U.S. Soccer

- U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. U-18 MNT vs. Slovakia U-18 MNT
Date: Thursday, April 27, 2017
Competition: 2017 Slovakia Cup
Venue: Jaslovsje Bohunice; Trnava, Slovakia  
Kickoff: 5 a.m. ET
Weather: 37 degrees; cloudy

Scoring Summary:         1          2          F          PKs
USA                             0          1          1          4
SVK                             0          1          1          3

USA – Vladimir Majdan (own goal)                        51st minute
SVK – Martin Vician                                  63

Penalty Summary
USA: Jonathan Gonzalez (goal), Griffin Dorsey (goal), Angel Uribe (goal), Jose Carranza (saved) Brandon Servania (goal)
SVK: Martin Vician (goal), Roland Gerebenits (saved), Jakub Kudlicka (goal), David Filinsky (missed)

Lineups:
USA: 22-Brandon Austin; 24-Mark McKenzie, 6-Angel Uribe, 4-Daniel Jones, 21-Brandon Servania, 14-Jonathan Gonzalez (capt.), 9-Brian Perez (8-Paxton Pomykal, 41) (18-Jonathan Esparza, 72) 10-Jose Carranza, 20-Lucas Del Rosario (13-Justin Rennicks, 52), 19-Emanuel Perez, 17-Shaft Brewer (7-Griffin Dorsey, 41)
Subs Not Used: 1-Brady Scott, 2- Coby Karr, 3-Aedan Stanley, 5-Kyle Gruno,11-Paolo Belloni, 12-Trey Muse, 15-Jack Maher, 23-Will Inalien
Head Coach: Omid Namazi

SVK: 1-Frederik Valach; 2-Vladimir Majdan, 3-Dominik Spiriak(capt), 14-Denis Petro, 7-Matej Madlenak, 4-David Filinsky, 20-Michal Krlovic (17-Martin Rymarkeno, 14) (16-Marian Chobot, 56), 10-Jozef Spyrka (11-Martin Vician, 56), 5-Samuel Kozlovksy, 8-Matej Gresak (18-Jakub Kudlicka, 80), 9-Robert Bozenik (19-Roland Gerebenits, 56)
Subs Not Used: 6-Richard Bedats, 12-Dominik Takac, 13-Matej Mosko, 15-Stanislav Ducar
Head Coach: Milan Malatinsky

Stats Summary: USA / SVK
Shots: 7 / 7
Shots on Goal: 3 / 2
Saves: 2 / 3
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 8 / 16
Offside: 4 / 1

Misconduct Summary:
SVK – Matej Madlenak(caution)                69th minute
SVK – Roland Gerebenits (caution)            77

Additional Notes: The match was played with 40 minute halves.

64-Player Roster Announced for U.S. Soccer Futures Camp at NTC

CHICAGO (May 26, 2017) - A 64-player roster has been called to Carson, Calif. for U.S. Soccer’s first Boys’ National Team Futures Camp of 2017. The training camp, which consists of players who were born in 2002 and 2003, runs from May 26-30 at the U.S. Soccer National Training Center.

In pursuit of improving U.S. Soccer’s longer term objectives for talent identification and individual development of young players, U.S. Soccer Director of Talent Identification Tony Lepore has called in the group of players for a four-day camp that will focus on identifying the most talented players in the ’02 and ’03 birth years who appear to be on a later physical development path and/or are born in the second half of the year. Such parameters serve to reduce the impact of physical maturity and relative age effect on identification and evaluation of talent. 

Players taking part in this camp will be exposed to a hyper-focused curriculum formulated around highlighting each player’s unique talents while challenging them to improve decision making and speed of play, raise tactical awareness, and improve technical execution.

Sixty-two players called into the Futures Camp currently play with U.S. Soccer Development Academy clubs.

2002 Birth Year Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alex Bobocea (New York Red Bulls; Glen Oaks, N.Y.), Khamari Culcleasure (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), William Evans (D.C. United; McLean, Va.)

