US Soccer

U-18 MNT Closes Out Camp with 1-0 win over Bosnia U19s

CITLUK, Bosnia (April 30, 2015) – The U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team bounced back from an April 28 loss to the Bosnia & Herzegovina U-19 National Team, concluding its April camp with a 1-0 win over the team.

Mukwelle Akale was the game’s lone goal-scorer. In the closing minutes of the first half Emannuel Sabbi chested down a deflected ball and made a move into the box, where he was dragged down by a Bosnian defender to set up a penalty kick. From there Akale buried the PK, scoring what proved to be the game winning goal. The goal was Akale’s second in as many games. The forward also scored in the U-18’s first match against Bosnia.

Goalkeepers Jonathan Klinsmann and Mason Stajduhar each played a half with Klinsmann starting and holding Bosnia scoreless in the first segment and Stajduhar making some crucial saves to preserve the shutout in the second.


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

Match: U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina U-19 National Team 
Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Stadion Bare
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Local
Weather: 60 Degrees 

Scoring Summary:       1          2          F                                             
BIH                               0          0          0
USA                             1          0          1

USA – Mukwelle Akale               45th minute

USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann (GK) (capt.) (12-Mason Stajduhar, 46); 14-Kyle Duncan, 6-Mauricio Pineda, 18-Justen Glad, 21-Pablo Pelaez; 17-James Murphy (15-Ben Swanson, 46),
10-Jackson Yueill (11-Christian Lucatero, 75), 2-Mukwelle Akale (5-Victor Mansaray, 65); 9-Eryk Williamson, 8-Emmanuel Sabi (3-Cameron Lindley, 46), 7-Brooks Lennon
Head Coach: Javier Perez

BIH: 1-Goran Karacic (GK); 13-Adel Halilovic, 5-Marko Mihojevic, 6-Vladimir Orsolic, 3-Eldar Civic; 21-Cazim Suljic, 8-Amer Gojak (20-Luka Menalo, 65), 10-Andrej Modic (Capt); 7-Amar Burovic, 11-Mico Kuzmanovic (19-Nemanja Andusic, 46), 9-Dzenis Beganovic

Stats Summary: USA / BIH
Shots: 2 / 5
Shots on Goal: 1 / 5
Saves: 5 / 0
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 8 / 7
Offsides: 1 / 2 

Misconduct Summary:
BIH – Marko Mihojevic   (caution)             45th minute 

Goran Paradzik


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U-18 MNT Apr 30, 2015

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

Match: U.S. U-18 Men’s National Team vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina U-19 National Team 
Date: Thursday, April 30, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Stadion Bare
Kickoff: 4 p.m. Local
Weather: 60 Degrees 

Scoring Summary:       1          2          F                                             
BIH                               0          0          0
USA                             1          0          1 

USA – Mukwelle Akale               45th minute 

USA: 1-Jonathan Klinsmann (GK) (capt.) (12-Mason Stajduhar, 46); 14-Kyle Duncan, 6-Mauricio Pineda, 18-Justen Glad, 21-Pablo Pelaez; 17-James Murphy (15-Ben Swanson, 46), 10-Jackson Yueill (11-Christian Lucatero, 75), 2-Mukwelle Akale (5-Victor Mansaray, 65); 9-Eryk Williamson, 8-Emmanuel Sabi (3-Cameron Lindley, 46), 7-Brooks Lennon
Coach: Javier Perez 

BIH: 1-Goran Karacic (GK); 13-Adel Halilovic, 5-Marko Mihojevic, 6-Vladimir Orsolic, 3-Eldar Civic; 21-Cazim Suljic, 8-Amer Gojak (20-Luka Menalo, 65), 10-Andrej Modic (Capt); 7-Amar Burovic, 11-Mico Kuzmanovic (19-Nemanja Andusic, 46), 9-Dzenis Beganovic

Stats Summary: USA / BIH
Shots: 2 / 5
Shots on Goal: 1 / 5
Saves: 5 / 0
Corner Kicks: 3 / 3
Fouls: 8 / 7
Offsides: 1 / 2 

Misconduct Summary:
BIH – Marko Mihojevic   (caution)            45th  minute 

Goran Paradzik

US Soccer

Sand Pioneer: Nick Perera's Next Goal - Lift Beach Soccer

Nick Perera is bold about his ambitions. He wants to win. He wants to entertain. He wants to set scoring records. He wants to be the best.

