For almost 100 years, the top soccer teams in the United States have enter fields of play with the agreement that the winner of the next game moves on in the U.S. Open Cup. From lush plots of Kentucky bluegrass to rough play lots carved out in the corners of Brooklyn neighborhoods, in times of World War and in times of social revolution, with players born in Athens, IL and players born in Athens, Greece, the U.S. Open Cup has always been a representation of the United States itself. It works like the Olympics in reverse where players born from around the world come to represent American teams for an American trophy. The teams Bethlehem Steel and Maccabi Los Angeles have each won the cup five times, more than any other teams in history. Next in line is our very own Chicago Fire with four titles. No MLS club has three but a couple have two. Tonight's game against the Colorado Rapids offers the Fire the chance to move closer to becoming America's greatest soccer club with that elusive fifth title. In that spirit, I introduce a new series here at HTIOT: Heroes of the U.S. Open Cup.
History will never forget Calen Carr, a Hero of the U.S. Open Cup
Calen Carr's American story begins with his birth in Oakland, CA. Always a proud product of California, he led his high school, the Branson School, to Bay County League titles and won MVP, leading scorer, and First-team accolades throughout his sophomore and senior years. He went on to college at the University of California, Berkley. Carr majored in journalism... not exactly an easy task at any school, let alone UC Berkley, let alone while excelling at a Pac-10 sport. Excel he did too, scoring in his collegiate debut and eventually becoming the 2005 Pac-10 Player of the Year. They typically give you that award when you lead the conference in seven offensive categories like Carr did.
The Chicago Fire selected Calen Carr with the 10th overall pick in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft. In first team regular season play, he appeared in 22 games but only started in 3 and finished with 1 goal and 1 assist in 500 minutes played. Carr saw more success in the MLS Reserves League, (before it was shutdown and then brought back this year) highlighted by a hat trick on May 14th against the New York Red Bulls. He repeated the sub role in the 2007 season. Carr only started 10 games and appeared in 27, finishing with 3 goals and 2 assists in 1136 minutes. He was hit hard by injuries in 2008, did not play at all in 2009 and only saw brief action in 2010. His finishing stats for 2008-2010 were 25 games, 6 games started, 5 goals, and no assists in 812 minutes played. A week ago on March 23rd, Carr was traded to the Houston Dynamo for Dominic Oduro. For his overall 9 goals and 3 assists in 82 games and 19 starts, Calen Carr would just be a footnote in the history of the Chicago Fire... except there's just one thing I have not mentioned.
On August 14, 2006, Calen Carr got the start when the Kansas City Wizards came to Bridgeview, Illinois for the very first U.S. Open Cup game at Toyota Park. Eighteen minutes into the game, Carr found a pass from teammate Nate Jaqua and sent the ball into the net for a 1-0 Fire lead. It was all Chicago needed as they won 2-0 thanks to an Andy Herron goal in the second half. Nine days later the New England Revolution arrived in town for a Quarterfinal game. The Fire struck early once again as Carr assisted on Andy Herron's goal in the 12th minute and set up the penalty kick that Herron finished in the 58th. Chicago beat New England 2-1. The next game was the Semi-final game against D.C. United on September 6th. United and the Fire battled to a 0-0 halftime draw but Justin Mapp scored with 34 minutes left to go. It was none other than Calen Carr who scored the insurance goal at the 76th minute mark and he made the game academic when he scored again in extra time for a Chicago Fire victory of 3-0. Carr did not factor in the final against the Los Angeles Galaxy but Chicago would take home its 4th U.S. Open Cup with a 3-1 victory.
Calen Carr's career with the Fire may not have gone as either player or team hoped but he was a crucial part in bringing a coveted trophy back to the Chicago Fire: Kings of the Cup. Carr will always have the three 2006 USOC goals to his name and the 2006 USOC ring to wear for a lifetime. That's more Fire trophies than Cuauhtemoc Blanco or Brian McBride can claim. When anyone wearing the team badge takes the field they should remember this: Things may not have gone right yesterday and they may not go right tomorrow but the players that play tonight have this game to carve out a little history for their own potentially legendary status. We all dream of a team that has USOC rings like Calen Carr.