DEFENDERS (8): Ori Bitton (Real So Cal; Agoura Hills, Calif.), Amir Daley (New York Red Bulls; Elmont, N.Y.), Jahlane Forbes (Orlando City SC; Clermont, Fla.), Carl Hartman (Richmond United; Richmond, Va.), Daniel Miller (D.C. United; Dunkirk, Md.), John Michael Tolkin (New York Red Bulls; Chatham, N.J.), Cole Verrico (Philadelphia Union; Kennett Square, Pa.), Omar Wahba (Orlando City SC; Orlando, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (18): Matthew Acosta (New York Red Bulls; Annandale, N.J.), Gavin Brose (Vardar; Livonia, Mich.); Jackson Castro (Solar Chelsea SC; Plano, Texas), Alejandro Coury (New England Revolution; Yarmouth, Maine), Cade Cowan (Colorado Rush; Littleton, Colo.), Maxwel De-Bodene (D.C. United; Alexandria, Va.), Matthew Gee (Ballistic United; Hillsborough, Calif.), Tayvon Grey (Cedar Stars Academy - Bergan; Bronx, N.Y.), Christopher Hernandez (FC Dallas; Frisco, Texas), Tucker Lepley (Charalotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Andrew Maia (New York Red Bulls; Kearny, N.J.), Mario Penagos (Sacramento Republic FC; Elk Grove, Calif.), Pablo Salazar Jr. (LA Galaxy; La Puente, Calif.),  Ray Serrano (Seattle Sounders FC; Graham, Wash.), Benjamin Smith (Real Colorado; Centennial, Colo.), Nathan Stricker (PA Classics; Sinking Spring, Pa.), Jackson Temple (Continental FC DELCO; Millville, Pa.), Wan Kuzri Wan Kamal (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Metro; Carbondale, Ill.)

FORWARDS (3): Kyle Gee (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Michael Tsicoulias (New England Revolution; Newton, Mass.), Griffin Yow (Virginia Development Academy; Clifton, Va.)

2003 Birth Year Roster by Position:
GOALKEEPERS (3): Pablo Andrade (Albion SC; Chula Vista, Calif.), Jackson Leavitt (Solar Chelsea SC; Allen, Texas), Andre Zuluaga (Kendall SC; Miami, Fla.)

DEFENDERS (6): Amir Acree (D.C. United; Washington, D.C.), Jack Anderson (New England Revolution; Holyoke, Mass.), Daniel Edelman (Players Development Academy; Warren, N.J.), Jakob Friedman (New York Red Bulls; Syosset, N.Y.), Noah Laureano (Arlington Soccer Association; Annandale, Va.), Michael Lenis (Weston, FC; Weston, Fla.)

MIDFIELDERS (18): Paxten Aaronson (Philadelphia Union; Medford, N.J.), Ethan Bellek (Colorado Storm; Timnath, Colo.), Cole Cruthers (Portland Timbers; Beaverton, Ore.), Alejandro De Villena (Atlanta United FC; Jefferson, Ga.), Christian Dominguez (World Class FC; Rock Tavern, N.Y.), Francisco Espinoza Jr. (Chicago Fire; Blue Island, Ill.), Anthony Hernandez (Crew SC Academy; Reynoldsburg, Ohio), Luke Hille Capital Area Railhawks - CASL; Cary, N.C.), Jack Jasinski (Charlotte Soccer Academy; Charlotte, N.C.), Ryan Kipness (New York City FC; Stamford, Conn.), Cole Mooney (Colorado Rapids; Colorado Springs, Colo.), Orlando Monroy (Sereno Soccer Club; Tempe, Ariz.), Kevin Paredes (D.C. United; South Ridge, Va.), Nicholas Pariano (Crew SC Academy Wolves; Ann Arbor, Mich.), Blake Pope (FC Dallas; Prosper, Texas), Noah Radecki (Beachside SC; New Canaan, Conn.), Aiden Semelsberger (Rio Rapids SC; Los Alamos, N.M.), Damon Smargon (San Diego Surf FC; San Diego, Calif.)