But most importantly - he wants to raise the profile of the U.S. Beach Soccer National Team and the discipline itself.

At 6-3, he’s putting the sport and the team on his broad shoulders. Already the USA’s leading scorer in World Cup qualifying and with five goals in his lone FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup appearance in 2013, the team captain was recently re-elected to the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Athletes’ Council.

“I wanted to involve myself in the Athletes’ Council because I felt that we need to give this beautiful game what it deserves,” Perera said. “I think this game deserves to be at a national level, international level, on television – everything.”

This is the abridged story of how a Spanish-born, Belgium-raised American became a NCAA College Cup champion, the Most Valuable Player of the Major Arena Soccer League and an international beach soccer star.

“I’m an extremely arrogant guy,” he admits. “But when it comes to my soccer and my willingness to learn, I’m extremely humble.”

That happens when the path to your destination is not a straight line.

Nick Perera - U.S. Beach Soccer

Prudencio and Dione Perera met in Montpellier, France some 30 odd years ago. Dione was there on a college exchange program from her hometown of Los Angeles and Prudencio was finishing his doctorate from his much closer hometown of Madrid, Spain.

They started their family in Spain, where Nicolas was born. He was a little over a year old when they moved to Belgium after Prudencio got a job with the European Commission.

Nick was raised speaking both English and Spanish. Living in Belgium, he quickly also learned French and Dutch.

”My mom’s always had an affinity for languages, I think I picked that up from her,” he says of Dione, who is fluent in English, French and Spanish and worked as a simultaneous interpreter. “I’ve always enjoyed that- to be able to go to different places and be able to speak the language.”

He’s since become proficient in Italian and Portuguese, a result of his international travels and knack for learning.

Nick did not hit his growth spurt until his late teens. Like most kids who take to sports in Europe, he was drawn to soccer.

“It was always soccer,” he said. “My dad loved soccer. I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I played another sport other than soccer.”

The family would often travel to Los Angeles for the winter holidays and spend every summer in Spain. There, he and his friends would play futsal on a neighborhood court for hours almost every day. In the afternoons, it was off to the beach – where they also would bring a ball to kick around.

Nick was the outgoing, active kid, but his younger brother, Lucas, was on the other end of the spectrum. Lucas is non-verbal autistic and extremely low-functioning. He lacks a sense of safety or security and doesn’t recognize danger, so he requires constant care.

“Every decision we’ve ever made as a family has been based on Lucas’s condition,” Nick said. “The primary reason for our move to the U.S. was that health care in the U.S. for special needs children was superior to Europe.”

While Lucas’ interpersonal communications are not necessarily warm, the family’s love and support for each other is always visible.

“You could tell things based on what he was doing and his body language,” Nick said. “He’s tough to read in some areas, but easy in others. He sees us and he lights up in his own way, but it’s very different. It’s hard to explain but it’s something that shapes every decision in your life - the way you see the world.”

In 2004, the Pereras moved to southern California. Nick was 18.

For someone as enthusiastic about his studies as he was about soccer, college was the perfect introduction to life in the USA.

Nick was set to attend the University of California-Santa Barbara, though since he was unknown, an athletic scholarship was not offered. Instead, he tried out for the soccer team that summer.

“I was cut after one week, because I couldn’t keep up with the level of physical demand of college soccer,” he admits. “Every part of my body was destroyed within five days. I don’t even think we touched the ball for the first four or five days.”

