U.S. Soccer
US Soccer

2019 U.S. Open Cup Qualifying: Local Derbies from Boston to Miami & Denver to Oakland

Local Qualifying for the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, U.S. Soccer’s National Championship, continues this weekend with 28 second round games across the country on October 20 and 21. Christos, Baltimore-based darlings from the 2017 edition, are in action alongside three-time Open Cup champions NY Pancyprian Freedoms. Harpos and FC Denver, the cream of the Colorado amateur scene, cross swords in Denver, while Cal FC – who beat MLS side Portland Timbers in the 2012 Open Cup proper – look to keep on track out west.

The Northeast Region is always chock-a-block with high-power amateur teams from the men’s leagues around Boston and New York City. This year is no different, with the Pancyprians Freedoms, of NY’s famed Cosmopolitan League, traveling to Jackson, New Jersey to take on Jackson Lions FC after eliminating 2018 amateur national champions Lansdowne Bhoys in the First Round. 

Old Rivals Meet in Cambridge
Outside of Boston, at Danehy Park in Cambridge, Mass., Kendall Wanderers and GPS Omens meet for the third time in the space of ten days. Perennial contenders in the Bay State Soccer League (BSSL), Kendall got the edge on their long-time rivals with a 2-0 victory in the Ucal McKenzie League Cup Final last Wednesday before GPS turned around to win a regular season encounter between the two on Saturday by the same scoreline. “There’s really not a lot between these two teams,” said Phil Keane, the Kendall Wanderers’ manager who led the side to a shootout victory over Boston Siege in the First Round. “Obviously we’re pretty familiar with each other at this point and a lot of times games between us will turn on the small things. We’ll need to keep our shape and stay organized.”

(Boston City FC 2 take on Safira in a tasty Round Two encounter)

Elsewhere in the Northeast region, reigning Massachusetts state champions Safira FC meet Boston City FC (II) in what is bound to be a full-blooded affair. In the opening qualifying round, Safira – with local step-over wizard Junior Alencar still in the side – made easy meat of Mass United, while Boston City edged a tight 1-0 result over Juve-Pro Soccer.

The Final game of the Northeast section sees Ukrainian Nationals of Pennsylvania – descendants of the side that won four Open Cups and bossed the American Soccer scene in the 1960s – host West Chester Predators at their 42-acre club home on the Horsham/North Wales line. 

Northeast Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20

Kendall Wanderers (Mass.) vs. GPS Omens (Mass.)

12 p.m. ET

Danehy Park - Field 3; Cambridge, Mass.

Oct. 20

Safira FC (Mass.) vs. Boston City FC II (Mass.)

7 p.m. ET

Dilboy Stadium; Somerville, Mass.

Oct. 20

Jackson Lions FC (N.J.) vs. New York Pancyprian Freedoms (N.Y.)

7:30 p.m. ET

Jackson Justice Complex - Soccer Turf Field; Jackson, N.J.

Oct. 21

Ukrainian Nationals (Pa.) vs. West Chester Predators (Pa.)

2:30 p.m. ET

Ukrainian American Sports Center-Field 1; North Wales, Pa.

Christos & the Chasing Pack
There’s no talking about the Mid-Atlantic Region without mention of Christos FC, who beat United Soccer League (USL) pros Richmond Kickers in 2017 to reach the Fourth Round of that year’s Open Cup proper. This time out they face familiar foes in fellow Marylanders Aegean Hawks after ripping apart Rockville Soccer Club in the First Qualifying Round. “The intensity and fire comes out when you play the teams you know. There’s just that extra edge,” said Christos’ midfield dynamo Daniel Baxter – a sentiment echoed by University of Maryland Baltimore County assistant coach and ace striker Pete Caringi III, who scored all four goals in Christos’ First-Round win: “We’ve had success in the last few years and that means teams want to knock us off around the Maryland/D.C. area. The talent around here keeps growing and the games get tighter every year.”

(Daniel Baxter of Christos against DC United in the 2017 Open Cup)

There will also be a pair of Maryland-Virginia cross-border contests in the region, with Cville Alliance (Va.) hosting World Class Premier Elite (Md.), and Virginia United welcoming Super Delegates Football Club of Maryland.