FORWARDS (5): Micah Cain (Philadelphia Union; Pottstown, Pa.), Peter Carriker (Seattle Sounders FC; Seattle, Wash.), Johnny Perez (LA Galaxy; Pico Rivera, Calif.), Mateo Stoka (Sockers FC; Fox Point, Wis.), Gavin Williams (Georgia United; Cumming, Ga.)
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U-14 NDP May 26, 2017

USA Looks to Clinch Group vs. Saudi Arabia | 5am ET | FS1, Telemundo

The U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team continues the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup with its third and final Group F game against Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 28. The match kicks off at Daejeon World Cup Stadium in Daejeon, Korea Republic at 5 a.m. ET and will be broadcast on FS1 and Telemundo. Fans can also follow along on Twitter @ussoccer_ynt.

After a wild, opening 3-3 draw vs. Ecuador and a strong 1-0 victory against Senegal on Thursday, the U.S. sits atop Group F with four points. While results in Saturday’s matches could see the U.S. through to the Round of 16 before it faces Saudi Arabia, Tab Ramos’ side enters Sunday needing a win or tie to guarantee a second-place finish in the group. Through a variety of scenarios, the U.S. could potentially finish second or third in Group F with a loss and still advance to the Round of 16.

“We know that we control our own destiny,” U.S. U-20 head coach Tab Ramos said. “If we win the next game, we are first in the group. That doesn’t happen very often, so we’ll be happy to do that.”

Saudi Arabia comes into the match with three points after splitting their first two Group F contests. The Green Falcons opened group play with a 2-0 loss to Senegal before bouncing back with a stunning 2-1 win against South American power Ecuador. With a win vs. the USA, Saudi Arabia would guarantee its advancement to the Round of 16.

2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup Group F Standings

Team

GP

W

L

D

Pts.

GF

GA

GD

USA

2

1

0

1

4

4

3

+1

Senegal

2

1

1

0

3

2

1

+1

Saudi Arabia

2

1

1

0

3

2

3

-1

Ecuador

2

0

1

1

1

4

5

-1

2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup Group Pairings:
Group A: Korea Republic (host), Guinea, Argentina, England
Group B: Venezuela, Germany, Vanuatu, Mexico
Group C: Zambia, Portugal, Iran, Costa Rica
Group D: South Africa, Japan, Italy, Uruguay
Group E: France, Honduras, Vietnam, New Zealand
Group F: Ecuador, USA, Saudi Arabia, Senegal

U.S. U-20 MNT’s Group F Schedule:
May 22, 4 a.m. ET: Ecuador 3, USA 3; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 25, 7 a.m. ET: Senegal 0, USA 1; Incheon Stadium, Incheon
May 28, 5 a.m. ET: USA vs. Saudi Arabia; Daejeon World Cup Stadium, Daejeon

RED HOT JOSH SARGENT

After becoming the youngest U.S. player to score at a FIFA U-20 World Cup (beating out current Men’s National Team striker Jozy Altidore for the distinction), Josh Sargent continued his role as designated scorer vs. Senegal by burying the game’s only goal on Thursday. Heading into Sunday’s group finale, Sargent’s three strikes place him one behind Venezuela’s Sergio Córdova for the tournament’s Golden Boot lead. 

Sargent also sits one goal behind Taylor Twellman (1999), Eddie Johnson (2003) and Jozy Altidore (2007) for most goals scored by a U.S. player (four) at a single FIFA U-20 World Cup.

A SEA OF RED RETURNS

After wearing white jerseys in their opening match against Ecuador, the USA donned its all-red kit against Senegal. The wardrobe change marked the U-20 MNT as the first U.S. Youth National Team, to wear the red jerseys, and the side will once again wear the red kit against Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

The newer look was first revealed by U.S. Soccer at midnight on Valentine’s Day earlier this year and debuted by the senior U.S. Women’s National Team when they defeated Germany 1-0 in the opening match of the 2017 SheBelieves Cup on March 1. The U.S. Men’s National Team first wore red in a 6-0 World Cup Qualifying win against Honduras on May 24.