It was an awakening of sorts. Nick ended up playing club soccer that year and improved so much that he was able to walk on to the UCSB team the following spring. The minutes were tough to come by but he was adapting and improving.

The next year, seemingly out of nowhere, the Gauchos of UCSB won the 2006 NCAA College Cup as Perera scored the opener in a 2-1 win over UCLA.

“It was amazing,” Nick recalls. “We were a team with a lot of players who kind of fell through the cracks, who had a lot of grit and determination. We were unseeded, unranked and we went on to win the whole thing.”

Nick was offered a contract by Major League Soccer to leave college early and enter the league’s SuperDraft.

“My parents shot that down immediately,” Nick said. His family’s advice was to finish school, and deep down he knew that was the right decision.

He graduated in 2009 as an English major and walked in the summer before his senior season, which allowed him to take lighter classes and focus on soccer.

“I just wanted to have a well-balanced experience,” he said. “But as the season started progressing, I was way more invested in the athletic side. I kind of saw that there was an avenue for myself and soccer was what I always really loved. I just didn’t think I would ever live off of it. So it was something where I was kind of doing well and started thinking, ‘Maybe I could play at the next level.’”

Nick Perera

“I wish I knew then what I know now… about soccer, professionalism, taking care of your body, because I think I could have had a good outdoor career had I known. I didn’t care about weights, or strength training… I just wanted to play.”

Nick was invited to the MLS College Combine, but admits that he did not make a noticeable impression. He went undrafted.

He went to preseason with Chivas USA that spring and was offered a developmental contract. Coming from an extremely studious family with real-world professions, it was not appealing.

He decided to give soccer in Spain a shot, joining Segunda B side Benidorm, although he was loaned out to a third division team. The reality of soccer abroad hit fast. The club stopped paying its players after four months and two months later Nick cut ties and moved back to Southern California.

“I thought my stock would have gone up since I played in Spain, but it was the opposite,” he said.

He had trials here and there with teams in various lower-level leagues, but they rarely presented realistic opportunities to be seen and were often filled with broken promises.

“Honestly I hated it,” he said of that time. “Outdoor was this massive disappointment.”

Back in the San Diego area, he found himself playing indoor soccer to pass the time and developed a real affinity for it – it served as a throwback to those summer days in Spain. An opportunity to join the San Diego Sockers soon popped up.

It was a legendary team in the community and hosted a veteran-heavy squad. One teammate – Aaron Susi – saw Nick’s potential and recommended him to Keith Tozer, head coach of U.S. Futsal and the Milwaukee Wave. Tozer brought Nick to a futsal camp and then offered him a contract with the Wave.

“The team was unbelievable and I learned so much,” Nick said. “I loved indoor – I felt that as a target attacking player, the smaller size of the game and roster, I was much more involved. Milwaukee was amazing. I learned every day with coach Tozer and our group of players was special.”

That first year indoors also saw his beach career get started. The San Diego Sockers entered a team in a local beach soccer tournament. One of the other teams was a USA selection that U.S. Beach National Team head coach Eddie Soto put together to observe some lesser-known players.

Perera and the Sockers won the tournament. Afterwards, Soto invited Nick to join the Beach Soccer National Team in Miami the following week for friendlies against Mexico, Brazil and Spain.

Nick scored his first two goals on sand against Mexico.

“Everything started coming together for me,” he said. “The small-sided game started presenting options for me. As Milwaukee and the beach thing happened, I closed the book on outdoor. It was over.”

Perera at the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup

Perera took Concacaf by storm in his first regional Beach Soccer Championship, scoring 11 goals in the 2013 tournament while leading the USA to the confederation title and a spot at the 2013 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Tahiti.

“When I watch tapes from 2013 and watch myself play now, there’s a big difference,” he notes. “The tools I have now are far more polished. In 2013 I was really hungry. I showed up with something really big to prove. And we did really well. It was amazing – the first time I tasted international success with the National Team and it opened this entire world to me.”