The last game of the Mid-Atlantic section comes farther north, at Roberts Wesleyan College, where Rochester Lancers 2 – formerly the Rochester River Dogz – open their doors to Tartan Devils Oak Avalon of Pennsylvania, the pub team that acquitted themselves credibly in the 2017 Open Cup proper before coming up against full-time USL pros Louisville City, who never took their foot off the gas in a 9-0 throttling. 

Mid-Atlantic Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20*

Cville Alliance FC - Reserves (Va.) vs. World Class Premier Elite FC (Md.)

6 p.m. ET

St. Anne's-Belfield School; Charlottesville, Va.

Oct. 21

Christos FC (Md.) vs. Aegean Hawks (Md.)

3 p.m. ET

Troy Park - Field 2; Elkridge, Md.

Oct. 21^#

Rochester Lancers 2 (N.Y.) vs. Tartan Devils Oak Avalon (Pa.)

3 p.m. ET

Roberts Wesleyan College; Rochester, N.Y.

Oct. 21~

Virginia United (Va.) vs. Super Delegates Football Club (Md.)

7 p.m. ET

Howison Homestead Soccer Complex - Field 1; Manassas, Va.

* Venue changed 9/29
^ Time and venue changed 10/8
# Rochester River Dogz changed name to Rochester Lancers 2
~ Time changed 10/17

Florida & Texas Reign Southeast & Central
The Southeast Region is dominated by Florida clubs, with six of the eight teams in action hailing from the Sunshine State. Miami-based Red Force FC – regular contenders in the early stages of the Open Cup in recent years – take on fellow city side Florida Soccer Soldiers on Sunday, while Soda City FC Sorinex of South Carolina host Shahin Atlanta of Georgia earlier in the day. 

(Red Force are a power in the SoFla area)

On Saturday, Sporting Orlando Soccer Club – who won a nail-biter in the First Round against Deportivo lake Mary – play host to Hurricane FC (who received a bye through to the Second Round) in Kissimmee while, later that night, America Soccer Club meet Central Florida FC Spartans (who also got a bye through the First Round) in Winter Garden, Fla. 

Southeast Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20^

Sporting Orlando Soccer Club (Fla.) vs. Hurricane FC (Fla.)

7 p.m. ET

Northeast Regional Park – Field 3; Davenport, Fla.

Oct. 20

America Soccer Club (Fla.) vs. Central Florida FC Spartans (Fla.)

8:30 p.m. ET

West Orange High School; Winter Garden, Fla.

Oct. 21

Soda City FC Sorinex (S.C.) vs. Shahin Atlanta FC (Ga.)

7:15 p.m. ET

Lexington County Soccer Complex - Field 10; Columbia S.C.

Oct. 21*

Florida Soccer Soldiers (Fla.) vs. Red Force FC (Fla.)

8:30 p.m. ET

Tropical Park; Miami, Fla.

* Date and venue changed 10/5
^ Date and time changed 10/8

The Central Region is spread out with several teams facing long road trips to play their Second Round qualifiers. NTX Rayados, comprised of local schoolteachers, administrators and young Community College graduates, will have to get past Leon FC in Balch Springs if they want to keep alive their quest to qualify for their eighth straight Open Cup. The other game in the Lone Star State, between Celtic Cowboys Premier host Motagua New Orleans of Louisiana has been postponed due to expected bad weather and will now be played on Nov. 11.

(NTX Rayados are aiming for an eighth straight berth in the U.S. Open Cup proper)

The other two Central Region games pit FC Maritsa of Missouri against FC Minnesota in St. Louis (both teams received byes through to the Second Round), while Aurora Borealis Soccer Club (also a bye through to the current stage) open their doors to Livonia City FC of Michigan in Mooseheart, Illinois.

Central Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20*

Leon FC (Texas) vs. NTX Rayados (Texas)

11 a.m. CT

Premier Park - Field 1; Balch Springs, Texas

Oct. 20

FC Maritsa (Mo.) vs. FC Minnesota (Minn.)