U.S. U-20 MNT Roster by Position (Club; Hometown)

GOALKEEPERS (3): Jonathan Klinsmann (University of California; Newport Beach, Calif.), J.T. Marcinkowski (Georgetown; Alamo, Calif.), Brady Scott (De Anza Force; Petaluma, Calif.)

DEFENDERS (7): Danny Acosta (Real Salt Lake; Salt Lake City, Utah), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur FC; Westcliff-on-Sea, England), Justen Glad (Real Salt Lake; Tucson, Ariz.), Aaron Herrera (University of New Mexico; Las Cruces, N.M.), Erik Palmer-Brown (Sporting Kansas City; Lee's Summit, Mo.), Tommy Redding (Orlando City SC; Oviedo, Fla.), Auston Trusty (Philadelphia Union; Media, Pa.)

MIDFIELDERS (5): Tyler Adams (New York Red Bulls; Wappingers Falls, N.Y.), Luca de la Torre (Fulham FC; San Diego, Calif.), Derrick Jones (Philadelphia Union; Philadelphia, Pa.), Eryk Williamson (University of Maryland; Alexandria, Va.), Gedion Zelalem (Arsenal FC; Bethesda, Md.)*

FORWARDS (6): Jeremy Ebobisse (Portland Timbers; Bethesda, Md.), Lagos Kunga (Atlanta United FC Academy; Tucker, Ga.) Brooks Lennon (Real Salt Lake; Paradise Valley, Ariz.), Emmanuel Sabbi (Unattached; Columbus, Ohio), Josh Sargent (St. Louis Scott Gallagher Missouri; O'Fallon, Mo.), Sebastian Saucedo (Real Salt Lake; Park City, Utah)

*Gedion Zelalem suffered a knee injury during the USA’s opening match against Ecuador and has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament.


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U-20 MNT May 26, 2017

Wynalda, LA’s Lone Wolf

It’s safe to say Eric Wynalda does things his own way. Always has. From his playing days, when he was among the first Americans to try their luck abroad, to today, spouting big opinions on TV, Wynalda’s very much his own man. But the Southern California native, a legend of the American game who can come off as smug and coarse in the pundits’ booth, has a secret. He cares. A lot. About players, those little moments in the game that can change lives, and the romance of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

“The Open Cup is about something intensely American,” said Wynalda, head-coach of ambitious amateur outfit LA Wolves. “It’s about opportunity. There are opportunities for guys who come from outside the lines. You get an opportunity to show you’re good enough to play with the best. You get to show the strength of one game and one day. One little moment in time.”

 

Wynalda seems to live for that precise moment, that instant when you either take a chance or waste it. He knows about opportunities too, having scored 34 goals for the U.S. National Team over 106 caps. Quick and rangy, he was predatory – an opportunistic striker with swagger and attitude. He lined up at all three World Cups in the 1990s and was a poster boy for that formative period in the American game.

His coaching career so far has blossomed, perhaps predictably, in the wild and unregulated spaces of the Open Cup. It’s a competition where you lose and you’re out. It’s built to be dramatic, with no draws tolerated. It’s a purist’s dream and a romantic’s delight. Wynalda, who scored the first goal in Major League Soccer’s history, never won the Open Cup as a player, but he went to a semi-final with Chicago Fire and was a runner-up with the now-defunct Miami Fusion.

Magic moments
As head coach of Cal FC in 2012, he assembled and guided his amateur side to the Fourth Round of the Open Cup. He remembers fondly one Richard Menjivar, now with NASL glamor side New York Cosmos and capped dozens of times for El Salvador. “He was just a kid in a t-shirt and old jeans who was pretty good on the ball,” Wynalda said. “And he took his chance with Cal FC with both hands.” For Wynalda, that success, which included wins over professional sides Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) and Portland Timbers (MLS), wasn’t about the broad strokes of a team “punching above their weight,” a phrase he thinks is more about marketing than soccer. “They strove to do something wonderful,” he said. “To have a day, a moment in time, that belonged only to them.”