Nick scored five goals for the USA at the World Cup in Tahiti and offers to join European beach soccer leagues quickly followed.

“It doesn’t click until you’re done,” he said of the experience in Tahiti. “We talk with the guys about savoring these moments, because you never know how many you get. You never know when it will be the last time you get to put on a U.S. National Team jersey.”

Nick continued playing professional indoor soccer. This past year, not only did he become player/coach for the Tacoma Stars, he was also voted MASL MVP. He’s also the Director of Coaching for San Marcos Revolution, a youth club near San Diego. 

“It’s tough. It’s a passion for playing,” he said. “In order to access the soccer side I have to take care of the business side. It comes at large cost, and when I have these large life decisions, the only people who I look to for advice are my wife and my parents. Their support is enormous to me.”

Nick and his wife, Michelle, have a four-year old daughter, Sofia, and a two-year-old son, Theo. They live in Carlsbad, Calif.

He’s also part of the 20-member U.S. Soccer Federation Athletes' Council, which seeks to improve communication between athletes and the Federation.

“The more involved I’ve become with U.S. Soccer on the Athletes’ Council, the more I care and the more I realize the privilege that we have,” Nick said. “It gives you a better sense of the scope of the Federation and lets you see how things are done.”

This past year Nick played against U.S. Men’s National Team legend Landon Donovan in the Major Arena Soccer League.

“I know that I’ll never go down in the record books for U.S. Soccer as someone like Landon Donovan will but within the game of beach soccer I have goals on what I want to accomplish and numbers for the Federation that I want to accomplish also,” he said.

He might not be on Donovan’s level, but he’s making a dent in his own discipline. He’s already the USA’s all-time leading scorer in World Cup qualifying. 

“Nick is someone who has committed himself to our sport, and he’s one of the best target forwards in the world right now,” said Soto. “His ability to play in different spots is a threat. He can build for us, shoot from distance or he can be a target and throw bikes. He’s a massive threat.”

And it’s not just homer talk. Josep Ponset is the Director of Competitions for Beach Soccer Worldwide, the Barcelona-based organizing body for international beach soccer competitions.

“Nick Perera is undeniably one of the most important players not only in Concacaf but also on the global stage,” Ponset said. “He’s one of the deadliest strikers in our sport, who combines great technique, strength and a deep knowledge of the game. Moreover, his bicycle kicks are some of the most dangerous and difficult to stop in the world.”

Nick understands the role he’s playing on the U.S. team and for the sport in general.

“I love the game,” Nick said. “But I also want to leave a footprint so that in 10 years, whatever I’m doing, this sport doesn't look anything like it does now. We can be the trailblazers of what it can be.”

Beach soccer fans worldwide have come to appreciate his thunderous bicycle kick goals. In 2016, a tally he scored against Russia was nominated for U.S. Soccer Goal of the Year.

“I’ve grown up thinking that sports are an avenue but sports are also entertainment – you have to entertain a crowd,” he said. “That’s been part of something I try to do, I try to put on a show. I want to show up on every field, and if someone asks a random fan ‘Who’s the best player?’ I want them to say me. I’m never satisfied, I’m really hungry and I think that’s led to some success.”

While he’s raised his personal profile, he won’t be satisfied until his team – the U.S. Beach Soccer National Team – earns the same respect.

“Teams in our region may look at us as a powerhouse but on the larger international stage people still don’t have the respect for us that I would like them to have,” he said. “Nobody takes you seriously unless you start beating teams. Little by little we’re carving away at it. We have a group of players who are extremely hungry to prove what we’re trying to do here, – not just to Concacaf, but to the whole world.”

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Beach May 19, 2019
US Soccer

USA Clinches FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Berth With Penalty Kick Win vs. El Salvador

PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (May 18, 2019) – The U.S. Beach Soccer National Team clinched a berth at the 2019 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup with a dramatic, penalty kick win over El Salvador after the teams drew 3-3 through three periods and added extra time. The win also advanced the USA to the 2019 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship title match on Sunday, May 19 against Mexico, which defeated Panama 3-0 in the other semifinal. This is the fifth time the USA has qualified for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and first since 2013.