7 p.m. CT

Parkway North High School - Varsity Field; St. Louis, Mo.

Oct. 21

Aurora Borealis Soccer Club (Ill.) vs. Livonia City FC (Mich.)

4 p.m. CT

Ohio Moose Sports Complex; Mooseheart, Ill.

Nov. 11^
Celtic Cowboys Premier (Texas) vs. Motagua New Orleans (La.)
3 p.m. CT Round Rock Multipurpose Complex – Field 1; Round Rock, Texa

* Match determined 10/9
^ Date and venue changed 10/18

Rocky Mountain High
The marquis match in the Mountain Region pits league mates and long-time rivals FC Denver against Harpos FC at the Aurora Sports Park in Colorado. Both sides are recent qualifiers for the Open Cup proper and both represent all the good things happening in the amateur adult scene in and around the Rockies. “Both of our squads view this as a Colorado showcase match,” said FC Denver coach and founder Eric Fulton. “It’s an opportunity to display the elite level of top amateur ball in our state. The fierce battles we’ve had over the years have been some of the best I’ve been a part of and nothing less than that will be expected as we face off for the first time in U.S. Open Cup Qualifying.”

(FC Denver take on Harpos in a clash of the Rocky Mountin titans)

Sporting Arizona FC made a big impact on last year’s Open Cup early stages, beating Phoenix Rising of the all-pro USL before losing out 2-1 to Fresno FC (also of USL). They’ll host Southwest FC of Texas at South Mountain Community College in hopes of a win that will take them to the Third and final Round of Qualifying. Elsewhere, Colorado Rovers meet Gam United Football Club (also of Colorado), while Boise Cutthroats host San Juan FC of Utah at home in Idaho.

Mountain Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 21*

Sporting AZ FC (Ariz.) vs. Southwest FC (Texas)

1 p.m. MST

South Mountain Community College; Phoenix, Ariz.

Oct. 21

FC Denver (Colo.) vs. Harpos FC (Colo.)

1:30 p.m. MDT

Aurora Sports Park - Field 1; Aurora, Colo.

Oct. 21

Colorado Rovers (Colo.) vs. Gam United Football Club (Colo.)

3 p.m. MDT

Broomfield Commons - Championship Turf; Broomfield, Colo.

Oct. 21

Boise Cutthroats FC (Idaho) vs. San Juan FC (Utah)

3 p.m. MDT

Boise State Recreational Field; Boise, Idaho

All the Action Out West
A full 14 of the 16 competitors in the two Regions west of the Rockies hail from the great state of California, drawing an X on a map indicating where the best soccer is being played in the western states.

Cal FC, who set the 2012 Open Cup alight with their Cinderella run and have announced ambitious plans to join the USL in the near future, travel to Outbreak FC in Irvine in one of four encounters comprising the Southern California Region. Buena Park FC meet Real Sociedad Royals – who hammered Quickening 4-0 in the previous round – in La Palma, and California United FC II meet Chula Vista FC in Irvine.

(Kramer Runager and Justin Gorman are the two attacking threats in Santa Ana Winds)

Santa Ana Winds, who reached the Open Cup proper in 2018, take on Lionside FC at the Lake Forest Sports Park after a decisive 4-0 win in the First Round against local rivals L.A. Wolves. “We're very excited to participate in the second round of qualifying for the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, and we're looking forward to matching up against Lionside FC,” said Winds’ head coach Jose Lopez. “We're very prepared because we've been in this situation before and we're trying to learn from every U.S. Open Cup experience and trying to get better." 

Southern California Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20*

Lionside FC (Calif.) vs. Santa Ana Winds FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Lake Forest Sports Park - Field A; Lake Forest, Calif.

Oct. 20^

Outbreak FC (Calif.) vs. Cal FC (Calif.)

7:15 p.m. PT

Orange County Great Park - Field 18; Irvine, Calif. 

Oct. 21

Buena Park FC (Calif.) vs. Real Sociedad Royals (Calif.)

3 p.m. PT

Kennedy High School - Varsity Field; La Palma, Calif.