Two years later, in 2014 with Atlanta Silverbacks, Wynalda pulled off a pair of wins over MLS teams Real Salt Lake and Colorado Rapids before losing in the quarter-finals to four-time champions Chicago Fire. Jaime Chavez and Kwadwo Poku were in Wynalda’s team for that wild ride and now both are cashing big paychecks with NASL giants Miami FC. “I wouldn’t trade the sound of that locker-room after we beat the Rapids for anything in the world,” said Wynalda, speaking slowly and with genuine emotion.

 

Wynalda admits his young LA Wolves don’t fully understand the power of the Open Cup and its charged moments. But they’re getting there, with two wins under their belts – the last at 1-0 squeaker against Chula Vista FC in which Wynalda took a tactical gamble that some of his own players questioned the sanity of. But he insists he won’t rest until they get it, until his players understand what it all means. After their 4-2 win over fellow amateurs San Diego Zest, he told his players to hold hands and go salute the crowd. “They looked at me like I was crazy. There were maybe 100 people there,” he said, a chuckle in his voice. “They were wondering, ‘why are we doing this?’ And my answer is: this is just the beginning. The crowds will grow if you keep going.”

What Wynalda wants most is his Wolves to “force themselves into the conversation,” like Menijvar and Chavez and Poku did before. Like Wynalda did himself so many times and on so many fields. “A day in the Open Cup can change your life,” he said. “Good things will happen if they honor the moment and live up to it. They have nothing to lose at all.”

Orange County, Galaxy on the horizon
Up next for Wynalda’s Wolves is a date with a full professional side – Orange County SC of the United Soccer League (USL). “I saw Logan Pause (former Chicago Fire star and current Orange County coach) hiding under a hat scouting us and I’ve been scouting his team too.” The part of Wynalda that’s a salesman and the part of him that’s a romantic are all tangled up and abuzz about the game and the chance to buck the system once again. “I know it’s not on TV and you don’t get a whole lot of coverage. It’s not in a big stadium,” he said. “You can’t get beer and a hot dog without leaving your seat, but pack a sandwich and get out there because you don’t want to miss this.”

The game will be a third straight at home for LA Wolves on their large field with a perfect natural grass – a circumstance Wynalda insists on. It’s a sticking point for him. “It’s like there’s no grass left anywhere anymore, especially down below the top levels.”

 

Wynalda laughs when asked what he likes better – commenting for FS1 and SiriusXM on the Real Madrids of the world or shouting from the touchline in front of a handful of fans in the Open Cup.  “People say to me, ‘that’s so much pressure talking in front of millions of people,’ but to me it’s easy. There’s more pressure in those few seconds in front of a player who’s looking to you for answers. If Real Madrid lose, that’s someone else’s ass. But here, with these players in these moments, I’m accountable.”

It’s almost game-time again for Wynalda. He’s hoping for the moments to break his Wolves’ way. A win would see them on to a date with the vaunted LA Galaxy. It would be a moment heavy with opportunity and all the things he loves – romance, upsets, realizations, futures. “I love the process,” he said. There’s no bluster in his voice now. No attitude, just appreciation. “The moment when you know you’re part of something special – a play, a team, a game, anything.”

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U.S. Open Cup May 26, 2017

Five Things to Know About the Saudi Arabia U-20 MNT

After picking up four points through the first two games, the United States Under-20 Men’s National Team will finish group play at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup against Saudi Arabia, who comes into the match with three points. The final match of the group stage will take place on Sunday, May 28 at 5 a.m. ET and will be televised live on FS1 and Telemundo.

Here are five things you should know about Saudi Arabia.

How They Qualified

Saudi Arabia reached the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup through the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship where they finished as runners-up after falling to Japan on 5-3 on penalty kicks following a 0-0 draw. Sami Alnajai and Abdulrahman Alyami were the joint leading scorers at the tournament with four goals each.