For the second consecutive game, the USA conceded the opening goal when El Salvador’s Exon Perdomo put away a hard shot after picking up a loose ball some 15 yards from goal. El Salvador nearly doubled the lead 10 minutes in when a shot hit the crossbar but landed and stuck on the goal line. With the opening period clock running out, Nick Perera drew a foul some twelve yards out and put away the shot in the upper 90 to draw even.

USA goalkeeper Chris Toth was put under heavy pressure in the second but time again he came through, including diving saves on two bikes and a point-blank scissors attempt. El Salvador finally broke through in the last minute of the second period when Perdomo ripped a shot past Toth.

WATCH: Highlights of the USA's World Cup Clinching Win vs. El Salvador

And there was little Toth could do when Perdomo hit a fantastic bike off a long pass to put El Salvador up by two goals midway through the third period. However, the USA reacted quickly, with Toth ripping a 25-yard shot at goal that Alessandro Canale redirected in front of the ‘keeper to cut the deficit back to one.

With one minute and twenty seconds remaining, David Mondragon caught El Salvador napping with a quick throw-in from the far sideline, finding Adriano dos Santos inside the box. Dos Santos deftly headed the ball over the on-rushing ‘keeper and the stadium watched as the ball seemed to slowly trickle in to tie the match.

After a scoreless overtime the USA scored on all five penalty kick attempts before El Salvador’s Elmer Robles hit his kick over, setting the stage for the USA to celebrate the return to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.

Up Next: The USA will play Mexico for the 2019 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship on Sunday, May 19 at 4:45 p.m. ET. Fans can watch the game live on UDN, Concacaf’s Facebook page and the ConcacafGo app, and follow on Twitter at @ussoccer or Instagram at @ussoccer_beach.


  • The USA has now qualified for five of the soon to be 10 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cups: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2013, 2019, trailing only Mexico which has qualified for six including 2019.
  • The last time both the USA and Mexico qualified from Concacaf was in 2007.
  • Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay (host), Nigeria, Senegal, Japan, Oman, and United Arab Emirates have also qualified for the 16-nation World Cup field. Oceania’s lone berth will be known in June and Europe will round out the field by determining the final five entries from a tournament in July in Russia.
  • Nick Perera, Jason Leopoldo, Ryan Futagaki and Chris Toth were also on the 2013 Concacaf Championship team that last qualified.
  • This was the fifth meeting between the USA and El Salvador in this competition, and the first in the elimination round since the USA defeated El Salvador 5-4 in added extra time on a goal by Nick Perera to claim its last Concacaf Beach Soccer title. The teams also split group round matches and El Salvador won the third-place game in 2017.
  • Nick Parera scored his 11th goal of the tournament, tying his personal and USA single-cycle World Cup Qualifying record set in 2013. He is tied with teammate Tanner Akol for most goals in this tournament.
  • With 34 goals the USA is the top scoring team at this tournament, and the nine goals conceded in five games is the fewest.
  • Alessandro Canale scored his third goal and Adriano dos Santos his second in this tournament.
  • The USA and Mexico meet for the first time in this tournament since the 2015 semifinals, when Mexico edged the USA 4-3 in San Salvador, El Salvador.
  • The USA defeated Mexico in the group stage of the first three World Cup Qualifying tournaments – 2005 (7-2), 2006 (7-6) and 2007 (5-4) – before losing in 2008 (1-2). Mexico also defeated the USA in the 2009 third-place match and 2010 semifinals.