Oct. 21

California United FC II (Calif.) vs. Chula Vista FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Orange County Great Park - Field 2; Irvine, Calif.

* Date and time changed 9/30
^ Time and venue changed 10/15

Rounding out the action in the West Region, Napa Sporting SC travel to Redwood City to take on JASA RWC – 7-0 victors in the First Round over San Ramon Dynamos FC –while the city of Oakland plays host to the Oakland Stompers vs. Real San Jose clash. In Turlock, California, Academica SC host Contra Costa FC and, finally, in the one game not in the Golden State, IPS/Marathon Taverna of Oregon welcome Nevada Coyotes to their Rob Strasser Memorial Field in Portland.

West Region


Game (home team listed first)



Oct. 20^

JASA RWC (Calif.) vs. Napa Sporting SC (Calif.)

6 p.m. PT

Sequoia High School - Stadium Field; Redwood City, Calif.

Oct. 20

Oakland Stompers (Calif.) vs. Real San Jose (Calif.)

7:30 p.m. PT

Raimondi Park; Oakland, Calif.

Oct. 20

Academica SC (Calif.) vs. Contra Costa FC (Calif.)

7 p.m. PT

Academica Fields - East Field; Turlock, Calif.

Oct. 21*

IPS/Marathon Taverna (Ore.) vs. Nevada Coyotes FC (Nev.)

7 p.m. PT

Rob Strasser Memorial Field; Portland, Ore.

* Venue changed 9/8
^ Date and time changed 9/30

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Oct 17, 2018

DaMarcus Beasley Q&A: It Feels Damned Good

He may be 36, but DaMarcus Beasley cut the figure of a young man after doing his part to help Houston Dynamo win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the first time in club history. Wearing his crisp, new championship cap, the Dynamo captain and four-time World Cup participant, a bona fide legend in America soccer, buzzed with excitement and a palpable pride in yet another achievement in a career full of them.

Before he took to the podium to lift the trophy he previously won as a much younger man with Chicago Fire in 2000 and 2003, he spoke to ussoccer.com wearing a smile as big as the sprawling Houston skyline. It might well be the last trophy Beasley wins as a professional soccer player, and he was going to savor every second of it as strands of orange confetti fell around him.

(DaMarcus Beasley won his third Open Cup at the age of 36)

A 3-0 win at home against Philadelphia to pick up the Open Cup trophy – that’s a pretty comprehensive win. How does it all feel right now?
DaMarcus Beasley: It’s amazing. I feel so great right now and I’m happy for my teammates and everyone and their families and the fans here tonight. It’s just a great feeling.

Was that early goal just what the doctor ordered to settle nerves and take the edge off?
DB: I think we surprised them a little because we came out so hot and so ready to play. We started out really fast tonight. Credit to our boys up top, they did a great job. They put the ball in when we needed them to and we held them back in the defense.

Mauro Manotas is having an incredible year. How important were his two goals tonight and his contributions overall in this Open Cup run?
DB: Manotas, man, he just keeps scoring. He came through for us because we wanted to start at a fast pace. That was the plan from the start. Mauro’s been doing it all season. I mean 20 goals in all competitions and top scorer in the Open Cup. He’s been doing what he gets paid to do and this is his tournament. He loves this championship – this Open Cup. Hats off to everybody. To Mauro. To the boys up top, to the whole team. The staff, you know. I’m just so proud of everybody!

(Beasley is a legend of American soccer and he has a hat-trick of Open Cups)

It’s not been the easiest year for the Dynamo, especially in the league. What does this win mean considering all the ups and downs of late?
DB: The season we’ve had, it’s been so up and down. We’ve had a tough time of it, and I’m not saying this Cup saves our season because it doesn’t. But it feels good to be a champion.

You’ve won the Open Cup before, but you were a much, much younger man 18 years ago. What does it feel like to win on this side of things, looking back on your career rather than ahead?
It’s a different feeling looking back from where I am now, later in my career. I’m really at a loss for words. I’m 36 and I just won another trophy. It was really important to me and everyone knew that – the coaches and my teammates. I’m so happy and just so ecstatic that everyone played their part. Everyone did their job. We stuck together as a team. We got the win and that’s all that matters.