Group Stage
Oct. 13, 2016 – 3-2 L vs. Bahrain
Oct. 16, 2016 – 4-0 W vs. Thailand
Oct. 19, 2016 – 2-1 W vs. South Korea

Knockout Stage
Oct. 23, 2016 – 2-2 D (6-5 W on penalties) vs. Iraq
Oct. 27, 2016 – 6-5 W vs. Iran
Oct. 30, 2016 – 0-0 D (5-3 L on penalties) vs. Japan

U-20 World Cup History

Saudi Arabia is making its eighth all-time appearance at the U-20 World Cup, but just its second since 2003. The Green Falcons’ most recent appearance came at the 2011 tournament, where they made it out of the group stage for the first time. Saudi Arabia finished runner-up in a group with Nigeria, Guatemala and Croatia before falling 3-0 to eventual champion Brazil in the Round of 16. 

Saudi Arabia’s group stage wins against Croatia and Guatemala in 2011 were its first wins in the tournament since 1989, when it the nation hosted the competition and earned a victory over Portugal.

The Danger Man

After scoring four goals to tie for the tournament lead at the 2016 Asian Football Confederation U-19 Championship, Abdulrahman Alyami scored a pair of goals for Saudi Arabia in its 2-1 victory against Ecuador on May 25. Alyami is in the youth system for Riyadh-based Al Hilal, the the most successful club in Saudi Arabia having won 57 major trophies, including the Saudi Professional League 14 times. Alyami has not made an appearance for the Al Hilal first team. 

The Manager

Saad Alshehri took over last fall as the head coach of the Saudi Arabia U-20 National Team after winning youth championships with Al Ittifaq and Al Nassr. As a player, Alshehri represented Saudi Arabia at the 1999 U-20 World Cup in Nigeria, seeing action in a pair of matches against Australia and Republic of Ireland. 

He had ambitions of representing his country at the highest level in the 2002 FIFA World Cup before injury ended his career. Following his injury, Alshehri began working as a physical education teacher which would lead to his career in coaching.

Penalty Save Specialist

Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Amin Albukhari was in the spotlight for The Green Falcons in their second group stage match against Ecuador when he saved Bryan Cabezas’ penalty kick in first-half stoppage time. It was not the first time that Albukhari had been the hero for his country on a penalty kick. In the 2016 Asian U-19 Championship Quarterfinals, the goalkeeper made a pair of saves in the Saudi Arabia’s shootout win against Iraq, helping clinch their place in the 2017 U-20 World Cup.

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U-20 MNT May 26, 2017

Lou City: Respect, Routs and the Open Cup Circle of Life

It’s hard to resist those Open Cup moments when little teams, with players working day-jobs, take a professional scalp. Considerably less romantic are those days when the little guy gets his head handed to him, like pub-club Tartan Devils Oak Avalon did in the Second Round. “They battled the whole way,” said James O’Connor, head coach of Louisville City FC, who didn’t take their foot off the gas until the score was 9-0 and the final whistle echoed into the Pittsburgh night. “We have nothing but respect for them.”

It might look a little like O’Connor and his Kentucky-based full pros of the United Soccer League (USL) are the heartless villains of the piece, but the respect he has for his opposition is real. Whether it’s Tartan Devils or FC Cincinnati, who they face in the Third Round on 31 May, or Columbus Crew, who awaits in the Fourth Round – that respect is clear as first light.

“It’s important to approach a game, any game no matter who or what level, the same way. That’s how you show a team and the Cup respect.” said the coach, who hails from Bray in Ireland’s County Wicklow. Still only 37, he had a long playing career just out of reach of the top tier in England. O’Connor knows something about being an underdog, of not quite getting to the top. “You play them the same way – pub team or MLS team,” he insisted. “That’s what it is to be a professional and that’s what we did.”

