Eric Wynalda will have to face his past.
He coached the last amateur side to beat a Division I professional team in the U.S. Open Cup. It was in 2012, when he was at the helm of Cal FC. Wynalda wasn’t at Jeld-Wen Field on that fateful day in May, he was on assignment in Europe for his day-job as a TV soccer pundit, but he was very much the architect. He plucked players, talents like Richie Menjivar and Danny Barrera, unknown outside of LA’s fertile amateur soccer scene, and helped them believe anything’s possible.
Seven years later, Wynalda’s on the other side of the looking glass. As coach of professional side Las Vegas Lights, who play in Division II, known now as the USL Championship, he welcomes that same Cal FC for a Second Round date in the 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on May 14 (7:30 p.m. PT; ESPN+).
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For Wynalda, that success, which included wins over professional sides Wilmington Hammerheads (USL) before the famous Portland Timbers win, 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.”