You were able to build momentum and really get a good run of form in this Open Cup. What made you so good in this tournament. What did you do that got you here?
Win. What we did right was win. And believe. We believed too. You think of the teams that we’ve played – on paper every team we played was better than us. SKC, on paper better. LAFC, on paper, was better. Philadelphia Union, on paper, better. But it’s a game. You gotta still play the game on the field. That’s why I give my team so much credit.

(Beasley was all smiles after winning his third USOC)

Did that make a big difference in this Cup run, being the underdog?
We’re the underdogs in every game we played and the fact that we came out and we wanted to win this championship from the beginning really mattered in the end. We wanted it bad. I’m so glad that all the hard work and all the sweat that we went through this season, especially with things not going our way in the league, came to something.To come out champions in this tournament doesn’t take anything away, but it feels damned good.

The fans stood by you through the ups and downs. How did these fans impact the game tonight? What’s your message for these fans who were so noisy all night?
Oh man, they were our 12th man tonight. It was so great to see them come out in numbers. It’s been a hell of a year in a lot of ways, and I’m glad these fans here came out and stuck with us. That’s what it’s about. We’re one family. Even though we’ve been losing in the regular season, they still came out and cheered us on when we scored, when we attacked and when we were having a little trouble in the second half. They stayed with us and that helps the players. Congrats to these fans in here. This Cup is for our fans, for the city of Houston. We were able to bring another championship back to Houston, and I’m so proud of everyone for it.  

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Sep 26, 2018

Dynamo Make Club History with First U.S. Open Cup Title by Defeating Philadelphia Union 3-0 in 2018 Final

HOUSTON (Sept. 26, 2018) – The Houston Dynamo claimed their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title in club history with a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Union on a soggy night at BBVA Compass Stadium.

Although Houston ceded much of the ball to Philadelphia, they were dynamic in attack, especially 22-year-old forward Mauro Manotas, who scored two first half goals to set the Dynamo on the path to victory and earn the 2018 U.S. Open Cup Golden Boot award with six goals – a mark that ties the Modern Era (1996-present) record for most goals in a single Open Cup tournament – over the course of the competition. 

With 16,060 fans braving the sporadic elements, the Dynamo went to work early, pressing for a goal from the opening whistle. It didn’t take long for a goal to come, and at first, it seemed that the Union had scored the opener in the third minute, but Fafa Picault’s looping header over Houston goalkeeper Joe Willis was ruled out for offside. Seconds later, the night’s winning combination clicked as the speedy Alberth Elis was chipped in behind the Philadelphia backline by Óscar Boniek García. Elis cut in from the right sideline and chopped a cross through the goalmouth past two Union defenders and the outstretched glove of goalkeeper Andre Blake to the head of Manotas, who dropped to his knees in order to guide his header into the roof of the net in just the fourth minute of play. 

Unfazed by the early concession, the Union put their foot on the ball and knocked it around the park, looking to find a crack in the Houston defense. Despite garnering more than 65 percent of possession, Philly was not able to carve out many clear-cut goal scoring chances, a marked contrast to the clinical finishing from the Dynamo, who doubled their lead through Manotas’ second strike in the 25th minute.  

Against the run of play, Houston counter attacked via a surging run from Manotas, who once again received the crucial pass from Elis. This time however, the young Colombian had more work to do to evade both Union center backs after cutting in from the right wing and striking a well-placed shot from just outside the top of the box past a sprawling Blake, off the left post and into the net. 

Approaching half time with a 2-0 lead, Houston lost veteran center back Phillipe Senderos to injury, but Kevin Garcia ably stepped into the backline to help the Dynamo keep the visitors from threatening a comeback. 

Although the game opened up in the second half for the Union, they we’re unable to capitalize on their opportunities to truly test Willis in the Houston net. The final dagger then came in the 65th minute on yet another Dynamo counter. Romell Quioto was played in on goal and his low drive was parried by Blake into the path of recovering defender Auston Trusty, whose unfortunate attempt to clear billowed the back of his own goal. 

Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin brought on attackers Jay Simpson and David Accam, but neither could find the cutting edge to help draw the visitors back into the game. It was a cruel end for the men from Chester, who have now reached three Open Cup Finals in the last five years but remain in search of a first title for the club that was founded back in 2010.  

For Houston, which had the fortune of playing every one of its 2018 U.S. Open Cup matches at home in Texas, the title represents the club’s first silverware since 2007 when they won the second of their two MLS crowns. It also earns the club $300,000 in prize money and a berth in next year’s Concacaf Champions League.

- 2018 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Match Report -

Match: Houston Dynamo (MLS) vs. Philadelphia Union (MLS)
Date: Sept. 26, 2018
Competition: 2018 U.S. Open Cup - Final
Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium; Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,060
Kickoff: 7 p.m. CT
Weather: 76 degrees; rainy

Scoring Summary:           1             2             F                                                          
HOU                                    2             1             3
PHI                                       0             0             0

HOU  Mauro Manotas (Alberth Elis)                      4th minute
HOU – Mauro Manotas (Alberth Elis)                      25
HOU – Auston Trusty (own goal)                              65

HOU: 23-Joe Willis, 11-Andrew Wenger, 4-Philippe Senderos (16-Kevin Garcia, 41), 2-Alejandro Fuenmayor, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 5-Juan Cabezas, 27-Óscar Boniek García (24-Darwin Cerén, 78), 17-Alberth Elis, 10-Tomás Martínez, 31-Romell Quioto (8-Memo Rodríguez, 83), 9-Mauro Manotas
Substitutes not used: 18-Chris Seitz, 20-A.J. DeLaGarza, 12-Arturo Álvarez, 25-Eric Bird
Head coach: Wilmer Cabrera

PHI: 18-Andre Blake, 12-Keegan Rosenberry, 3-Jack Elliott, 26-Auston Trusty, 28-Raymon Gaddis, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 6-Haris Medunjanin (8-Derrick Jones, 89), 17-C.J. Sapong, 10-Borek Dockal (7-David Accam, 78), 9-Fabrice-Jean Picault, 19-Cory Burke (27-Jay Simpson, 68)
Substitutes not used: 1-John McCarthy, 33-Fabinho, 4-Mark McKenzie, 2-Warren Creavalle
Head coach: Jim Curtin

Stats Summary: HOU / PHI
Shots: 9 / 19
Shots on Goal: 5 / 5
Saves: 5 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 5
Fouls: 22 / 11
Offside: 1 / 6

Misconduct Summary:
PHI – Borek Dockal (caution)                       51st minute
HOU – Tomás Martínez (caution)              53
HOU – Mauro Manotas (caution)               61
HOU – Óscar Boniek García (caution)       69

Referee: Nima Saghafi
Assistant Referee 1: Cameron Blanchard
Assistant Referee 2: Kyle Atkins
4th Official: Alejandro Mariscal

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Sep 26, 2018
US Soccer

More Lessons for Luckless Philly Union

Cup Final nights aren’t just about the winners. There’s no fireworks and trophy raises in this game without the other side: the despair, the self doubt and the nagging agony of running out of gas right at the finish line. While the hometown Dynamo painted Houston orange, popping champagne corks in celebration of their first Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup crown, Philadelphia Union were left, once more, to rue what might have been.

“The game got away from us,” said coach Jim Curtin, who won the Open Cup twice as a player and always talks of the 100-plus-year-old competition with a reverence learned at the knee of his mentor and old coach Bob Bradley. “I want to thank all the fans who traveled from Philly and I want to apologize to them for the result. It seemed like one of those nights when it just wasn’t going to happen, and the blame for that has to fall with me.”