 

Burly midfielder Sean Totsch agrees with his boss, pausing before answering questions about the 9-0 scoreline, which some saw as unseemly, maybe overkill. “This is our job,” said the former Northern Illinois Huskie. “We have professional pride and are professional in the way we do things. Believe me, it looks a lot worse if you take your foot off the gas and stop scoring. That’s an insult.

“It’s nothing personal,” added the 25-year-old Totsch, 6-foot-2 and formerly of fellow USL side Rochester Rhinos. He scored the fifth in a game in which Louisville got their nine unanswered goals from eight different players. “We shook hands after the game and we have nothing but respect for the Tartan Devils and what they’re doing.”

FA Cup to Open Cup
Coach O’Connor came to the States from England in 2012 to play for fledgling Orlando City and help the Florida club in their rise to Major League Soccer. His frame of reference for the Open Cup is its forebearer from across the Atlantic. It was in the FA Cup – where he lined up 22 times for four different clubs – that O’Connor got a glimpse at the pinnacle of the game. He even had an unusual brush with a legend.

“I was just a young guy and suddenly I’m playing against Paul Gascoigne,” said O’Connor of the time when, with Stoke City in the Third Round of the 2001-2 FA Cup, he took the field with the unenviable task of keeping Gazza from the danger zones. “And you won’t believe it, here I am trying to do my job and up against one of the greats and he starts giving me advice on the field. He’s saying little things like follow your passdon’t just watch it. It was good-natured and he was just trying to help a guy starting out. He took that moment to coach me and I never forgot it.” 


O’Connor, in many ways, is the perfect coach for a side in the second tier of the American game. Having had stints with Stoke, Burnley and Sheffield Wednesday, he knows the challenges of being a pro without the spotlight or idolatry that goes with the likes of the Premier League. “I got promoted once to the Prem with West Brom,” he said, a wry edge to his voice. “I was on the bench for a few games, but it wasn’t long before I got sent back down on loan.”

He’s only a few years on from his playing days and was still putting his own name on the roster in his first year with Louisville in 2015. “It’s hard,” he admits, accent still thick with the eastern coast of Ireland. “My playing days are over, but there are moments, like when we were playing Tartan Devils, where I think: I can get a game here!”

O’Connor still gets a little too involved in play during training. He admits as much. Old habits die hard, as they say, and instincts never fade. “I always want to get on the ball,” he said. “I still want to play. It’s the natural impulse.”

Tables turn fast in Open Cup
Totsch, who plays the very holding midfield role O’Connor once did, responds to his coach’s passion for the game and the Open Cup. “He’s a really intense and passionate guy,” he said about his coach. “Nothing ever comes before the group. That’s the atmosphere he creates and it inspires you to work for your teammates and be unselfish.”

Circumstances will be dramatically different for Louisville in their next Open Cup outing. They’re up against FC Cincinnati, local rivals from their own league. They’ll be picking on someone their own size, so to speak, and you can bet it won’t be a nine-goal blowout. The match is likely to be testy considering the last time the two met a brawl was barely averted and Cincinnati’s Djiby Fall was suspended for five games after biting Lou City’s Niall McCabe. “Fiery,” is the word Totsch used to describe the likely atmosphere at Nippert Stadium in Ohio next week.

 

If Louisville can stand the heat and manage a win, the tables will turn in their Open Cup journey. They will become the underdog, up against 2002 champions Columbus Crew. “That’s the beauty of the Open Cup,” said O’Connor. “What the Tartan Devils did to get on the field with us was amazing and now we have the chance to go and put ourselves in the position they were in – we can try and show a bigger team what we’re about and do our damndest to get a result.”

They could also get hammered on the day. But if they’re true to their word, and prepare for every game the same way, there’s no reason Louisville City can’t go on a long run in this Open Cup. “It’s all a kind of circle,” said Totsch, as earnest off the pitch as he is imposing on it. “Playing against an MLS team is the kind of thing you dream about – that’s where we want to be – the games you live for.”

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U.S. Open Cup May 26, 2017
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