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Beach May 19, 2019
US Soccer

USA Moves Within One Game of Beach World Cup With 5-1 Win vs. Guadeloupe

PUERTO VALLARTA, JALISCO, MEX. (May 17, 2019) – The U.S. Beach Soccer National Team advanced to the semifinals of the 2019 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship with a 5-1 win against Guadeloupe in Puerto Vallarta. The tournament’s top two scorers – Tanner Akol and Nick Perera – each scored twice and David Mondragon added his third of the competition.

The USA found itself trailing for the first time in the tournament when Guadeloupe’s Sylrick Phirmis did well to hold a defender off before spinning and shooting past Chris Toth early on. The lead lasted just five minutes, as Nick Perera was fouled on a bike attempt in the box and converted the penalty kick.

A patient U.S. side finally broke the game open with three goals in the final five minutes of the second period – all off bicycle kicks. Akol gave the team the lead when he spectacularly biked a Ryan Futagaki throw-in on the fly into the back of the net. David Mondragon followed with his own bike that bounced over the goalkeeper, and Nick Perera finished the period by flicking up his own set-up before slamming in a powerful bike from inside the box.

The USA changed goalkeepers midway through the third period, and Juan Cervantes was up to the test with successive saves, first tipping a shot over the crossbar and then a quick reaction dive to his left to prevent Guadeloupe from inching closer. Akol then put the game away with another scoop bike for his tournament leading 11th goal.  

Up Next: The USA is through to the semifinals where they’ll face El Salvador on Saturday, May 18  (5:45 p.m. ET). El Salvador defeated the Bahamas in the other Quarterfinal earlier in the day, setting up a rematch of the 2013 Final, which the USA won 5-4 in overtime. The winner will automatically qualify for the 2019 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Paraguay and play for the Concacaf title on Sunday. Fans can watch games live on UDN, Concacaf’s Facebook page and the ConcacafGo app.


  • This was the first meeting between the USA and Guadeloupe in the Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship.
  • The USA has now advanced to the semifinals in five of the six Concacaf Beach Championships in which the winner was decided by a title game rather than standings, missing out only in 2017.
  • With 11 goals, Akol has tied Perera’s USA single tourmanet scoring record set in 2013.
  • David Mondragon scored his third goal and first since the opener versus Bonaire.
  • Akol and Perera (10 goals) are the leading scorers in the tournament. El Salvador’s Augustine Ruiz is next with 9.
  • As a team, the USA’s 33 goals are most in the Championship, followed by El Salvador’s 31.
  • The semifinal matchup against El Salvador will mark the first time the teams have met with elimination on the line since the 2013 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship final, when the USA defeated El Salvador 5-4 in added extra time on a goal by Nick Perera to claim its last Concacaf Beach Soccer title.
  • El Salvador won the last meeting in the 2015 third place match (2-5). They also previously won in the 2009 Semifinals (3-5). The teams split group play matches in each of their first two meetings (USA W 9-5 in 2007, SLV W 6-5 in 2008).

- U.S. Beach Soccer National Team Match Report -

Match: U.S. Beach Soccer National Team vs. Guadeloupe
Date: May 17, 2019
Competition: 2019 Concacaf Beach Soccer Championship; Quarterfinals
Venue: Visit Puerto Vallarta Stadium, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Kickoff: 4:30 p.m. ET
Attendance: ---
Weather: 84 degrees, sunny

Scoring Summary:  1    2    3    F
USA                        1    3    1    5
GLP                        1    0    0    1

GLP – Sylrick Phirmis                             1st minute
USA – Nick Perera (penalty)                   6’
USA – Tanner Akol                                19’
USA – David Modragon                         21’
USA – Nick Perera                                 23’
USA – Tanner Akol                                33’


USA: 1-Chris Toth, 4-Adrian dos Santos, 5-Alessandro Canale, 7-Nick Perera, 8-Tanner Akol
Substitutes: 12-Juan Cervantes, 2-Jason Leopoldo, 3-Ryan Futagaki, 6-Jason Santos, 9-Franck Tayou, 10-Oscar Reyes, 11-David Mondragon
Head coach: Eddie Soto

