little afterwards. Why didn't he play in the Open Cup? Well, the Crew were not in the tournament in those two years. He only started 6 games after that, and during the next three years for KC, TB, and DC, he was simply not used. Finally, he was cut by MIA in 2001 before the Open Cup matches were held.

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