(After winning the Open Cup twice as a player, Jim Curtin has now lost three Finals as a coach)

Curtin is a thoughtful man. A thinker about the game. He’s gracious in victory and philosophical in defeat, always trying to take something good away from a bad day. In the build-up to the 2018 Open Cup Final, he quoted Teddy Roosevelt’s 1910 speech Citizenship in a Republic, touting the theoretical Man in the Arena: “the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”

Coming up Short
The larger themes in Roosevelt’s speech, a few years older than the Open Cup itself, seemed prophetic, almost predicting what came to pass 24 hours later. The Union conceded three goals. The first a lightning counter-attack finished off in the fourth minute by Mauro Manotas. The same Colombian scored the second too, a dizzying dribble and sizzling finish off the inside of Andre Blake’s post. And the third, well that was just cruel for U.S. youth international Auston Trusty, who, facing his goal and in trouble, inadvertently tapped the ball into his own net. Lessons, lessons and more lessons.  

“You learn a lot from the losses, I’m a firm believer in that,” Curtin said many times in the course of the Open Cup, where four straight home games in 2018 led to sensational August and a turnaround in the Union’s fortunes on all fronts. And, unfortunately for the boss, in his fifth year at the Chester, Pa.-based club, it’s another lesson on a big night when he’d rather have a trophy. The loss on Wednesday, Sept. 26th at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston is the Union’s third defeat in an Open Cup Final in the space of five years. The club, founded in 2010, is still searching for a first trophy to put in the cabinet at their Talen Energy Stadium on the busy banks of the Delaware River.

(It just wasn't the Union's day in their 0-3 loss to the Dynamo in Houston)

The sadness on the faces of Union men Ray Gaddis, the only player in the team left to have played in both losing Finals at home in 2014 and 2015, told the tale of so-close-so-far. Veterans Andre Blake, CJ Sapong and Fabinho stood as still as the goal posts after the final whistle. While Houston, in their vibrant orange, danced the night away, the Union were left only with their thoughts and regrets.

“I think we played the better soccer,” said captain and USA veteran midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. He was still in Europe, with Nantes, when the Union suffered their first two Open Cup Final losses. He was brought in to add that last little bit of experience and tactical nous needed to finally get the Union up to the mountaintop. “But they got that early goal and we were a little too tentative. It’s frustrating. It sucks. We really wanted this trophy.”

Another Missed Chance for Philly
It’s safe to say all the Union players wanted to lift the Open Cup trophy – to silence some of those old ghosts. Curtin, who knows what it means to win American soccer’s oldest trophy, is chief among them. “You don’t win trophies every day,” he said on the eve of his third Final as a coach. “Being in a Final is a big opportunity for a player, and I want to have that feeling of handing out the rings to my players. I’d give my own medal away,” he said in one of the last interviews before Wednesday’s ill-fated Final. “For me now it’s more about getting that feeling again, of winning, and passing it on. It’s not about the physical hardware for me anymore.”

(Coach Curtin stresses that the Union win together and lose together)

In the light of another day, Curtin is still in charge of a Union team loaded with potential, a young squad full of real talent. There’s speedy winger Fafa Picault, big striker Cory Burke and the outstanding Jamaica international goalkeeper Blake who, before the Final conceded just one goal in the 2018 U.S. Open Cup. They’ll all have to wait a little longer for that feeling of lifting a trophy up into the night sky. “We win as a team and we lose as a team,” Curtin said after the game, he and his team forgotten as media chased the buzzing winners, an orange blur against the rain-soaked night. Curtin wouldn’t be baited into blaming Burke or Trusty or anyone who may not have put in a career performance on the big night. It’s not his style. “We still had a good Cup run, but only one team gets to be happy at the end and it’s just not us. We stick together in the hard moments. Every player made mistakes. It just didn’t work out.”

This is Cup soccer. Someone wins; someone loses. This time, again, it’s the Union on the wrong side. But as a legend once said: Soccer’s a game of tomorrow. Curtin and his men board a plane, head for home and get back out onto the training pitch. They’ll rally around each other and, before they know it and with a little bit of luck in their last few MLS regular season games, they’ll be a post-season playoff to think about – and another Cup to hunt. “Winning a trophy is a validation for the work you do as a club,” said Curtin, already looking ahead, like the mythic Man in the Arena, taking the blame when it needs taking. “We came up short in the big match and that’s on me.”

Read more
U.S. Open Cup Sep 26, 2018