GLP: 5-Mikael Germain, 3-Benoit Zembama, 5-Terry Shillingford, 10-Sylrick Phirmis, 11-Sebastien Hell
Substitutes: 12- Jordan Sennoaj, 2-David Bordelai, 4-Ricardo Mezence, 6-Gael Geolier, 7-Alan Lefort, 8-Melaick Breter, 9-Theo Gelas
Head coach: Damien Granchi Constant

Misconduct Summary:
GLP – Alan Lefort (caution)                     31st minute

Referee: David Cruz (SLV)
Second Referee: Jair Robles (MEX)
Third Referee: Juan Andres Angeles (DOM)
Fourth Official: Gonzalo Carballo (SLV)

ussoccer.com Man of the Match: --

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Beach May 18, 2019
US Soccer

First-Year Legion Long on Open Cup Glory

When Jay Heaps was playing for the Miami Fusion and Tom Soehn for the Chicago Fire in the 2000 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, they could not have predicted they would be teaming up to prepare for the tournament in Birmingham, Alabama 19 years later.

Now, Heaps is president of the Birmingham Legion and Soehn the team’s head coach. And they are hoping their first-year team can continue their winning start in one of sport’s longest-running tournaments, after beating lively amateurs West Chester United Predators 4-1 in the Second Round of the U.S. Open Cup last week.

(Heaps was an Open Cup winner as a player before losing a Final as coach of the NE Revolution)

“We talk about the history of it,” Heaps said of the Open Cup. “You love the fact that if you win, you know you’ll be there forever.”

Heaps won the 2007 Cup as a starting defender for the New England Revolution (current Legion assistant coach Khano Smith played in midfield), a 3-2 decision over FC Dallas. As a coach, Heaps guided the Revolution to the 2016 finals, with Soehn as his top assistant, but this time, FC Dallas exacted revenge with a 4-2 win.

Winner as Player & Coach
Soehn can go Heaps one or two better, though, as he is among the few who have won the event as a player and coach: he was a member of title teams with the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in 1997 and the Fire in 2000, and guided D.C. United to the ’09 title.

“I mean, to be honest, Jay was quite the competitor, he was one of those guys you loved to beat,” Soehn recalled. “So, if you asked me if we would be working together I would have said ‘no chance’. But when you meet him off the field, he is a great guy. We formed a bond and we see the game through the same lens, what we liked in a team, what makes a team. We clicked from the get-go and we’ve worked together for quite some time.”

(Heaps & Soehn have put together a Legion team with a number of former MLS players)

Soehn’s history with the Open Cup dates to when his father, Joseph, born in Romania of German descent, competed for the Chicago Kickers. “When I was growing up, the Chicago area had unbelievable teams and I’d be watching great soccer on the weekends,” Soehn said. “I grew up playing for the Kickers and the soccer club was my home. Their clubhouse was full of trophies back in the day.”

Soehn was a starting defender for the Dallas Burn team that won the U.S. Open Cup the first year MLS teams entered the competition, taking a penalty shootout victory over D.C. United. “It was a big deal for us,” Soehn said. “We were a league-owned team and we played D.C. United in the final, and at that point they were a perennial champion. And to be able to beat them in the final, which was played after the MLS Cup, so it was kind of the final game of the year, it was really cool.”

In 2000, Soehn came on as an 86th-minute substitute in a 2-1 victory over the Fusion at Soldier Field in Chicago. Hristo Stoitchkov’s 44th-minute goal opened the scoring and an 88th-minute Tyrone Marshall own-goal gave the Fire a 2-0 advantage before Welton cut the deficit in the 90th minute. Heaps was at right-back and current Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando started for then-coach Ray Hudson’s Fusion.

Cup Ups & Downs
The next year, Heaps was part of a mid-season trade to the Revolution, who were on the way to early elimination from MLS playoff contention. But the Revs proved to be a Cup contender, defeating the Columbus Crew in the quarterfinals and D.C. United in the semifinals on the way to a title date with the Galaxy. The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks caused MLS to cancel games, and by the time the playoffs concluded with the Galaxy as MLS Cup champions, it was late October. The Revolution had not played a meaningful game since late August, so they were plenty rested and hoped to catch the Galaxy off guard in the Open Cup final on Oct. 27, 2001. But the Revolution lacked sharpness in the second half, squandered the lead, and lost, 2-1, on Danny Califf’s 92nd-minute golden goal at Titan Stadium in Fullerton, Calif.

By 2008, Soehn was coaching D.C. United, and he guided the Red & Black to a 2-1 win over the Charleston Battery in the Cup final at RFK Stadium. “There are different rewards when you’re playing,” Soehn said. “Obviously, you get the feeling of enjoyment because you’re on the field participating. As a coach, so much more work goes into it, you don’t realize it when you’re a player. I had been assistant coach in Chicago when we won it [in 2003] and it is a totally different reward for winning [as a coach].

(Heaps - standing, in white - in the 2007 Open Cup Final against FC Dallas)

“Bringing it up makes me reflect on it a little bit,” Soehn went on. “I’ve had really good experiences in the game, some you take for granted. But being with my peers and all the conversation, all the good times, I’m just thankful the game’s been really good to me.”

United’s ’08 campaign included a 3-1 Semifinal victory over a Revolution team that included Heaps. But Heaps was not in the lineup – he went out a winner, his final Open Cup match a 3-2 victory over FC Dallas in the 2007 final in Frisco, Texas.

“That was one of the strangest things because we had lost in that very stadium,” Heaps said of Revolution defeats in the 2005 and ’06 MLS Cup. “I had missed a penalty kick the year before and we were so close so many times. And with the U.S. Open Cup we got over the hump. We had lost two finals and there was no way we were going to lose this game.”

A Different Approach
Though the Legion leaders have plenty of experience in Cup play, they are approaching the competition differently this time. They started out as favorites, survived, and should now be considered underdogs on the road in the Third Round up against back-to-back and reigning USL Championship toppers Louisville City.  

“This is the first time we are entering this early,” Heaps said. “So you’re playing different types of teams. This is a difficult time for us because of injuries and also loan players are going back to their clubs, plus we can’t cup-tie our loan guys. So, we’re a little thin.” 

Thick or thin, the Legion — mid-table in USL league play for most of the season, so far — have an opportunity to build some crucial support, momentum and excitement via the Open Cup. A good long Cup run can paper over a lot of cracks, and make history – even for a first-year club.  

In any case, the Legion’s leaders are about to write another chapter in the long and storied history of the Open Cup. “It’s crazy,” Soehn said. “My father played in [the Open Cup] back then. A bunch of immigrants came over, some of them had played professional soccer in Germany, but there was nothing here so they played on amateur teams. I love to see what it’s turned into and it’s kept growing.”

[Lead Photo courtesy of the Boston Globe]

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U.S. Open Cup May 18, 2019
US Soccer

FIFA Approves Change of Association Request for Tyler Boyd

CHICAGO (May 18, 2019) - U.S. Soccer confirmed Saturday that Tyler Boyd has been approved by FIFA for a change of association. Boyd is a dual citizen of New Zealand and the United States.

Because he represented the All Whites in official competition at the youth level, he was required to submit an application for a one-time switch. With his request granted, he can now only represent the United States at the international level.

Born in New Zealand, Boyd spent some of his formative years growing up in Santa Ynez, Calif., before returning to his birth country at age 10. Signed with Portuguese side Vitória Guimarães, the 24-year-old has spent 2019 on loan with Turkish Süper Lig club Ankaragücü where he has registered five goals and four assists across 13 matches. 

He also previously played in friendlies for New Zealand’s senior national team.

WATCH: Tyler Boyd Scores on May 12 vs. ─░stanbul Ba┼čak┼čehir

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MNT May 18, 2019